Life has an incredible amount to teach us about living well on planet Earth, in no small part due to the fact that it’s been thriving here for 3.85 billion years. But, how long is that really? If we take the age of Earth (4.5 billion years) and compress it into one year, we can better grasp the time-tested wisdom of our fellow planet-mates.
Earth was “born” on January 1, 4.54 billion years ago. If we compress 4.54 billion years into one year, that means 144 years is 1 second. Life appeared 3.8 billion years ago. On the geologic calendar, that makes February 25 Life’s birthday. Life first appeared as simple cells, which thrived for millions of years before photosynthesis evolved 3.6 billion years ago. That would make photosynthesis’s birthday March 21.
It’s not until July that multi-cellular organisms appear. Plants and mammals follow much later in the year. Take a look at Earth’s Calendar Year:
Earth’s Calendar Year plainly shows our age as a species relative to the much, much older forms of life on Earth. And it helps us see that our story is but a tiny part of the Earth’s story. (The sun isn’t expected to burn out for another 5 billion years, so maybe now is Earth’s slightly premature “mid-life” crisis!).
There are 30 million other species on the planet today. Together we represent less than 1 percent of all the species that have ever lived since Life first appeared on Earth 3.8 billion years ago.
There’s no guarantee that we, or any of the other species around us, will remain. We are all subject to the laws of natural selection. But we are surrounded by success stories that we can consciously emulate. We’re surrounded by species that have adapted and evolved to create conditions conducive to future generations of their own species, and others.
Is the Earth here for us? Certainly not in the way we’ve used it to date. It’s not here for us to plunder and consume. The Earth and its inhabitants are a repository of brilliant survival stories that are here for us to learn from.
When we revise our story to one in which we see the Earth and it’s biodiversity as models and mentors for us, then, and only then, will we have the right motivation and the right perspective to fit in—to survive, and to thrive.