One billion years.
Give or take a few million.
It’s a big number.
In years, it’s the equivalent of 12.5 million average human lifetimes (at 80 years per).
The number has been on my mind this past week, after I read an article saying the Earth’s last gasps for oxygen will happen in the blink of 10,000 years around a billion years from now.
We’re certainly getting enough advance notice. Last week, scientists came up with the “one billion” figure after researchers “modelled Earth’s climatic, biological and geological systems to predict how atmospheric conditions on Earth will change.”
Carbon dioxide levels will become so low that photosynthesising organisms – including plants – will be unable to survive and produce oxygen. The mass extinction of these photosynthetic organisms will be the primary cause of the huge reduction in oxygen.
The news has been troubling me.
A billion years seems inconceivable, but suddenly they’re even more fleeting than the past 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history.
It gets worse.
The planet will be consumed when the sun enters its giant stage, apparently. All the beautiful lakes and rivers and seas will evaporate, along with all of man’s creations, and this beautiful blue planet will cease to exist. Like it never was.
I’m somewhat comforted by the idea that there are so many other planets out there that might be suitable hosts for the likes of us.
I know what you’re thinking.
But there is the off-chance that we might find ourselves reincarnated and gasping for air a billion years from now. It’s not a pretty picture.
You gotta hope mankind will have found more suitable digs to move all our stuff to by then.
I’m thinking I’d be incredibly sad to see Earth fading in the distance as our ship set out for a new planet home. Sure, all things must pass, even planets. But it still saddens me. I think I would cry if I saw a bloated sun consuming our fair sister.
And the news must be particularly disturbing for people like Jehovah’s Witnesses, who hope for eternal life on Planet Earth. Are they talking about it in Kingdom Halls this weekend?
I’m not worried for myself. As a Theosophist, I do kinda believe in reincarnation and that our spirits are immortal. And I do believe that the Earth is a micro-reflection of how the universe functions. We’re in the daytime cycle of the universe now. But eventually, night will fall upon the universe, and all within it — including you and me — will slumber. Then, after a long night of sleep, the universe will awaken and another cosmic cycle will begin.
So, we’ll all be back — on a new Earth . . . maybe.
Meanwhile, I want to enjoy my days on the current Earth. We’ve only got a billion years. Let’s make the most of them, eh?