The 'spheres' of our planet have long acted harmoniously, brilliantly improvising off the others' riffs to produce a beautiful soundscape – the ecosystem we currently inhabit. The song started slowly and took a long time to reach it's present state, each new instrument gradually incorporated into the greater whole. The newest members sit in with the band are modern humans. Unfortunately, we play our instruments poorly and we have a tin ear. We are creating dissonance.
In many ways, the ocean (hydrosphere) can be considered the rhythm section, a solid foundation on which to base a composition. Water is essential to all life as we know it. This sphere is slow to act, but difficult to stop once it begins. The raucous caterwauling of humans is beginning to be noticed. A recent study shows that only 4% of the oceans remained undamaged by human activity. The oceans are becoming rapidly transformed through increasing temperature and acidity of seawater. There is some concern that we may have already triggered an ocean circulation collapse. Plastic rubbish covers vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean, detritus from our way of life.
The atmosphere is deeply influenced by the ocean (although the influence really goes both ways...). The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major factor in determining the weather. We are currently observing the peak of the La Nina phase of the cycle, wherein cooler-than-normal sea surface conditions prevail across much of the Pacific Ocean. This has broken an extended drought across eastern Australia, while simultaneously bringing 'the worst drought in decades' to Chile. The relations have been seen historically. The role of La Nina as opposed to general climate change in producing the unusual winter weather in China and the US is uncertain, and despite the claims of these articles cannot be determined right now; the data just aren't there. It is certainly possible, but more expected during the warm El Nino phase.
The biosphere –- living things – are the main melody in this music of the spheres. Without a melody, the song (often) isn't worth listening to. Human cacophony is increasingly disrupting the main theme. Anoxic dead zones in the ocean are on the increase, a result of global warming. Warming conditions are leading the increased migration of animals. In the UK, seabirds are facing threats as snake pipefish, virtually unknown before 2002, move into the area. Warming seas around Antarctica also threaten the invasion of predators -- first crabs then sharks -- into the fragile ecosystem of the the region, threatening widespread devastation. It's not just climate change; tuna fisheries are facing a massive collapse from overfishing.
Playing a supporting role on human time scales is the lithosphere (the Earth's crust). Global warming may lead to an increase in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Such ideas are very speculative, but do have some precedence – parts of the crust are still rebounding' from the removal of ice from the last ice age. Probably a coincidence, but Norway just recorded its strongest earthquake ever in its Arctic archipelago.
It's obvious from the above that humans are not the virtuosos we imagine ourselves to be. We continue to belt out our drunken karaoke version of “My Way” at our own peril; the band may pack up and go home. Following the sentiment of Miles Davis, It's not the notes you play, but rather the space between the notes that make the music. Listening carefully and playing appropriately are admirable qualities. Silence is a perfectly acceptable musical technique; something is always happening that makes a sound. Seeing our selves and our species as a part of nature; fitting in and living within the more-than-adequate limits provided by the ecosystem. This philosophy will go a long way towards helping humanity produce a lasting grand opus.
Image: I. Stravinsky, L' Sacre du Printemps