I was reading about Doggerland, “an area of land, now lying beneath the southern North Sea, that connected Great Britain to mainland Europe during and after the last Ice Age.” Rising waters and perhaps a tsunami sunk it, now all we know about Doggerland is from random bits that trawlers pick up when floating over the area: “Vessels have dragged up remains of mammoth, lion and other land animals, and small numbers of prehistoric tools and weapons.”
Doggerland’s fate reminded me of this horrifying New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz about an overdue megaquake whose destruction one FEMA official described as such: “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”
Will “everything west of Interstate 5” one day be like Doggerland? Forgotten, until a ship drags up some flotsam? Or maybe like the ghost forest described in the New Yorker article:
When I paddled out to it last summer, with Atwater and Yamaguchi, it was easy to see how it got its name. The cedars are spread out across a low salt marsh on a wide northern bend in the river, long dead but still standing. Leafless, branchless, barkless, they are reduced to their trunks and worn to a smooth silver-gray, as if they had always carried their own tombstones inside them.
What killed the trees in the ghost forest was saltwater. It had long been assumed that they died slowly, as the sea level around them gradually rose and submerged their roots. But, by 1987, Atwater, who had found in soil layers evidence of sudden land subsidence along the Washington coast, suspected that that was backward—that the trees had died quickly when the ground beneath them plummeted.
Maybe thinking of Doggerland helps with what Schulz calls our “problems of time.”
The brevity of our lives breeds a kind of temporal parochialism—an ignorance of or an indifference to those planetary gears which turn more slowly than our own.
Or maybe not, it’s probably hard for us to relate to an ice age person whose EDC consited of a spear and not an iPhone.