REFLECTIONS ON CHANGE
By Peter Fredson
“For time changes the nature of the whole world and all things must pass on from one condition to another, and nothing continues like to itself, all things quit their bounds, all things nature changes and compels to alter.” Lucretius, De Rerum Natura.
Some changes take place so slowly that the finite nature of humans cannot observe them. Other changes occur so swiftly that human sensory equipment cannot chart them without instrumentation. There have been changes in the universe in which the image of a distant exploding star will not be seen by a telescope until millions of years later, due to the speed of light. There have been changes in radioactive material in which the collision of subatomic particles will not show on our retinas.
Mountains rise and fall, rivers cut gorges through them, earth strata form, whether humans observe them or not.
The explosion of Mt. St. Helens made quite an impression on the inhabitants of the state of Washington, much as the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius covered the entire cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. In Mexico a peasant was plowing when his plow sank into the earth, out of sight, and he caught a glimpse of hot lava below. He ran in panic to his local priest, saying that Satan had snatched his plow into Hell. In a few months a mountain grew out of the ground, and I was privileged to see its erupting fountains of fire and lava.
Many environmental changes have occurred to affect not only natural land forms, but all plant and animal suites. Long ago a meteor struck the earth with disastrous consequences. Even the indestructible Tyrannosaurus could not cope with destruction of its environment. All the giant reptiles died. In the same way we are destroying many species by occupying their former habitats. Some species can cope with urban life around them, while others are doomed to extinction. Mountain lions are not welcomed in the streets of Los Angeles. The Mountain Gorillas will disappear as people seek to cut down their forests and cut off Gorilla heads as trophies. Goodbye passenger pigeon and Dodo bird.
Paleontologists study fossils which are forms of ancient extinct life, plant or animal. They have shown the disappearance of many species and genera of life and the replacement by others. Keen observer, Xenophanes, 535 B.C. said, “In the quarries of Syracuse I found imprints of a fish and seals, made long ago. The imprints had dried in the mud.”
The study of Geology, pioneered by by James Hutton. Charles Lyell, and William Smith was a great advance in the study of stratigraphic and fossil changes. William “Strata” Smith (1769-1839) found fossils in England. He saw that different sites with the same strata contained the same fossils. He became so expert that if someone showed him a fossil he could tell the stratum it was from. Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) of France, also noticed that certain fossils were restricted to specific rock formations
“You cannot step twice into the same stream. For as you are stepping in, other and yet other waters flow on.”
In fairly recent times the saber-tooth tiger, dire wolf glyptodont, giant sloth, mammoth, mastodon, and several dozen other classes disappeared with the melting of glaciers. Today, warnings are being sounded of similar circumstances but politicians are heedless.
The study of change of form through time certainly applies to social-cultural systems. Archaeologists and historians have traced human development from “savage” states, through the entire Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic period showing the great changes in technology, housing, and food-getting into the establishment of sophisticated empires with standing armies and horrendous war machines. They have charted the rise of political, social and religious systems along with the population trends, ameliorated by great epidemics and natural disasters.
“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom yourself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.”
So, for people that lament change, get over it. The world will not stand still, even if you wish to preserve it in formaldehyde.
But, why write this Blog? Because about half of Americans don’t really give a good damn about the earth. As long as they have jobs, have homes and eat, the rest is okay. Let Bush make war with lies, in order to seize oil. Let Bush chop down all the forests so his corporate buddies can make a profit on the lumber. Let Bush disregard all environmental warnings. Let Bush drill for oil in Alaskan Wildlife Preserves. Let the corporations loot the earth, as long as they can make a profit from it. Kill the whales because they eat fish that people own. Pollute the earth, air and water, as long as somebody can make a profit from it. Pour your garbage, atomic waste, underground where nobody can see it. Finally, kill all animals that aren’t domesticated…they are just a nuisance.
“In times of change the learners will inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”