Tyrannosaurus Rex, are we next?

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Mesabi Tribune.

If you were a lucky dinosaur you were vaporized when the meteor hit. Most of the others died very painfully minutes later, torn to shreds by bullet-like debris falling back to earth. Within an hour, many others cooked to medium well within a super heated atmosphere. A smaller group lived long enough to starve. An even smaller subset managed to survive using the power of flight but had to completely change their way of life.

This was 66 million years ago.

I bring this up not to frighten you, but rather to point out that there were, in fact, worse times in our planet’s history than the year 2020.

To break the cycle of political and pandemic-related arguments in my life I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I was a kid. I read about dinosaurs. In this case, the book was “The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World” (William Morrow, 2018) by Steve Brusatte. I was attracted to Brusette’s updated scientific understanding of these “terrible lizards” from my boyhood imagination.

As my weary family can attest I briefly became a font of dinosaur knowledge. For instance, the Tyrannosaurus Rex probably had feathers and hunted in packs. Its tiny little arms were hardly ineffectual. They were small, but strong, used to position T-Rex prey like wee utensils. Everything important the T-Rex did with its mouth. You would too if your head was the size of a car and wielded enough bite force to shear through steel.

Indeed, the Tyrannosaur once ruled northern Minnesota and the entire North American continent. Contrary to what I learned in school dinosaurs didn’t get big because there was more oxygen in the atmosphere. Indeed, the amount of oxygen was about the same as it is now. In fact, dinosaurs grew larger than any land animal ever because their lungs were more efficient and they could store air in their bones and tissue — like birds.

The T-Rex probably thought she had it made, sitting atop the food chain. But she and her kin went down with the meteor 66,000 millennia ago. Even if a few of them survived the initial blast, they weren’t built for the loss of food and widely varied heat and cold of the years ahead.

The planet was, frankly, miserable for a long time, until just a few millennia ago when the climate became unusually temperate and, by historical standards, downright pleasant. This allowed humans to develop tools and perform crazy experiments with agriculture, social structures, and fossil fuels, depositing us in the present.

I followed up my read of “The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs” with a markedly grim piece of contemporary nonfiction, “The Uninhabitable Earth” (Tim Duggan Books, 2019) by David Wallace-Wells. It details the rapid end of this rare era of good living on Earth. I recommend the book, but only if you have a strong emotional support system.

Carbon-caused climate change runs rampant across the world. Documented thoroughly and observed in phenomena we can see — like more frequent and powerful storms and wildfires, and the likelihood of pandemics like COVID-19, which gnarled the world economy and killed more than 180,000 people this year just in the United States.

Rather than argue the points I’d simply say that the U.S. is the only major industrialized country in the world with a powerful movement that denies the existence of climate change. That doesn’t mean the U.S. is the only culprit, however. It’s a world problem that will require a world solution, whether we like it or not. If not now, then after the next billion-dollar natural disaster, or the trillion-dollar one that follows. Or the sinking of Miami.

These two books describe some of the most hellish conditions the Earth has ever seen, from the past and future. Nevertheless, the authors agree that humans can survive difficult centuries to come.

For one thing the dinosaurs never completely died. Today, one of them is the symbol of our nation. Others may be found in nugget form at McDonald’s. Indeed, the ancestors to today’s birds diverged from dinosaurs during the Cretaceous Period and survived the meteor. Furthermore, had dinosaurs not been ravaged by this extinction event we would not exist. Even amid the planet’s greatest catastrophes life found a way.

But when humans cause the planet’s strife, human hands must fix the problem. Human minds must accept change. We like to tell ourselves that change is hard and no one wants to do it. But the ability to adapt is precisely why we still hold tenuous sway over Earth’s bounty.

To survive, Wallace-Wells writes, “… we would have to retire the intuition that history will inevitably extract material progress from the planet, at least in any reliable or global pattern, and come to terms, somehow, with just how pervasively that intuition ruled even our inner lives, often tyrannically.”

Our modern civilization, for its glitz and false notions of prosperity, often becomes a prison, with most of us living, working, arguing and voting for higher walls.

Unlike our friend the Tyrannosaurus Rex, however, we steer the meteor of climate change.

“The next decades are not yet determined,” writes Wallace-Wells in “The Uninhabitable Earth.” “A new timer begins with every birth, measuring how much more damage will be done to the planet and the life this child will live on it. The horizons are just as open to us, however foreclosed and foreordained they may seem. But we close them off when we say anything about the future being inevitable. What may sound like stoic wisdom is often an alibi for indifference.”

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.



  1. You are a poet, my friend. Tragically, the misguided people who desperately need to read those books will refuse to do so. But my daughter and I will take a look at them. She loves both dinosaurs and chickens.

  2. Hmmm. Is this Aaron become an environmentalist?? The broader perspective is appreciated.

  3. My absurdly drawn aside to your excellent column regards a recent re-watch of the most under appreciated Pixar film, The Good Dinosaur. In which it is posited the meteor just misses Earth and so dinosaurs are allowed to evolve into creatures that eventually use language and farm, and humans are considered “lesser” species (the main character dinosaur treats one like a loyal dog).

    I know, hard to fathom why it got overlooked but it does give a remarkable consideration of what the planet could have become had this monumental geological event NOT taken place 66 million years ago. Great column, sir!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.