It can be helpful at this juncture to grasp the cumulative impact of , inventing , inventing , inventing that made possible, and inventing . Pound-for-pound, the complex organisms that began to dominate Earth’s ecosphere during the Cambrian Period consumed energy about 100,000 times as fast as the Sun produced it. Life on Earth is an incredibly energy-intensive phenomenon, powered by sunlight. In the end, only so much sunlight reaches Earth, and it has always been life’s primary limiting variable. Photosynthesis became more efficient, aerobic respiration was an order-of-magnitude leap in energy efficiency, the oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans allowed animals to colonize land and ocean sediments and even fly, and life’s colonization of land allowed for a . Life could exploit new niches and even help create them, but the key innovations and pioneering were achieved long ago. If humanity attains the , new niches will arise, even of the , but all other creatures living on Earth have constraints, primarily energy constraints, which produce very real limits. Life on Earth has largely been a for several hundred million years, but the Cambrian Explosion was one of those halcyonic times when animal life had its greatest expansion, not built on the bones of a mass extinction so much as blazing new trails.


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