The Once and Future Earth

65 million years ago, a catastrophic meteorite impact at Chicxulub in Mexico caused a huge ash and dust cloud, ignited wildfires, produced acid rain, and triggered earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. At nearly the same time, a huge outpouring of lava in India, global cooling, and a significant fall in sea levels added up to climate change that ultimately killed off the dinosaurs (like Triceratops, here).

About 75% of the animals that shared Triceratops’s world shared the dinosaur's fate, but others survived the great extinction. These survivors, including our own tiny ancestors, inherited a world temporarily short on predators and long on habitat niches. It was a world ripe for the taking. And mammals, birds, insects, and flowering plants quickly came to dominate the land.

Today, human activities, rather than nature, are the driving force of change on Earth. Our impact is so significant that some scientists believe we're living in a new geologic epoch: the Anthropocene. All the available evidence suggests that humans are creating long-term change comparable to that seen at the end of the age of dinosaurs, raising one inevitable question: How will we survive--and thrive--on a human-dominated planet?