Contemporary Issues

Dinosaurs, Billionaires, and Mass Extinctions

Dinosaurs became rulers of the world about 201 million years ago after a mass extinction eliminated their major survival competitors.1 About 66 million years ago the dinosaurs, themselves, ceased to exist along with three-quarters of all life on earth because of another mass extinction.

Dinosaurs had been the most powerfully successful creatures in history before their sudden exit. The giant dinosaurs had an almost completely unencumbered life of privilege.

Many dinosaurs weren’t necessarily violent; they just spent most of their day looking for a meal. Tyrannosaurus may have been a little combative, but he was usually big enough to back it up. Even though dinosaurs included the largest land animals in history, their dominance on earth may have been due to luck.

They could not have seen their demise coming. Nothing could have saved them. The only dinosaurs that survived became birds, which now provide immense benefits to the environment and human life. Birds pollinate plants; spread seeds; clean up carrion, preventing the spread of diseases; keep coral reefs alive; and other earth nurturing activities. 

It seems impossible that dinosaurs would become… hummingbirds. There is no longer a place in our world for giant dinosaurs, but little birds are a necessity to our environmental well-being, as well as notable warblers of songs for the spirit.

Billionaires are the giant dinosaurs of today’s world. Among all living things, they are exceptionally secure in their continued survival without having to adapt to changing times—so far. Billionaires, like dinosaurs in their heyday, have an almost completely unencumbered life of privilege.

Billionaires are not particularly violent or hateful people; they’re just always looking to make more money. Billionaires want to believe they deserve their wealth because of their superior intelligence and hard work, but billionaire success may be due to luck

Of course, there are ways that the giant dinosaurs and billionaires diverge somewhat from their parallel roles. For example, it’s unlikely that the lifestyles of dinosaurs actively contributed to the onset of the mass extinction that undid them. Or that just a few dinosaurs made fabulous profits from their end-of-the-world-causing industries, leading to billions of premature deaths of their own kind in the meantime.

It seems impossible to imagine that billionaires could have any incentive to leave Olympus and come down to earth to live among mortals. After all, only a few special people have billions of dollars while billions of common people have only a few dollars. In any case, there is no longer a place in our world for billionaires. Earth can’t afford them. 

There is one really significant difference between dinosaurs and billionaires: dinosaurs had no choice but to live by their reptilian dinosaur nature. Billionaires live by their billionaire nature,2 but they do have a choice.

Billionaires make up one of the most successful classes of power elites in history. But they will one day be extinct as more than 99% of everything that ever lived is. What if, before they make their exit, they become aware of and consciously choose a more humane way to act? How much of a positive effect would they have on the environment and the lives of all living creatures during the twilight of their reign? It would be very difficult, but it may not be impossible

Billionaires cannot be better people by being part of something bigger than they are because, like the giant dinosaurs, there isn’t anything on earth that is “bigger.” They can only become better people—possibly even Human beings—by becoming smaller than they are: to morph from a Tyrannosaurus into a hummingbird. You can live to rule the earth, or you can live to serve the earth. You just can’t do both.

Postscript, March 30, 2023: Additional Resource

Fleury, B. E. (2018). The scientific wonder of birds. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. From the course overview: “Professor [Bruce E.] Fleury reveals numerous enthralling aspects and features of bird life. Beginning with an excursion into the ancestry and evolution of birds, you’ll discover how birds are directly descended from dinosaurs. In probing into the process by which agile, bipedal reptiles took to the air, you’ll explore the miraculous mechanics of flight, and the many physiological adaptations that keep birds aloft.” [Fleury points out that T. rex and all birds have a common ancestor. So, some dinosaurs really did become hummingbirds].

Postscript, July 28, 2023: Additional Resource

Monbiot, G. (2023, July 15). With our food systems on the verge of collapse, it’s the plutocrats v life on Earth: Climate breakdown and crop losses threaten our survival, but the ultra-rich find ever more creative ways to maintain the status quo. The Guardian. “Corporations and oligarchs with massive fortunes can hire as many junktanks (so-called thinktanks), troll farms, marketing gurus, psychologists and micro-targeters as they need to devise justifications and to demonise, demoralise, abuse and threaten people trying to sustain a habitable planet. The junktanks devise new laws to stifle protest, implemented by politicians funded by the same plutocratic class.”

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  1. Extinction event. (Last edited 2021, August 2). Wikipedia. “Mass extinctions have sometimes accelerated the evolution of life on Earth. When dominance of particular ecological niches passes from one group of organisms to another, it is rarely because the newly dominant group is “superior” to the old but usually because an extinction event eliminates the old, dominant group and makes way for the new one, a process known as adaptive radiation.

     “For example, mammaliformes (“almost mammals”) and then mammals existed throughout the reign of the dinosaurs, but could not compete in the large terrestrial vertebrate niches which dinosaurs monopolized. The end-Cretaceous mass extinction removed the non-avian dinosaurs and made it possible for mammals to expand into the large terrestrial vertebrate niches. The dinosaurs themselves had been beneficiaries of a previous mass extinction, the end-Triassic, which eliminated most of their chief rivals, the crurotarsans.” [Links in the original].

  2. In the quadrune mind model of consciousness, “billionaire nature” would fall under a pre-Human mentality. Billionaire nature would probably be categorized as a reptilian-like consciousness because of the apparent single-minded goal to accumulate and defend vast wealth beyond a reasonable level of personal or family need, and because wealth for its own sake is valued higher than life. (See pages 5-10 of the Study Guide for more information about the four minds of the human brain.)

4 replies on “Dinosaurs, Billionaires, and Mass Extinctions”

A brilliantly incisive view of the existence of these dual worlds,
Provocative to the point of pondering if living with the dinosaurs might not have been more pleasant in many ways, albeit fraught with danger of a different kind.
Like you, I will celebrate the vision of all of us living to serve the earth and each other.

Thank you Mike for your thoughtful comment. I think you make a great point. It may have been more pleasant, or perhaps less disturbing in a way, to suffer from the actions of a creature living its “natural” life, rather than fellow human beings who are acting like predatory animals toward us.

The comparison was very insightful and amusing. Unfortunately, the world will see more billionaires in the near future. The problem we ordinary people face is not knowing what these billionaires will do with their money. We know that we will not share it. Very enjoyable and thought-provoking view.

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