MARTY RUSSELL: How will we be remembered as Earth's stewards?

It is the year 2250 and a team of alien archaeologists has just landed on a small planet known to its former inhabitants as Earth.
“It’s a good thing we intercepted those old radio signals or we would never have found this place,” the chief archaeologist says. “Talk about being out in the boondocks.”
“Yeah, this place is so far off the beaten path it’s a wonder life ever evolved here at all,” says his assistant. It’s obvious there’s no life here now, except for these pesky cockroaches. They’re everywhere.”
“Think those could have been the dominant lifeform on this rock?” the chief asks.
“I doubt it. Look at the size of these buildings. Cockroaches don’t need elevators,” the assistant observes. I suspect they breathed a combination of greenhouse gases and methane and the levels of those dropped so much the inhabitants suffocated,” the assistant speculates.
“What do you mean dropped? This atmosphere is toxic with carbon dioxide and there’s no ozone layer to speak of. If we weren’t wearing these spacesuits we’d be fried with deadly radiation.”
“Yeah, imagine what it must have been like years ago. The inhabitants must have had iron lungs and lead skin. They must have been fearsome-looking creatures.”
“What’s that thing?”
The assistant searches his computer for a second and finds the answer.
“It’s called an automobile, specifically a SUV.”
“What’s it for?”
“Says here they emit greenhouse gases. Those poor creatures must have made these to try and reverse the drop in carbon dioxide in an attempt to save themselves.”
“What a proud and noble race they must have been.”
“Yep, in a few more centuries this place is going to look just like that red planet we passed on the way in,” the assistant notes. “Except for the cockroaches, of course.”
“That’s a shame. They were obviously a talented race. Look at that statue out there in the water.”
The assistant once again consults his computer.
“According to our radio interceptions that was called the Statue of Liberty. You can only see the top half now that the ocean levels have risen.”
“Why would they build cities underwater?” the chief wonders. “Maybe they were aquatic? Maybe it’s those little white things blowing around in the wind. They almost look like white blood cells. Maybe they mistook the inhabitants for a virus and killed them all.”
“Let’s have a closer look.”
The archaeologists inch closer to one of the many shiny, white blobs being tossed around in the wind and carefully snag one with a long metal pole.
“Careful, that could be dangerous. What’s it look like?”
“It appears to be made out of some kind of petroleum-based polymer with two handle-like appendages and a large open space inside. There’s writing on the outside.
What does it say?”
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at

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