“David Grinspoon thinks on scales of billions of years and millions of planets. He studies the climates of Venus and Mars, but his latest book, Earth in Human Hands, is concerned with our home world. Interestingly, the very, very big picture turns out to be a lot rosier than the short-term forecast.
The things that seem apocalyptic to many environmental scientists become biogeochemical blips in the long story of Earth. The plastic we’ve dumped into the ocean? A new kind of rock in the geological record. Climate change? A mistake that we should be able to start correcting within a century. Lost species? Minor casualties on the road to a much more stable and less extinction-prone biosphere. We might lose our current coral reefs, writes Grinspoon, but we’ll probably get them back in a million years or so.
He does not dismiss the environmental disasters that have accompanied humanity’s rise to a population of seven billion. Instead, he sees our mistakes as a key test of our maturity as a species. We aren’t evil, he asserts, “just confused” — “like an infant staring at its hands”. The big question is, will we grow up? Climate change and other challenges may be the test of our ability to turn into the planetary managers we must eventually become, if we are to last much more than a few millennia.”