Sean Davis

Dispatches From the Apocalypse: Texas Is a Big Part of This New Extinction Level Event (September 8, 2021)

(detail from artwork by Sean Davis)

In Sean Davis’s latest Dispatches From the Apocalypse, “Texas Is a Big Part of This New Extinction Level Event,” Davis offers advice to the future on how not to kill ourselves.

 

“Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.”
—Werner Herzog

 

These are dispatches I’m writing to the future about our world today. You see, I’ve been writing about how the world ended and hardly anyone else realizes it, but it’s occurred to me that the world ended a number of times before. In fact, we’ve had six mass extinction events on Earth so far, including the one we’re going through now. So, maybe the end of the world isn’t so bad. The truth is 99.9% of all the species that ever existed on planet Earth are extinct. The sad part of all of this is that you’d think people would recognize that we are the reason for our own mass extinction event, but hubris is a defining trait in human beings.

So, we’re all going to be gone very soon along with elephants, tigers, whales, honeybees, glaciers, the rainforest, and maybe the whole ecosystem. I figure I’m writing to whatever species steps up to run the world next. I like to think that you are dogs who evolved opposable thumbs and big brains after a couple hundred thousand years, so I’m writing to you, dog people. Good boys. Congratulations on your big brains and opposable thumbs.

 

(artwork by Sean Davis)

Let me tell you the history of the first five major extinction events in Earth’s history.

445 million years ago, Earth had its first mass extinction event called the Ordovician-Silurian Extinction. And while that doesn’t mean much to you, the screams of a million trilobites were suddenly silenced; if early Cambrian arthropods could scream. They were just little bug guys who crawled on the ocean floor, but at the time they ran the planet. [Cause? Global warming.]

Then, 370 million years ago, the Late Devonian Extinction took most of the life on the planet. [Cause? Maybe asteroid impact, likely weathering, cooling, or volcanic activity.]

252 million years ago, the Permian-Triassic Extinction (a.k.a. The Great Dying) killed almost everything. The few types of trilobites that survived that first extinction event were wiped out completely, ending their 270-million-year existence. To have a nickname “The Great Dying,” it had to be big. 90% of marine species and almost 70% of land-dwelling vertebrates blinked out of existence for the rest of all time, and life on this blue marble took 10 million years to recover. [And still today, no one knows what caused it.]

201 million years ago, the Triassic-Jurassic Extinction killed more than a third of the life in the ocean. [Cause? Maybe climate change, possibly asteroid or comet impact, or volcanic activity.]

The last one was 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction that wiped out 75% of life on Earth. [Cause? Probably asteroid or comet impact, maybe climate change or volcanic activity.]

So, I guess we were due.

At first, scientists called our extinction-level event (Earth’s sixth) the Holocene Extinction, but it’s recently been changed to the Anthropocene Extinction. So, I guess we do know that we are in the middle of a mass extinction event, but maybe we don’t realize that we are dying along with the flora, the fauna, and the environment. But that’s life. We blew it. It’s your turn.

 

I suppose you’ll probably be trying out the whole “civilization” thing. Let me give you a couple of pointers on how not to kill yourselves and the whole planet.

 

I suppose you’ll probably be trying out the whole “civilization” thing. Let me give you a couple of pointers on how not to kill yourselves and the whole planet.

First, don’t get too comfortable. We went from having to forage, protect ourselves, and grow and kill our own food to binge-watching The Walking Dead and stuffing our obese bodies with microwaved and highly processed pizza rolls all within 150 years. Just in my lifetime, the human population doubled. In 1973, we had 3.9 billion people, and today we have more people than that on social media. Last year, in 2020, the world carried 7.8 billion around the galaxy. And that may seem like a good thing, but then you have to feed them all, make clothes for them, build them houses, provide flushing toilets, and they all drive cars.

Here’s something to think about. According to Dr. Peter Gleick, who is the co-founder and President of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security which is the world’s leading non-partisan policy research group addressing global environment and development problems:

“Currently, about 20% of the world’s population lacks access to safe drinking water, and more than 5 million people die annually from illnesses associated with unsafe drinking water or inadequate sanitation.”

We could solve this problem, but we don’t. Why? India has 16% of the world’s population as I write this, but only 4% of the world’s freshwater resources. Yet, they build dozens, maybe hundreds of luxury hotels and condos with swimming pools, one of them has a pool on every single balcony. We would rather put the water in swimming pools for rich people than give the water to poor people to drink. Again, why? We’re just crazy like that.

The most important piece of information you should know is that humans, every single one of us, were insane to differing degrees. Texas is one of our biggest states and it yells louder than every other state, at every opportunity, that it loves “freedom” and “democracy,” but it recently passed a law restricting a woman’s freedom to control her own body and laws that restrict democracy by making it harder for people to vote. Governor Greg Abbott said the abortion bill will “[ensure] that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.” So, the reason for the bill, in his mind, was to save “life,” but in this same legislative session, he signed a series of seven laws that allows any person, trained or not, to carry guns openly without a permit. We don’t make any sense. Maybe we never did.

Anyway, every era ends, even for the long-lived trilobites, even for us with our big brains. Make the best with the time you have. I hope the best for you, dog people. I really do. I’ll send you some more dispatches as this extinction event goes on. I hope you can learn from our mistakes.

 

Sean Davis

Sean Davis is the author of The Wax Bullet War, a Purple Heart Iraq War veteran, and a community leader in Northeast Portland, Oregon. His latest stories, essays, and articles have appeared in various magazines and media sources such as HUMAN the Movie, the international fashion magazine Flaunt, Forest Avenue's forthcoming anthology City of Weird, and much more.

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