|Featured Columnist – Meditations|
The American media, even the progressive media, are promoting the idea that most of the life on Earth has been wiped out many times before—by asteroids, comets, or super-volcanoes. Why? Because the best pretext for continuing with human destructiveness is to say that nature is also destructive.
A new study by scientists at America’s Smithsonian Institute and the University of Kansas, mapped out all of the Earth’s extinction events from the past 500 million years. They are 99% sure that there has been an extinction event on average every 27 million years–much more often and regularly than previously thought.
An extinction event is defined as a sharp decrease in the diversity and abundance of macroscopic life, that is, life that can be seen without a microscope. As MIT’s Technology Review reported, “something of enormous destructive power happens every 26 or 27 million years,” wiping out a significant portion of animals and plants on Earth.
The study was largely treated as a joke on American political talk shows, with people saying things like, “eleven million years ago a ten mile wide asteroid crashed into New Mexico, wiping out half the species at the time, so that still leaves 16 million years you can continue to watch our show.”
We are in the midst of a man-made extinction event. At the present rate of annihilation (at the hands of the Earth’s only sentient species), half of all animals and plants on Earth will be wiped out by mid-century. This issue goes to the heart of the relationship between humans and nature.
It speaks to the basic way we view the universe, and our place in it. The vast majority of people in the West see the cosmos as essentially chaotic, cold, and indifferent to human life. We have been conditioned to view humans as specks on a speck in space, no more significant in the scheme of things than ants are to us.
Is science mostly responsible for this wrongheaded notion? Science, as important and powerful a force as it is in human life, is a mechanistic enterprise. To the conventionally scientific mind, the universe operates according to predetermined laws, laid down in the moments after the Big Bang, driven by chance.
The more destructive humans become, the more science is used to tell us not to worry, the universe is destructive too.
To think clearly about this issue, and preserve what’s left of the Earth’s wild creatures and places, as well as to begin to redress the grotesque economic inequality between rich and poor, we must make a clear distinction between natural creative destruction, and human pointless destructiveness, which has no precedent in nature.
Poverty, war, and man-made extinction of other animals are closely interrelated. When we kill animals thoughtlessly, selfishly, and wantonly, we are contributing to the destruction of future generations. We are saying to our children, ‘we don’t care about you, and the world you inherit; we only care about our own survival and prosperity.’
The same self-centeredness and brutishness that kills animals needlessly upholds the divide between the rich and poor all over the world. ‘Animals were put on Earth to be exploited by humans,’ and ‘the poor will always be with us,’ are two sides of the same old stupid coin.
We are a sentient species, meaning that we have awareness of ourselves. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, which is a complete misnomer, because sapient means ‘wise.’ How can a sentient species wipe out half the animals on Earth, and destroy habitats and the viability of the oceans and atmosphere at an accelerating rate, and then rationalize it by saying that the universe is destructive too?
Africa contains the last great herds of animals on Earth. Africa is the birthplace of humankind, the continent where modern humans first emerged.
Early human numbers dwindled to only a few thousand people due to a smaller ‘extinction event’ in Indonesia–the eruption of a super-volcano about 75,000 years ago. But after a cognitive and cultural breakthrough in eastern or southern Africa, our numbers have exploded to nearly seven billion.
Another breakthrough, essentially spiritual in nature, must occur for humans to cease being a destructive creature, and grow to our full potential as human beings.