The Earth takes time out to chat about the last 4.5 billion years, the evolution of Homo sapiens, and the designation of its own holiday

April 20, 2012

Our Environment e-Newsletter, Spring 2012, Volume 1, Issue 2

Happy Earth Day!

All around the planet people are celebrating, reflecting, praying, and calling for change in the way we treat the planet. But what does the Big Mama herself think of all this?

In the days leading up to Earth Day 2012, we were able to obtain an exclusive interview with our home planet. We share it with you in today’s special Earth Day Newsletter from UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.

How does it feel to be the only known planet with life?

Well, I knew when I let that organic soup evolve into life a few billion years ago I would likely be in for an interesting ride. Venus and Mars thought I was crazy (though I think Mars is secretly hiding some microbes under his crust from the NASA rovers). Venus was so against the idea she even surrounded her atmosphere up with hot sulfuric acid. With the press I have been getting lately, its been kind of fun, so the gamble is paying off.

So, I guess you knew about us before we asked you for the interview?

It’s really hard to ignore seven billion of you. For a long time, I was thinking you’d be wiped out by the African carnivores, but getting up on two feet and learning to use stones was a pretty neat trick that put you on your way. When you started farming and made iron, I started getting worried.

How have people treated you?

Well, your species likes to “anthropomorphize” everything (try once in a while to imagine things from a silicate rock’s perspective), but yes, I could do without all this drilling, digging, dumping, etc. But the real secret I want to share with you is that all this mess you are creating is going to be way harder on you than me. I’ve got a nice thin geological strata waiting to hold the remains of the entire human era if things get too bad. However, I am just barely middle-aged, so I’ll enjoy the next four or five billion years in peace. I should mention I’ve got a lot planned for my retirement years.

We’ve always wanted to know: do you ever get dizzy? Do you just want to knock off the constant revolving every now and then?

I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.

Earth Day — seems obvious, but what are your thoughts?

Being as big as I am you would think this would have happened 10,000 or so years ago. However, the problem with being so massive is that everyone either took me for granted, or they were intimidated by me. Interestingly, when those two Apollo astronauts circled the moon in1968 and saw me set against the blackness of space, you all came to the conclusion I was actually too small (!), and you realized that there were limits to the resources you could expect from me. So, if it requires that I be conceptually downsized to get a little recognition, so be it. I’m good with my standing in the cosmos.

Any final thoughts for your fans?

Try being a little humble, or, as I like to say, “down-to-Earth.” Just about every form of life I have seen evolve is now extinct. Humility brings with it a certain wisdom and enlightenment — emotions that only you humans can appreciate. I think your species had a better perspective of your place in the cosmos when you spent more time out of doors, and were hunters and gatherers or nomads. I am particularly fond of what someone who was herding livestock in the Middle East wrote several thousand years ago: “Generations come, generations go, but the Earth remains forever.” Keep that in mind.  

Image courtesy of Earth & NASA | Interview by Department Chair Ron Amundson