EXTINCTION BLUES – by Ingrid Hoelzl

I

The Earth, when it was born:

bathing in methane and rust

no oxygene there to breathe!

One day single cell life showed up

thriving for 500 million years

till cyanobacteria came along!

Photosynthesis, here we go:

sugar from water and CO2

refuse material: oxygen!

Early anaerobic life eradicated, suffocated!

99 percent died, yeah, you hear me right!

99 percent died, yeah, twas pretty tight!

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Listen to the tale, listen to the tale of Extinction!

II

Rise up, plants, you’re the queens!

belching out oxygene into the air

throwing the earth into climate chaos

Snowball Earth for 400 milion years!

But life persevered!

But life flourished!

Plants decomposed, creating mud

where flow the rivers and what not

that shaped the surface of the earth

The next extinction came much later

some 250 million years ago

Great Dying, they call it

Super volcanos, sulphur and ashes,

the planet cast into darkness

lava spread, methane got loose, C02 spiked!

Earth froze, then heated up again

96 percent of all sea creatures

70 percent of all land creatures

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Listen to the tale, listen to the tale of Extinction!

III

Some survived, but listen!

50 million years later, another dying

dragging on over 5 million years

an asteroid falling down the sky

alien rock colliding with Earth

caused it all, they say

And mammals gave way to archosaurs

and archosaurs gave way to dinosaurs

and dinosaurs became Kings of Earth!

But then, some 66 million years ago,

they went from dominion to extinction

And Earth barely blinked an eye!

Another star crashing!

more volcanos erupting!

the climate thrown into turmoil!

76 % of all species vanished

but with the dinosaurs gone

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Mammals could thrive again!

IV

Now, a new era started,

that of mammals and flowering plants

that of Antarctica and its ice cap

that of Human and Chimpanzee ancestors!

And in this era, a new period:

The Quarternary! Enters Homo habilis!

The meat eater, the tool maker!

Dominant creature on this pile of shit!

And in this period, a new epoch:

The Holocene! The whole epoch!

glaciers melt, temperatures rise

Neolithic humans settle down, domesticate

Cultivate cereals… and sweat

exploit stone, plant, animal, human

die of famine, malnutrition, and war

build up cities and pile up riches

And after this epoch, a new epoch:

The Anthropocene! The catastrophy-cene!

the steam engine and the industrial revolution

World War 2 and the Great Acceleration

Animals and plants perishing

because of human selfishness

Earth heating up once more

because of Capitalist excess

Onwards and upwards!

consume, squander, and kill!

Earth: a huge waste deposit

We shall bite the dust, too!

Peak Humanity!

Peak Oil! Peak Money!

Peak Food! Peak Water!

Peak Air! Peak Earth!

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Listen to the tale, listen to the tale of Extinction!

V

But we’ve caused extinctions all along

since we moved out of the African savannah

killing off megafauna everywhere we went!

Mammoth, big cats, ground sloths, all gone!

Even our fellow hominides

Neanderthals and Denisovans

disappeared some 30 thousand years ago,

we took their place yet carry their genes!

500 years ago. another great dying

Homo sapiens killing Homo sapiens!

Europeans colonizing the Americas

exterminating 90 % of their fellow beings

Death came by violence, but mostly by contagion

They brought with them their deadly microbiome

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Disappeared, Wiped out, Forever Gone

Listen to the Tale… of Extinction!

VI

Geological, biological, human apocalypses

causing each other, amplifying each other

so this time round, humans will go, too

What’s the point fighting so hard

Trying to escape extinction

Is it not the fate of all species?

Human comes from humus, the soil,

from which new life grows

Human rhymes with humility

Impermanence is Change!

all things perish to make space,

to make space for new things

History of life, history of extinction:

apocalypses always happen

not for us! not against us!

We insist, and insist, on our especialness

mark geological time with our evolution

declare a new epoch of our devastation

The survivors of the coming apocalypse

will close the Holocene forus

and open a new epoch after us

Mutant Mantises, maybe, or evolved sloth bear?

Transgenic plants, maybe, or biodigital intelligence?

Aliens colonizing Earth, feeding on human DNA?

Their memories of life on Earth will be other

humans running a poor second in them

but who will be there to still care?

But who will be there to still care?

————————————————————————————————————————————————

Credits:

Modified version of the long poem written for & performed for the performance PEAK HUMANITY, premiere on June 2021 at Kraftwerk Bille, Hamburg as part of the blurred edges 2021 Festival. Text: Ingrid Hoelzl. Musical concept: Georgia Ch. Hoppe. Performers/speakers: Frantz Loriot, Marcia Lemke-Kern, Emese Kovacs, Ingrid Hoelzl.

Extinction Blues has been performed as a site specific performance at the 8th Festival Teatro para el fin del mundo / Un derrumbe (Theatre for the end of the world / Collapse) in Tampico, México (24-27 November 2021) upon invitation by its artistic director, Angel Hernandez.

Acknowledgement:

I’ve taken inspiration, among other readings in Earth science, by an article by Jarius Grove, entitled “A Recently Apocalyptic Tone in Everything: The Anthropocene or Peak Humanity?”

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