The Fate of our Future

The Franklin Institute's "Changing Earth" exhibition asks what's humanities role?


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“Changing Earth”
The Franklin Institute

Does man-made global climate change spell doom for life on earth? Well no, probably not. The way I see it, life rose from the hellish bowls of a molten earth. Life has survived five mass extinctions caused by everything from climate change, a meteor 65 miles in diameter, and super-volcano eruptions. In fact, Humans aren’t even the first species to have drastically altered the composition of earth’s atmosphere. Millions of years ago blue-green algae on stromatolites caused a rapid increase in atmospheric oxygen and the extinction of many early single-celled species. And on top of all the external inconsistencies that earth has had to deal with, multiple ice age cycles go in and out of sync creating the base climate for the earth. At the moment, we are witnessing an interglacial ice age; meaning there is ice at our poles but it is receding. On the grand scale of geological time, the warm tropical (iceless) climate of earth that the dinosaurs knew was not that long ago.

Humans tend to naturally resist change, but who really stands to lose the most from rapid climate change? Certainly there are a few species that cannot evolve fast enough to compensate, but every mass-extinction is followed by a mass speciation. Will humans survive? Probably. Heck, humans climb Mt. Everest for fun! Humans have an amazing capability to alter our climate to suit our needs, just look at, air conditioning. Of course, those populations who aren’t technologically equipped to handle the task of change will be wiped out, and humans certainly cannot spare any more species diversity. The way of life we grew up with may change.

This change makes us ask, “what about our civilization is worth keeping and what is worth losing?” All I can tell you is what can be done today to alter the course of climate change tomorrow. This is one of the goals of “The Changing Earth exhibit” at the Franklin Institute.”The Changing Earth” exhibition puts their money where their mouth is by featuring various “green” displays. For example, interactive, Energy Star approved, digital displays and carpets made from 100% recycled material. Now if only they would apply these eco-friendly policies to the rest of their museum.

Though humans are resistant we must remember that, 99.9% of all species, to have ever graced this wonderful earth with their presence, have long since gone extinct. What makes us humans too good for that fate? What makes us think we have any right to prevent the course of change for ourselves or on behalf of the current species?

To learn more about the effects of human caused global climate change and how it affects your comfortable lifestyle, please visit “The Changing Earth” exhibit at the Franklin Institute.

Stephanie Yakir is a senior Biology Major at Drexel University.

Photos courtesy of The Franklin Institute