What Odds Of Survival Would We Have In An Epochal Catastrophe Of Solar-System Proportions?

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Pablo Edronkin

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Could our species and our culture survive something bigger than a global-scale cataclism? Could animal and vegetal species survive? What would we need for survival?

During the long history of life on Earth at least six mass extinctions took place; some of them almost wiped out all animal and vegetal life forms but after a few hundred thousand years or perhaps a couple of millions of them, life found its way again and began prospering. It is hard to believe today that at the end of the Cretaceous a meteorite destroyed almost everything on the surface of the planet; almost no animal with an average weight of over 14kg or any plant bigger than shrubs survived that hit. That as the infamous "K-T event" that exterminated dinosaurs, ammonoids, pterodactylians, and many other groups and thousands of species. Yet, as terrible as that was, it was rather peanuts when compared with the Permian extinction - the "P-T Event" that led the world of life evolution into the Triassic. For reasons not yet established with total, the water and atmosphere became contaminated with a variety of substances, including large quantities of methane and almost everything died.

But then again, there was something that seems to have been even worse; the reason why we know less about it is that as you go back in time, fossil and geological records become less precise since everything gets recycled in our planet. Back at the end of the Vendian and before the Cambrian period started, it seems that life suffered a snowball glacial period. This happened about 600 million years ago and the first complex animals and plants in the seas of the planet were appearing but at the same time the Earth went into significant changes due to the movement of continental masses and it seems that sea currents were dislodged in such a way because of those land shifts that warm water from the equator could not reach the poles like now the "Atlantic Conveyor" and the "Gulf Stream" do.

Then, the poles went into a deep freeze and slowly the ice sheets began to cover all landmasses and waters up to the equator. So, for fifty million years or so, our planet looked like a ping-pong ball or to establish an astronomical analogy, like Europa, the frozen moon of Jupiter. This "V-C event" certainly killed a lot of life forms and probably was the most significant of all mass extinctions because surviving species had to adapt in various ways and so, some herbivorous animals became predators to get the nutrients that otherwise were non-existent. The evolutionary lineage of carnivores like Anomalocaris date back from that time.

But all those apocalyptic events were in fact endogenous, produced perhaps with some sort of extraterrestrial influence, but no more, meaning from outside our world, not with the help of little green or grey men. These were local phenomena at the scale of our solar system or a stellar level. But what would happen is suddenly our sun begins to falter and we found ourselves confronted with a solar system-wide danger? What if astronomers find out that in a few centuries we would fall into a black hole?

So far our planet has managed to survive but things at a cosmic level might prove more hard to overcome. Needless to say, such an event is extremely unlikely but yet, possible, and until we develop the capability for practical interstellar travel we would be at risk as a species and as the rulers of our planet. Our chances of survival if confronted with such an event without true space faring capabilities are nil.



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