Maybe Stooopid. Maybe Not.
The other day I was at coffee having a conversation
with a young woman about some of the problems
humanity faces here in the early 21st century.
It was a nice winter day and the sun shone warmly
with a copper morning glow through the windows as we talked.
I took a sip of coffee as we both agreed that we all live
at a crucial time for our species.
We talked about some of the problems before us
such as climate change and all the wars around the globe.
We agreed that everyone alive today has a part to play
to ensure the future of our civilization and of our species.
She looked worried as we talked about
the difficulties we all face, then she said,
“Humans are evil. We’re like a cancer.”
I said, “Have hope Debbie. Humans aren’t evil.
We’re just a species right in the middle
of a big evolutionary change. The eight thousand years
that we’ve had cities and civilization’s is just a single moment
when looked at on an evolutionary time scale.
Humanity is like a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis.
No one knows exactly what we’ll be like when the change is done.
We all are just a part of the natural biosphere.
Just one species among many.
That’s why it’s very important for all of us to do what we can
to help all humanity turn out the very best we can.
You have to trust Mother Nature to know what she’s doing.”
She looked sad, and said, “Maybe we’re just bad.
You know, just a bad part of Nature. Look at all the trouble
we cause for the environment.”
I said, “Think about it this way—
Around two hundred and fifty million years ago,
long before the dinosaurs, a large number
of volcanoes erupted in what is now Siberia.
The eruptions released a huge amount of nickel into the environment.
This created the ideal conditions for the growth
of a single celled microbe called ‘archaea,’
which used the nickel as a nutrient
and who excreted methane as a result.
Supplied with great amounts of nickel and carbon,
the archea population exploded and they excreted so much methane
that it caused a giant episode of global warming
and this resulted the extinction of around ninety percent
of the species living on the planet at that time.
It was the largest extinction in the history of Mother Earth.
Were the archea evil? Were they bad? No. They were just a species
who happened to flourish when they were presented
with a huge influx of food. They lacked the presence of mind
to recognize and manage the consequences of their actions.
Humans are similar; We aren’t evil. We’re stooopid.
We are very, very good at harvesting and exploiting resources
but historically, we’ve been very dumb when it comes
to managing the consequences of our actions.
Humans are a species that evolves psychologically
rather than physiologically like other animals.
We use our minds and our cultures to evolve and adapt to change.
Only time will tell if we are a species who has evolved
the capacity to use and manage resources wisely.
Are we stooopid still? Maybe. Maybe not.
Our actions as a species over the next
one hundred and fifty years will provide the answer. “