Citizen Action Monitor

The year is 3019 and geologists retrospectively ponder humanity’s love affair with the automobile

They ask — Why were humans unable to foresee the disastrous consequences of their addiction to automobiles?

No 2413 Posted by fw, January 8, 2019

Richard Heinberg

“While biologists have long agreed that humans are the dominant lifeform of the Anthropocene, some geologists now argue that, during the pivotal Concretaceous phase, it was the automobile that served as the true apex species. It was for the sake of automobiles that concrete—the signature rock stratum of the Concretaceous—was laid down over millions of square kilometers of landscape. The automobile served as a kind of exoskeleton for Concretaceous humans, as well as a status symbol, and it was for the powering of automobiles that millions of years’ worth of ancient sunlight, stored in the form of petroleum, was wrenched from the ground and combusted—thus altering the climate and triggering the swarm of events that led to the second phase of the Anthropocene, the Hellocene.”Richard Heinberg, Resilience.org

With tongue in cheek, climate activist Richard Heinberg jumps to January, 3019 to speculate on why humans failed to foresee the disastrous consequences of their addiction to automobiles.

The unstated presumption, of course, is that humans will still be around in 3019. Robert J. Burrowes, for one, is predicting Human Extinction by 2026.

Heinberg, Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He has authored 13 books, including The End of Growth (2011), scores of essays and articles, and has delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues.

Below is my repost of Richard’s article, with my added subheadings, and a link to a related article by Markus Moos, Associate professor, University of Waterloo. Alternatively, to read Richard’s piece on the website of Resilience.org, click on the following linked title.

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Living in the Concretaceous Period by Richard Heinberg, Resilience.org, January 7, 2018

Dateline: January 1, 3019

By 3019, the Anthropocene has been sub-divided into 3 phases: Concretaceous, Hellocene, Depletozoic

Scientists long ago determined that Earth had entered the Anthropocene period, based on a determination that humans were altering fundamental planetary parameters such as biodiversity and the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans to the degree that it warranted an entirely new geological designation. Following another millennium of observation and analysis, skilled observers now tend to divide the Anthropocene into brief but distinct phases, including the Concretaceous, the Hellocene, and the current Depletozoic—which began centuries ago and appears likely to persist until the next awful thing happens.

Geologists argue that the automobile served as the true apex of the human species

While biologists have long agreed that humans are the dominant lifeform of the Anthropocene, some geologists now argue that, during the pivotal Concretaceous phase, it was the automobile that served as the true apex species. It was for the sake of automobiles that concrete—the signature rock stratum of the Concretaceous—was laid down over millions of square kilometers of landscape. The automobile served as a kind of exoskeleton for Concretaceous humans, as well as a status symbol, and it was for the powering of automobiles that millions of years’ worth of ancient sunlight, stored in the form of petroleum, was wrenched from the ground and combusted—thus altering the climate and triggering the swarm of events that led to the second phase of the Anthropocene, the Hellocene.

Historians suggest the dawning of the Hellocene marked the extinction of the automobile and millions of plant and animal species

This latter observation has led some historians to explore the evolution of the automobile, from the primitive Stutzes and Locomobiles that rolled the primordial roads of the early Concreteaceous, all the way to the sleek Teslas and other electric cars that began to proliferate just as the swiftly intensifying events of the brief Hellocene brought the Concretaceous to a hot, chaotic end. At the thin Concretaceous-Hellocene boundary, there is some evidence to suggest the nascent evolution of driverless automobiles—which might eventually have made humans themselves obsolete, had not the catastrophic dawning of the Hellocene marked the extinction of the automobile itself, as well as the disappearance of millions of plant and animal species and the near-extinction of humans.

Many questions remain: Why, for example, were humans unable to foresee the inevitable consequences of their love affair with the auto?

So many puzzles remain. Why were humans in the Concretaceous phase unable logically to foresee the inevitable consequences of their collective behavior? Why were humans so fascinated by automobiles that they were willing to imperil so many other creatures? What was the function of the small rectangular boxes that late Concretaceous humans seemed to carry with them at all times? Were they merely generic votive objects, or did they enable communication with distant spirits, as legend insists? Perhaps we will never know. Ongoing research can still teach us much about the strange ways of the powerful but doomed people of the early Anthropocene.

SEE ALSO

Existentialism: A guiding philosophy for tackling climate change in cities? which argues – “If everyone continues to drive carbon-emitting cars, current and future generations will face severe restrictions on their own choices because of the impacts of climate change.”  

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