This is a bit tangential to my normal religious theme. My question:
Are homo Sapiens capable of living harmoniously in a diverse environment; sharing resources with ourselves and other living things?
Sharing the resources of our world implies that we allow suffering, even self-imposed suffering on our own species, in order to preserve other life. This requires a level of humility and discipline that has not yet been demonstrated to any significant degree in recorded human history.
How might this come about?
Facts and logic are rarely motivating. Instead, we are governed by cultural narratives. We hold fast to those that offer the greatest security and stability for our group, often at the expense of other humans and living things.
It is likely that nature will suffer until we adopt a narrative that encompasses all of the diversity of humanity. It is my hope that as we move to alleviate the suffering and disparities afflicting our own species, the care for our natural world will likely be the byproduct.
But, what narrative?
Theistic ideals have proven insufficient, even destructive to nature and divisive to humanity. Christianity often defines man as dominant and sees this world as disposable, a place to to be left behind, a miracle brought into being and to be destroyed by the snap of the finger of an omnipotent God.
We would think that an existential crisis might motivate us into cooperation. Ironically, the threat of nuclear destruction has lead to the greatest peace in world history. But, it includes an imposed dualism that limits human development and reinforces the supremacy of humans over nature: Man harnesses the atom.
Global warming is an existential threat, but the subtleties of the arguments and required magnitude of the response are overwhelmed by the immediacies of capitalistic necessity and political posturing.
Disease stress is an other likely threat to stress humanity into change. A pandemic of greater severity than COVID-19 could impose motivations to re-think our place in the world. Or, it could exacerbate cultural silo-ing.
Any of the above threats may force us to reconsider our anthropocentrism, but it would be nice if 10% – 50% of the world didn’t have to be destroyed in the process.
Ideally, peripheral environmental movements will gain a significant following and shift the global culture. But, there is cause for hope. As our culture moves toward scientific ideologies, this narrative becomes more and more likely and more possible. It may just be a matter of time before these movements gain sufficient popular support and sweep through the larger population, along with the technology to allow us to live more efficiently.
There is another disruptive possibility. It’s long shot, as in 100 billion to 1.
Could the discovery of extraterrestrial life motivate or accelerate global harmonization?
It is something to consider as you listen to an interview of astronomer Jill Tater by Krista Tippet in the On Being podcast.
Until next time, Nanu nanu.
PS – An Example
An hour after writing this post, I was out for a bike ride when my son called and asked for help. They had exited a movie theater after watching a matinee when they saw a female duck near a storm drain. She was quacking repeatedly.
As my son and his wife approached, the hen hissed at them. Soon, they heard the response of ducklings in the water below.
Had the water been high, the ducklings would have been confined to a small space, but the culvert below was only partially filled and provided a waterway for the ducklings to swim to adjacent storm drains. When I arrived, my two kids had followed the chirp of the ducklings to five different grates.
We considered the options and continued to keep track of the birds. Pulling the grate was possible, but which one? Their little bird brains wouldn’t recognize that we were there to help and would flee any disturbance. Ducks can’t climb, so placing an object in the drain for them to use wouldn’t work. As we considered the situation and continued to track the chirps, the sounds stopped. They seemed to have taken a culvert to some unknown location. It was impossible to tell from the fading echoes.
When I speak of the impact of humanity on the world, this is an example. Every time the soil is cleared for a new home, building, or parking lot, a little bit of the natural world is lost; we encroach on space that was not ours, but was the residence, habitat, and thoroughfare of fungus, plants, and animals for millions of years prior. Even after construction, our structures and activities continues to do damage, such as the events described above.
Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider that the world would be better without humans, but I do recognize that we often consume more of nature than we need. Our environmental ignorance and hubris may (and has) come back to bite us.
Happy Ending – Sort of
With the chirping gone, and being somewhat more calloused to the cruelty of the world, I left my kids to mourn the situation. But, they didn’t give up.
The chirps returned.
My son asked the theater manager to pull up a grate and was given permission.
He found a duck quack sound to play on his phone and then lowered himself into the drain. The duck call echoed through the culvert and the ducklings soon came to the narrow open space.
He was able to capture three and pass them to his wife and a friend who joined them. The critters were gently placed in a cardboard box. Unfortunately, only three of seven could be rescued. The remaining four fled the commotion and would no longer respond to the duck call.
The chirps were gone and did not return.
Soon after the rescue, the hen returned to the scene and was reunited with the three survivors.
We hope that they escape the urban gauntlet of cars, domestic cats, glass windows, plastic trash, lost fish hooks, and storm drains to survive and reproduce.
Maybe someday homo sapiens were learn to live without having to pave paradise.