Evangelizing environmentalists, much like evangelical Christians, have too often held humanity to an impossible standard, impossible for being imaginary. Some see Earth before agrarian humans as an Arcadia against which we can assess the sins of industrial society. The world without us, in this view, would return to its true temperature, its steady state. Growing up as a species, however, means accepting that we are neither blessed by Heaven nor shatterers of the natural order. No such order exists: no true or natural climate, no normal rate of extinction, no ideal ecology. The only thing normal about climate is its propensity to slam back and forth between maxima and minima, between infernal winters and refrigerated summers. In the oscillating dance of the glaciers, species die. Whether they die from meteorites or from billions of human decisions makes no difference. Either way, they leave behind abandoned niches—the ecological spaces organisms inhabit—resulting in evolutionary cascades of new species. Everything alive is matter in one momentary form, soon to take some other momentary form.

Steven Stoll, “The Cold We Caused”