Much of the sustainability literature talks about the need to understand the time scales of human evolution and its effect on nature and the finiteness of the earth. Generally, it is not easy to imagine both of these.
One important way to understand this is a visual representation.
“Short, therefore, is man’s life; and narrow is the corner of the earth wherein he dwells.” Marcus Aurelius Antoninus – (121-180) noted that in his Meditations. Here is a picture of how small the earth is whose narrow corner we dwell.
For a even bigger perspective, click on the picture above.
The holocene—which means “recent”—is the name for the time span from less than 10,000 years to the present. Pretty much all of recorded human history falls in that period. Geologic time scales puts us in our place.
So there we are. On a tiny planet only 4.6 billion years old. It is hard to imagine such long time spans as we are creatures who live in what Richard Dawkins calls “middle world”—middle in terms of size, and middle in terms of the time scales we can intuitively handle.
Another way of understanding this is condensing the history of the universe, some 13.7 billion years into a single calender year.
If you look at the picture below or click on this link the shocking information is that “first humans appeared on Dec 31st, 9:24 PM and one second before midnight ‘Voyage of Christopher Columbus’ – Year 1492″.
Now: The first second of New Year’s Day – Widespread development of science and technology; emergence of global culture; acquisition of the means of self-destruction of the human species; first steps in spacecraft planetary exploration and the search of extraterrestrial intelligenc.
These pictures above put our life and the earth into perspective. It is an humbling experience to imagine this.