Neurotica: Back to the Pliocene

Reading Time: 3 minutes


I’d never heard of the Pliocene Epoch until a few days ago. Now I’m an expert.

This is because I need to prepare for new environmental conditions.

Here’s why: An observatory in Hawaii recently measured atmospheric carbon dioxide at 400 parts per million (ppm). We have to go back three million years to find anything like it.

To the Pliocene.

I find this troubling because an epoch is an entire geological age. And geological ages are vast enough to have their own sedimentary layers. Which means lots of crushed rocks and plants and fossilised beasts. It takes zillions of years to get this pummelled. And time periods as long as this give epochs distinct qualities.

Like habitability, for instance.

National Geographic says we’re in the Holocene Epoch. We have our own sedimentary layer.

But what happens if we have to live in the Pliocene? All over again.

This will surely be a problem for Homo Sapiens because we never lived there in the first place. Jelly fish and crocodiles and bats will be fine. It was their element.

I googled the Pliocene to see what lies ahead.

I tabulated the findings as follows:


Mildly disconcerting

Somewhat worrying Downright terrifying
Giant camels (with one hump only). Seas up to ten metres higher than today. Megalodons — 21-metre-long sharks. Could crush a whale’s skull as if it were a grape.
4 degrees hotter (everywhere, I think). Titanis — “terror bird”. Size of  small plane. (It’s a bird AND a   plane, but it’s not Superman.)
Mastodons – big things with tusks. A bit like elephants. Smilodons — aka Sabre -toothed Cats. Hunted bison and one-humped camels. “Get out, Kitty!”
Ground sloths – 4 tonnes, 6 metres tall. Lived in groups. Dire wolves — biggest dog that ever lived. Not a fictional beast from Game of Thrones. Not good as guide dogs, therapy dogs or companion animals of any kind.
Agriotherium — a mighty bear. Nearly 3 metres tall. Weighed 600 kilos. Goldilocks never slept in this bear’s bed.

Please note: the Somewhat Worrying and the Downright Terrifying outnumber the Mildly Disconcerting by a ratio of four to one.

Before I hyperventilated, I checked with a medical expert to see if hyperventilation adds to the planet’s  CO2 load.

I emailed  a doctor friend:

“If I hyperventilate, do I add more CO2 to the atmosphere?”

He replied, “If you want to consider the implications of human physiology on the environment, think of this: You produce more CO2 if you exercise! This implies that exercise, as well as threatening physical harm to the exerciser, is contributing to rising atmospheric CO2 levels.”

I want to do my bit for the environment. Especially after I did more reading and found that if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels right this minute, atmospheric CO2 will be 450 ppm by 2038.

I needed an immediate physical activity disincentive, so I googled “anti-exercise quotes.”

Bauvare from The Prince of Plungers said, “I’ve always found exercise to be an awful hindrance to my well-being, and nature to have a stifling atmosphere. In combination they would be fatal. I do admit, though, that exercise is quite majestic when seen from a distance.”

Neil Armstrong said, “I believe that every human has a finite amount of heartbeats. I don’t want to waste any of mine running around doing exercise.”

Robert M. Hutchins said, “Whenever I feel like exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes.”

I like these sentiments, but I don’t want my environmental efforts curtailed by an early death. Therefore, I’ve found ways to exercise without feeling guilty:

Low CO2 emission exercise options

Sleepwalking: A perfect eco-friendly, low CO2 emitting activity. Combines a low-stress workout with slumber.

Face Yoga: Banish sagging, double chins and wrinkles while ensuring minimal CO2 voidance.

Knitting/Crotcheting: Exercises hands, wrists and arms. Nominal CO2 expulsion.

Cloud  watching: Unappreciable CO2 emissions. Takes care of my meditative and fresh air requirements.

People watching: As above. Plus it’s more sociable.

Lastly, I also read that if we burn all our fossil fuels, we’ll end up with a 1600 ppm CO2 apocalypse.

There’s been nothing like it since the Jurassic. And we all know what a freaky walk in the park that was.

National Geographic Daily News
Fauna and Flora of the Pliocene



Author: Claire Bell
Claire Bell is the health and wellbeing editor of Midlifexpress. She is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body and Comma Magic. Print and ebooks available on Amazon.

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