Earth Noir

Quick thought: colors, a seemingly fundamental aspect of the Earth, elemental, saturating every micron of the planet in a magnificently complex array (existing even before there were eyes to behold them) evolved over vast expanses of geologic time, from a more visually uniform substratum, in the same way multicellular life evolved out of simpler forms. Way back in the mysterious Hadean eon, the Earth would have appeared essentially colorless, or more specifically grey. Browns, yellows, oranges, and reds are all results of the oxidization of iron. At this time the iron which had not sunk toward the core was mostly dissolved in water and the atmosphere was not yet oxygen rich. The sky did not yet appear blue and so neither did the proto-oceans. Purples and greens were the result of cyanobacteria converting sunlight to sugars. A process which didn’t begin until a couple billion years later. At this point, chromatically, the Earth would have looked a whole lot like our moon looks today.

This would point then to in-between periods as well, when cumulative chemical reactions allowed colors to begin making their entrance en masse, when the Earth might have appeared in very tight, limited color palettes.

Perhaps from a vantage point in space it would have appeared grey and black and ivory with some smatterings of super-saturated volcanic orange? (A bit like a certain much-beloved website now that I think of it.)

Or maybe the entire surface appeared as a sort of liver colored mixture of grey and brown and purple which, as if moving a slider in a photoshop effects panel, smoothly brightened and became more saturated?

Maybe the coloring of the earth proceeded outward from relatively distinct areas, some green, some yellow and ochre and copper with a few bursts of wild vermillion? Maybe these grew and blended at their edges like a watercolor on grey paper?

Maybe for a million years or so, when viewed, from say the distance of Mars, Earth might have appeared as a pointalist-like body with small “dots” of color creating the illusion of a smooth continuous shift?

Maybe the color was built up like layer after layer of semi-transparency, deepening and becoming more rich, until distinctly colored shapes emerged that looked, from afar, like moo cows or Victorian courtesans or 1973 Dodge Charger’s with their hoods popped- life forms and objects that wouldn’t exist for a few billion years yet?

Perhaps for a million years or so, when looked at from just the right angle, the entire surface looked like the face of an unshaven tramp clown, with sad dark grey eye sockets, a down turned ashen-grey mouth, and a giant red volcano nose?

Could have been any damn thing.

Over time, obviously, with the evolution of bacteria and algae and parrots and gay pride parades down 5th Avenue the Earth transformed into the spectacularly rich and varied Technicolor extravaganza we love so well today.

Which brings me to my final thought- 

If there were indeed Creators, (or alternately, infinitely patient alien entities looking on, waiting for a life form to evolve advanced enough to invent pitless mangos and a cure for herpes) they might very well think back to that grey Earth of yore in the exact same way we moderns look back on our black and white movies, just a bit mournfully, sentimentally, with an aching nostalgia for a “simpler” time.

(Chromatically at least.)

09.29. filed under: observations. 2