This morning I caught the tail end of a fascinating discussion on Radio 4’s Today Programme about how human intervention has changed the planet in the past and how we stand at a pivotal and extraordinary point in our relationship with Earth now.
I learned how, many thousand of years ago, the discovery of Australia caused the death of 90% of the big animals; how the arrival of Europeans in the Americas caused the death of 50 million people in just a few years, mostly farmers; how black rats and diseases were spread throughout the globe by explorers and traders; and how our use of technology has the capacity now to make humans the super-dominant species on Earth.
Professor Mark Maslin and Yuval Harari have co-authored a new paper on the subject in the journal Nature, and they talked about how we have moved from a position where we were subservient to the world of nature, to one where we co-existed, and then to one where we are in total control. They spoke factually and non-judgmentally, but the inference was that we face a future where we are separated from our environment, where the balance of nature is seriously distorted and where many species of life are lost. If we believe we do not need nature, if we do not respect the Planet, but assume we can use her however we choose, great damage will result.
Stephen Hawking has, I seem to remember, warned that the over-use and over-dependence on technology by man will bring about the end of man: I believe this is true. I believe, too, that whatever the science says, the human race is not the all-powerful body that it thinks it is, but that, if we go too far, Earth will show us where the real power lies. And pride comes before a fall……..
There is time still for us to remember what really matters, though time is running out, and the law of unintended consequences seems to be forgotten in the race for progress. I feel sad for our beautiful Planet, but am comforted by my belief in her strength, and my certainty that all will be well.
Image by Eugenio Hansen