Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The rocks of ELP have been through hell.  Many times.  These rocks might be as young as 100 years old, as in the case of petrified wood, but most of them are millions of years old.  I would venture that none of these rocks are billions of years old, in their present form.  The location on Earth where ELP now sits was once the middle of the ocean.  These rocks were once molten magma deep inside the Earth.  The actual atoms within the rocks may have started in the Earth's mantle, been spewed out as lava, been churned back into the mantle by plate tectonics, and gone through that cycle hundreds of times.  Before that, the atoms in these stones, as well as the atoms in your body, were forged in the furnace of a distant star that exploded.  Although these stones are millions of years old, on average, they are constantly renewed and recycled by the Earth. 

In comparison, the forest at ELP is very young, at about nine or ten thousand years.  Over the centuries, Puget Sound will become a lake, and it may even become a desert if the Olympics grow into a mountain range like the Cascades and cut off the flow of moisture from the ocean.  If North America is moving southwest at a pace of 1 cm per year, and the accretion of material from the pacific plate builds up at about the same rate, then in a million years, the Pacific Coast will be six miles further west of ELP than it is today.  (Maybe.  Who knows if my math is right.)  ELP can't last forever as a healthy forest.  Maybe thirty or forty thousand years would be a lot to ask.  My hope is that it could last at least five thousand years, and the yew trees I've planted could live their entire natural life spans. 

Will anything we do today matter in a million years?  Most definitely.  Species are going extinct at the fastest pace in the history of the Earth.  Human are causing the Sixth Extinction.  It's already too late for millions of species, but other species might survive if we change our ways.  Millions of species will never evolve if we kill them off today.  Locally, ELP can't survive for a million years if we don't improve its health today.

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