61 / Planet Earth
A depressing conclusion drawn at the end of Bill Bryson’s ‘A ShortHistory of NearlyEverything’ is that the human species is thoroughly unfit to be left as custodian of the planet and all other species living on it: "if you were designing a species to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn’t choose human beings for the job".
We have a nasty knack of exterminating other species – plants, insects, as well as animals. It has been estimated (UN report 1995) that the total number of known extinctions in the last four hundred years is around five hundred for animals, and around six hundred and fifty for plants. But no one knows for certain what has ceased to exist as a result of human activity – deliberate, or accidental. Bill Bryson relates the immensely sad tale of the disappearance of the last remaining flightless wren. A lighthouse keeper’s cat kept bringing dead trophies of this little bird for approval to the lighthouse keeper. Not recognising it, he sent off a specimen for identification to a local museum. A curator there became very excited because this was the only known example ever discovered anywhere of a bird that perched but did not fly. The curator set out immediately for the lighthouse only to learn, when he arrived, that the cat had caught and killed the last one. All that remains of the species are twelve stuffed specimens in a display case.
A few days ago a billionaire entrepreneur successfully rocketed into space one of his super-duper sports cars, with a dummy wearing a space suit at the wheel. He views this as a further step towards launching an ‘ark load’ of men, women and children towards Mars.
If there are any Martians reading this blog post my best advice is for you to phone home urgently with a strong warning that the humans are coming.