People are considered the dominant species on Earth. And while the aliens have not knocked on our doors, we can say that we dominate in outer space. But why did we decide that modern civilization on Earth is the most technologically advanced?
Difficult life exists on the planet for 400 million years. This is a huge period during which many civilizations formed and disappeared. But how far can you look into the past? If you turn to ancient artifacts and ruins, then you can rewind time just a few thousand years. If you refer to the geological records, it is 2 million years.
There is no direct evidence, but where else can you find the traces of a potentially extinct civilization? And will we find clues to how to avoid a sad fate? It is important to understand that the Earth exists 4.5 billion years. Of these, only 300 years fall on our industrial civilization. Therefore, in the past, one of the civilizations had all the opportunities to develop to our level and even surpass it.
Physical artifacts would serve as concrete evidence. But over time, even the most durable buildings are destroyed, and the materials disintegrate. Our cities occupy only 1% of the Earth’s surface, so ancient settlements would be difficult to detect. And the duration of their existence would not have exceeded 1 million years. Therefore, even if in the past, industrial civilization lasted 100,000 years, it can not leave any traces at all. We have to pay attention to indirect traces that our civilization leaves. The best option is water pollution. Just look at the water and you will notice strange chemicals indicating external interference. For example, nitrogen fertilizers used for growing food flow into water bodies and create “dead zones” with low oxygen content, which can be seen in sedimentary layers.
In addition, we will leave durable synthetic molecules from radioactive fallout, steroids, and plastics discharged into the ocean. So the future of humanity will not be delighted with us.
It is important to note that our technological advances are rapidly changing the environment. This led to extinctions as recorded in the fossil record. Ironically, but precisely one of the causes of the death of civilization (pollution) could be the best marker for its detection. When burning fossil fuels, we release carbon back into the air. This leads to a change in the molecular composition of the atmosphere that future scientists can fix.
These are important ideas that push on new hypotheses. Back in 2018, researchers Adam Frank and Gavin Schmidt suggested that civilization may have life cycles based on fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels leads to climate change, the level of oxygen in the ocean decreases and helps to create a new nutrient medium for oil and coal. Therefore, the death of one civilization creates favorable conditions for the emergence of new ones. Perhaps we can never find aliens. However, we can still learn a lot about our own view. Scientists are convinced that analyzing our own long-term ecological footprint will help us understand how to achieve balance with our home planet and not become another extinct civilization.