Bare Bones Biology 097 – Climate Change-So the Earth is Alive, So What?

Probably I’ve convinced you, or you already knew, that the climate of the whole living earth can change, and that the life forms of earth make your food, air and water, and the whole earth ecosystem functions as a living thing, a giant super-body that has characteristics similar to those of all other living things. First among these, it can adapt to changing conditions by changing itself. That is one of the standard definitions of life.

So how can there be a debate over climate change? At least I thought that was what the debate was about because that’s what they kept saying, so I thought – Duuuh, how could it not change, it’s a living thing? But maybe this is another case of people not saying what they mean. Maybe the real question is – why should we care?

Mostly we should care because we are part of that living super body known as the earth ecosystem. What happens to it happens to us. Think of yourself as a flea on the backside of the ecosystem. What happens to the flea when the dog dies? No, we can not jump off on the moon. We tried that.

The life of the earth consists of millions of different species of organisms. We are one. The life cycles of all these organisms interact in ways that maintain the life cycles of each other. I have described the cycle of carbon and oxygen and water as it relates to people. That cycle also relates to all the other species of organisms that use oxygen to burn carbohydrates, so we are all interconnected in that way.

Some bored mathematician once figured the odds that we are breathing in the same oxygen atom that Cleopatra breathed out, that has cycled around through the biological system all these years. The probability was surprisingly high. If he had been a biologist he probably would have figured the odds that we are breathing in the oxygen atom those fleas breathed out. We are all connected to life by the necessities of life, and most organisms have very strict requirements for staying alive. Organisms, individual organisms, cannot “evolve.” They can change, for example their temperature, but evolution requires a change in the genetics, and it takes multiple generations. Therefore, only species can evolve. And only sometimes, if the changes are slow enough.

So these millions of species of organisms, plants, animals, fungi, microorganisms, that create the circulatory/respiratory system of the living earth, the species that clean up after us, worms, buzzards etc, the species that make good rich soil. Every one of those species requires a particular climate to stay alive. For example, good rich soil, in just one spadeful are millions of different kinds of organisms and micro-organisms. These organisms interact with each other and they interact with plants that are growing there.

The different plants also have special requirements for staying alive. Soil and plant relationships are delicately balanced to local conditions of climate. All the parts of the climate, the temperature, amount of sunlight, airflow, amount of water, everything interacts with the organisms and the organisms interact with each other. Every kind of organism has very specific requirements to stay alive, and it has taken millions of years for all these relationships to evolve to the point where we can see that the earth has come to function almost like an organism, with all of its internal parts helping to keep it alive, in a parallel way to how our internal parts keep us alive.

Some people believe that organisms, including, people, can adapt, and that adaptation is the same as evolution, so we could adapt to a higher temperature by evolving, but that’s not how evolution works. What will happen is happening, the species will die because they cannot live in the rapidly changing conditions. They will die and new species will evolve over the future millennia. In God’s time = ecosystem time. Not human time. Way too late to help us maintain the climate we need to stay alive.

Huge numbers of species have already died. This is not a computer-game fantasy, and there is nothing to debate. We do know how we are causing these problems and how to stop causing them. But we don’t want to stop causing them — we like things the way they are. Or I should say the way they were.

Bare Bones Biology 097 – Climate Change-So the Earth is Alive, So What?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
here and at

Recommended References: BBB093 – Climate Change II Bare Bones Ecology Evolution Handbook is available for download near the lower right corner of my blog

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