Extinction and Bison in the Dirt

Ignoring bacteria, the current assessment of the world's biodiversity is 8.7 million species. The majority remain unidentified and will remain so, given the estimated human-caused extinction of half of all plant and animal species by 2100. We'll lose almost all the mammals sometime before the next ice age, including the descendents of the bison I watched in North Dakota that comically rolled in a depression of clay that was ash-spewn by the Rockies 50 million years ago.

In the remote arm of an obscure galaxy teaming with an estimated 500 million inhabitable planets, we humans are substantially sacks of incubated bacteria and have no reason to be overly proud of our tenure. Entropy dictates that we go from bad to worse and someday an extra-terrestrial storm will erase our computer records and set us back a thousand years. Some paper books have survived over a millennium, so hopefully the books we're putting into dark storage in abandoned salt mines will survive the interregnum. Perhaps not my literary efforts, Shakespeare certainly, but by then we'll be sounding his words like Etruscan, the meaning all but gone.

When I saw the bison I didn't think of the sadness. Of a passing more final than the cherry blossom's fall. A.E. Houseman's poem says of his years to regard that loveliest of trees, only "fifty more." I'd say in my case less than thirty, which is unquestionably a sorrowful thought.

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