Death, the Universe and everything

This article was first published in The Conversation.

Sunrise or sunset? Our host star is the creator and destroyer of all life on Earth.

Sunrise or sunset? Our host star is the creator and destroyer of all life on Earth.

The Earth’s biosphere teems with life. From its upper atmosphere to the depths of its oceans, even down into the rocks that make up the planet’s crust. All of it, all these billions of tonnes of carbon-based lifeforms will at some point cease to metabolise, cease to reproduce, cease to be alive. At which point their substance returns to the great biogeochemical cycles and in time becomes something else.

Rather than being morbid, reflecting on death and what it means in a planetary perspective can lead us to better appreciate our lives, and what we may achieve during them.

Every species currently alive will one day become extinct. Around 99.9% of all species that have existed have shuffled off that way. They had their time on Earth, and then that particular sequence of genetic information was lost forever. Evolution is nothing if not profligate. Continue reading