The contemporary world is grappling with the possibility of en-masse annihilation of life on the Planet due to natural forces, some of which have been triggered by us; claim the scientists.
However, in the Earth’s history there are records of mass extinctions in the past. One of them which occurred 250 million years ago, is supposed to be the worst of its kind. It was as if all the living being on the earth were wiped out by a gigantic, extra-ordinarily powerful hand of the Nature. In fact in modern parlance of a criminologist-it was a Mass Murder, where the murderer left no trace or trail. Whatever, information has been gathered in the past decades is in the forms of circumstantial evidence, which is acceptable to some and not acceptable to other scientists.
That was a period, when most of the living beings thrived in the oceans. That period also witnessed continental drifts and volcanic activity was at its peak. Volcanic eruptions meant sudden increase of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Now it is well known that enrichment of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to Green House conditions.
Geologists claim evidences of a bolide (large asteroid) striking the Earth, which cut off food supplies for many organisms, leading to their extinction. Spirifer, a marine organism, a Brachiopod to be more precise, vanished at the end of the Permian period of the earth’s history. That is around 250 million years ago. While searching fossils in layers of rocks of Permian period in Spiti, author noticed large Spirifers, almost 15 cm across, turn small in size and towards the topmost layer of Permian rocks they became as tiny as one to half cm across. Naturally, their food supply had been cut off and they reduced in size with the passing time, till they could not withstand the further onslaught of the climate change at that time.
Unlike today’s, the world of the yore-particularly 250 million years ago was in the form of an extraordinarily large continent, the Pangea, which included all the political divisions of today’s world. Most of the living being lived in the oceans. There were bottom dwelling insects, the trilobites. They were a plenty.
Here I would like to deviate to explain a point. In 1979, while working in the Siwaliks of Uttar Pradesh, I had to camp at a place called Ramnagar, the gateway to Corbett National Park. At Ramnagar, while camping at the Forest Inspection House, I bumped in to the Director Project Tiger. As per the Director, a huge area, approximately 400 sq km of the Park had been declared as the core area of the Park, where the human activity was prohibited. Mr. C.B. Singh, the Director offered to take me to the core area at night in his specially equipped vehicle.
We left the Inspection House around ten in the night. We had hardly driven about a few km inside the core area, when our vehicle was swarmed by a herd of deer. I could never imagine such a large congregation of dear and then a large variety of other animals like porcupines, antelopes, barking deer etc.
A reconstruction of the oceans 250 million years ago, presents a similar picture. Except that we were not there. We had not even been evolved then. Fossil evidences show a big possibility that the trilobites were consumed by the ocean dwelling cephalopods!
Conjectures are many, but fool proof evidences are not there. However, large scale volcanism must have augmented the Carbon Dioxide content of the atmosphere to cause a rise in temperatures. When the atmosphere heats up; it does not spare the land mass. There are unprecedented incessant rains or worst possible droughts. Such conditions continue for couple of thousand years. Only those organisms survive, who are able to adapt to the new climatic conditions.
Are we prepared to adapt to the forthcoming change looming overhead.
My answer is no.
Extinction of about 70% life from the Planet by the mid of this century cannot be ruled out. Who knows that a large chunk of that percentage might include us too.
It is high time to think and act on how to adapt with the changed conditions and how to survive the nature’s ire.