Planet earth has been around some five billion years and gone through many phases. The earth has been a molten ball. The earth has had climatic events such as the early lightning storms that did not just light up the sky but were so huge that the electromagnetic power in them gripped the surface of the planet. The earth has been an ice ball. Imagine living at that time. Two hundred and fifty million years ago all the continents were joined into a supercontinent (Pangaea). The climate was tropical. The plant life was huge. So were the insects. So were the dinosaurs. Sea levels have risen, sea levels have fallen. Huge volcanoes have erupted, powerful earthquakes have shaken the plates. Glaciers have come and gone. Asteroids have hurtled down from outer space and struck the earth with great violence. All the time life survived, flourished, died and changed.
We know the earth is round. We know it’s a living planet. We know humans have been here a couple of million years. We know the phases and changes that human culture has undergone during that period. One can marvel at the modern world of humans with our industries, technologies, communication and transportation systems, hospital, schools, water and food availability, militaries, governments and religious institutions. It’s truly a wonder. But then we are startled or even horrified to learn that the current success of the human species is now altering the very functioning of the planet in harmful ways. We have learned that humans are affecting the natural systems of the earth including the atmosphere and its greenhouse gases; the geosphere with its forests, minerals and topsoil; the biosphere with its millions of species of plants and animals; the hydrosphere with its oceans of fish and coral reefs, its rivers of streams, aquifers, deltas and estuaries. We are changing the structure and balance of the natural systems in a way never before.
In a cosmological perspective the well being of the planet earth becomes a context in which to view and assess. We might want to think about endeavoring to situate the human within the larger natural systems of the earth rather than endeavoring to supersede them. Our modern economy is headed in just that direction.
Altering the course of modern humans might sound like a mountain of work. Thomas Berry calls it the Great Work of our time. The goal accordingly is to establish a mutually enhancing relationship between humans and the natural world.
There are wonderful powers that are at work in our midst and which bring us the water, the air, the soil, the forests and the fish. They can be destructive at times as well. Yet in the larger arc of time, all of the powers of the earth, the living and non living dynamics of the natural world have created the abundant and plentiful world in which we find ourselves. And yet, we discover that we are now destroying the very conditions that brought this abundance forth.
Now within the form of self conscious awareness at least one species is contemplating the destiny of it all.