What is the fundamental objective of life? To survive.
How does one achieve survival? Two ways - staying alive long enough to reproduce and, in a larger sense, establishing an equilibrium with one’s environment.
Keeping that in mind, it is no secret that mass extinctions occurred many times over the history of life on this planet. These result from shifts in cosmic geography which cause shifts in global conditions of climate as well as from geologic processes like continental drift and at the core of that; volcanism. Variations in the orbital paths of both the planet around the sun and the solar system around the galaxy give rise to measurable shifts in global climate patterns. The other cause of climate shifts are much more spontaneous by comparison. Whether it be ash clouds from super-eruptions or those generated by impacts from extraterrestrial objects, there is an undeniable history of these expulsions of particulate matter into the atmosphere altering the process of global heating. Alterations in existing patterns of global heating – either the ability of ultraviolet radiation to penetrate the atmosphere or leave it – can dramatically alter climate patterns.
These patterns of climate shift pace faster than the movement and evolution of flora on this planet of which provide the base of the food web that all subsequent organisms are dependant upon. Desserts shift and grow as seasonal rains shift and go. Masses of mountain and polar ice form and melt, changing regional rainfall and sources of drainage that form the base of watersheds and ultimately river systems. In addition, the relative temperature of the planet as it concerns global ice stores has a clear link to sea level, more ice equals less water in the oceans. Also, in conjunction with the relative temperature of the oceans, as the space between water molecules expands and contracts with variations in temperature, i.e. warmer oceans equal the same amount of water occupying more volume ergo higher sea level.
As all life on this planet is dependant upon water in one or more ways, dramatic shifts in the hydrologic cycle will in turn dramatically affect life on this planet. If one needs a most blatant example, consider the difference in patterns of organisms between now and one of the last ice ages.
In time scales of 10,000-10,000,000 years, life on this planet is perilous. Consider the state of humanity 10,000 yeas ago.
If one jumps forward, cosmic events that cause changes like these are unavoidable. Meteors will collide with this humble wet rock, such as the one 65,000,000 years ago that hit the Yucatan, ultimately killing off the dinosaurs. Eventually the sun will expand, swallowing the planet. Even farther out, our galaxy will eventually collide with another. Such a massive event, it’s scale is beyond reasonable comprehension and one cannot fathom the affect that will have on this one tiny planet of this minuscule solar system of a galaxy composed of billions of stars.
In the grand arc of time, the end will come.
Yet, life is a tenacious bastard. What if in its near timeless omnipotence, it had the goal of survival in mind the whole time? Clearly, it does - given its history on this planet. What if we (people) could be the answer to that challenge?
Have you ever heard of the parable of Noah and his ark? I use this parable for two reasons. It illustrates peoples’ ability to survive physical catastrophe as well as their dependence upon the natural world and the need to preserve it.