Small flowers and moss grow from the cracks in a concrete stairway near my house. The stairway isn’t used anymore—the door at the top is boarded—and the plants grow larger every year.
It’s tempting to view their continued survival as evidence that “life finds a way”—that with or without human support, life on Earth will, in the long run, be alright. At a certain far-removed and frankly meaningless level, that may be true. But it’s also true that every creature in the world is an outlier. Eons of unthinking, unyielding, ruthless evolutionary pressure shaped the biodiversity we enjoy today. Our life—all life—is testament to both our own good luck and the quiet misfortune of uncountable losers and might-have-beens.
When we learn that worms survive in deep-sea trenches, or that millions of bacteria swim in the clouds, the lesson isn’t that life finds a way. The lesson is that life, like all rare things, demands our protection.