The United States’ federal debt as of July 31, 2014 was $17.6 trillion ($8 trillion in 2005). The sun, aged 4.6 billion years, has a projected total life of 10 billion years, with 5.4 billion years left. So, if the United States pays down its principal by $3259.26 per year, we will be debt-free by the time the sun burns out.
The earth is 4.5 billion years old. Bacteria, the oldest life forms on earth, originated some 3.5 billion years ago; worms, 1,100 million; sharks, 410 million; and reptiles, 325 million years ago. Cockroaches are 250 million years old. Dinosaurs came and went between 248 and 145 million years ago. Birds are 213 million years old; lizards at least 65 million; cats 55 million; and dogs 34 million years old.
Homo sapiens, from the Latin, meaning “wise man,” is believed to be 2 million years old. The United States was 238 years old July 4, 2014.
If intelligence is measured by survivability and adaptability, bacteria are the smartest life forms on the planet. Bacteria and insects quickly develop immunity to the antibiotics and poisons that Homo sapiens uses against them.
Homo sapiens thinks he’s smart because he’s developed complex language, so that he can lie to himself and other Homo sapiens. He has invented work, money, and government. He can blast the tops off mountains, mutate genes with chemical and nuclear reactions, and create industrial by-products that decimate ecosystems for miles around. Through his collective effort, he can poke holes in the atmosphere’s ozone layer and raise the entire planet’s temperature. He can build spaceships that slow the earth’s rotation.
What will he think of next? The bacteria, worms, and cockroaches have a better chance of surviving Homo sapiens’ intelligence than Homo sapiens does. They’ve lived through the ice ages and dinosaurs. Bacteria, especially, can live on the tops of mountains and the bottom of the sea, inside volcanoes, embedded in ice, and deep in caves. In fact, each Homo sapiens provides a home for 10 trillion bacteria, a number not as large as US federal debt; but unlike the federal debt, the bacteria can survive whether its host lives or dies. When the wise man dies, the bacteria will feast in and on his decomposing body.
And, if Homo sapiens succeeds in poisoning, bombing, or cooking himself into extinction, as he is smart enough to do, the bacteria, worms, and cockroaches will probably adapt to the change, learning to thrive on dioxins, organophosphates, polychlorinated biphenyls, and nuclear radiation.
Wise up, Homo sapiens. From the viewpoint of the planet’s oldest life forms, we are at the bottom of the food chain, but they don’t need us to survive.