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Worms and fossils connect us with big history

Where does our consciousness originate from?

Not 60, not 90 nor 120k years ago. For Jim Bowler it’s even longer than that.

Humans have been in Australia for 120,000 years, double the time we recently thought. This program on Earshot talks about the earthworms and the evolution of human existence in Australia.

‘Giving rocks a kind of consciousness’ has been an aim of Chris Flynn author of Mammoth. Creatures that are buried in rocks that are somehow still here.  And they are, via their living ancestors, just like us. We are, when we pause to think about it, only here because of our ancestors. Not only our human ancestors – our animal and plant ancestors as well. Fossils force us into a different sense of time. Climate change now means that we are witnessing changes within our lifetime that ought to have happened outside our lifetime.  It makes for a strange kind of grief.

Jim Bowler, the now 90 year old who discovered Australia’s oldest fossils, Mungo man and Mungo lady, says that the agency of human presence he has unearthed on the Victorian coast, has convinced him that his previous 60k years must be extended to 120k years. And we need to think even beyond that timeframe. “The consciousness we share comes from rocks, the oldest rocks, the rocks of the Pilbara, 4.5 millions years ago,” says Jim Bowler.

Our local window into deep time is Munibung Hill at 251 million years. And the community of plants and animals – including the humble earthworms, thought to have evolved 200 million years ago – living at Munibung Hill have an ancestry of many millions of years. When we visit Munibung Hill for whatever reason, pause for at least a few moments to appreciate where we’ve come from.  Marvel at the lake but realise this body of water was for millions of years a valley with a series of lagoons. Lake Macquarie has filled and emptied more than once. The latest makes Awaba (Lake Macquarie) only 6,000 years old.

Hear the full Earshot program at the link … Worm Holes and Dinosaur Trails     (From MMM, Issue 15, December 2020).