For 99.99% of the history of the living earth, there were no human beings on its surface. Was this world of no value, an extravagant waste because there was "no one there to appreciate it"?
And for most of the remaining 0.01%, humans had a negligible global impact on the web of life. So, during that time, were things better or worse?
If man is the measure of all things, then it makes no sense to ask about the beauty of a biosphere on which no man opened his eyes. But if elephants can paint, then surely they have a visual aesthetic, and even human musicians recognize a beauty in the cetacean's song. Birds decorate their nests, and spiders love symmetry. Some butterflies rival the peacock's pulchritude, and even the bees seem to prefer a pretty flower to a plain one.
Can trees and mushrooms be unaware of their beauty?
We do not have to stretch far to imagine a broader sense of beauty shared by animals
Just as we are awash in numb, blind terror of impending death, though we regard the aeons of time before our birth with equanimity, so we view human extinction as the ultimate apocalypse, rather than a return to normalcy.
Estimates of the probability of near-term human extinction differ widely. Probably, the question is not subject to probabilistic analysis. But it is hardly unthinkable, for those of us with the courage to indulge in the folly of thought.
What would the brontosaurus have said if you told him that he would be succeeded by fieldmice?