With increasing awareness of climate change many people are afraid there’s a good chance life on Earth may be seriously threatened. Today is the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year and the perfect time to contemplate the idea of total annihilation.
250 million years ago something darker than even the grimmest predictions of climate change happened. It is unclear what caused it, but near all life died out. The Synapsids, a group that was the dominant land vertebrates at the time were near completely wiped out, among the few survivors of the group were the ancestors of the mammals. If the extinction were slightly worse then all the synapsids could have been wiped out and mammals wouldn’t exist today. For near 200 million years after the synapsids were limited to small shrewlike roles, reminiscent of the generations the Israelites spent in bondage in Egypt, only truly recovering when the dinosaurs died out.
Every winter solstice we should celebrate the fact that we survived the great dying. It is the darkest day of every year. It represents loss and mourning but also hope, for just as we recovered from the great dying we will recover from any wounds in the future no matter how great, and we will live to fight another day.