Earth is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It’s less than a grain of sand in the great desert of our galaxy, which is but a grain of sand in the great desert of the universe. But Earth is all we have, it becomes our own little “grand scheme of things” and we compare ourselves to it. That’s normal, since we can’t influence the universe or even our own little galaxy, but we don’t even do the comparison with Earth right. We want to believe that we’re much greater than we really are and forget that we’re mere microbes even when compared to our insignificant Earth.
To put it in terms the human brain is more familiar with, let’s assume that Earth is a person, with one year of that person’s life being equal to 100 million years in Earth’s life. That’d make person Earth about 45 years old. On that scale, humans appeared 17.5 hours ago and civilization, starting from very ancient ones, appeared about 30 minutes ago. Person Earth barely had time to notice us invading its body! But we are invading, and spreading like the deadliest virus ever. Ten minutes ago there were about 200 million of us. Two minutes ago, less than 500 million. Then, about one minute ago, we hit the one billion mark. 15 seconds ago there were three billion of us. Now we are 6.7 billion and our numbers are still rising…
Still, even if person Earth is not particularly strong among its kind, we’re too insignificant to matter. It got infected with us this morning and is currently having a rough night, but within the next few seconds we’ll either vanish or learn to turn from parasite to symbiote and get our numbers back down to manageable levels. Either way, person Earth might wake up the next morning and assume it was all just a very bad dream, though it might need a couple of days to fully recover.
But what about a single person, if that’s what humanity as a whole is? Well, I for one know that I’m just a tiny microorganism, being born, living and dying within less than 30 seconds of person’s Earth life, all the while being lost among billions and billions of other microorganisms of various kinds. And guess what? So are you and so is each and every one of us! Even if you’re thinking about your potential lineage, it doesn’t get much more significant. You, your children, your grandchildren and probably even your great-grandchildren will all be born, live and die within one minute of person Earth’s life, just as lost among the countless other microorganisms you share this body with.
But we can’t seem to keep that in mind for long, can we? We keep thinking that we matter, that our little actions and desires are truly important, that our species is great and we need to procreate either for it or, most likely, just to fulfill our selfish desire of leaving something behind, something which won’t matter any more than we do anyway… Actually, no. Perhaps the worst part is that most of us aren’t thinking at all most of the time…
That’s the problem. Humans want to believe that they are far more than they are and think far less than they should. The two certainly seem to go together, though I don’t know whether the lack of thinking is a result of the delusion of grandeur, seeing as we couldn’t maintain it if we’d stop to think things through for a moment, or the delusion of grandeur is a result of most humans’ real inability to think well enough to realize what our significance truly is.
But what if we were to change this? What if we, as a species, were to finally accept our place on this tiny speck we call Earth? What if we were to accept that our world doesn’t revolve around us any more than the Sun revolves around it? Wouldn’t that perspective allow us to see more, and wouldn’t being able to see more allow us to actually do more, both for ourselves and for our tiny world? Nothing that the little bacterium that you are can do for itself in its seconds-long lifespan will have any real significance, but if you were to place a few building blocks at the foundation of something greater than yourself, and greater than all of us, something that could actually mean something in our own little “grand scheme of things”, it could really make a difference.
If we allow ourselves to realize how small we are, even when compared to our pale blue dot, we could actually start doing something great. But until enough of us do that, all of us, all of our thoughts, actions and voices, will be lost in petty squabbles and selfish desires, which create a background noise and a fog too thick for the few who are different, who might already know what needs to be done, to penetrate. Unless that will happen, unless most of us will truly wake up within the next few seconds of person Earth’s life, we’re all dead men walking and our deaths will be as insignificant as our lives…
The clock is ticking, and it’s our clock, not the Earth’s. Earth will survive and recover no matter what we do, but it is us who will become nothing but a vaguely remembered bad dream if we fail to drastically change for the better before it’s too late. And if that happens it’ll be our fault anyway and nobody will take pity on us, but the really sad part would be that we’d be taking many of the other species we share this little planet with down with us, and they’re not to blame for what’s happening. They’re nothing but innocent bystanders who would be blown apart by the blast that our recklessness is causing, and we have a responsibility towards them not to let that happen.
As for that clock… At best, we’re seconds away from it being too late, so it’s long past the time of doing things incrementally. It would have been better, nicer and easier for all concerned if this change would have started much earlier, because right now we need to get our hands dirty, most likely also bloody, and do whatever it takes to bring about this change within those next few seconds. Those of us who will do these things risk being recorded in humankind’s history books as crazies or even tyrants for a short while, but Earth’s history will speak quite differently of us if we succeed, no matter the cost and no matter the means… Considering how small we are, all we have to lose if we don’t is everything… Keep that in mind, if nothing else.