Lately we’ve seen, not just in North America but globally, opposing view chasms leaving little shared middle ground. Not deluded whether any particular government or leader holds power, or should not, but something far more profound and permanent – decline and fall of the human species. Every level of government rearranging deck chairs – barely coping, grasping at issues, deluded …
I’m sure someone knows why we need the dandelion, mosquito and politician as eloquently as others can make the case for saving spotted owls, blue whales and polar bears. Frankly, I think we could lose all the dandelions and most of the politicians and I could find a way to tolerate mosquitoes.
But do we need them all, are any/some species expendable without dire consequence?
But how many dare we lose before the slippery slope gets too slippery?
To suggest loss of another few more species might be disastrous to the planet or not, and to human-kind or not, is something we’ll have to wait and see. You might say, “hold on, it might already be too late – we can’t sit idly by and watch!”
You might be right.
You might also argue, had dinosaurs not been wiped out 65 million years ago we might still have them – but the contrary argument, as plausible – life as we know it today could not have come about without their extinction. Other things might have happened. We cannot know, but it is likely our species would not have evolved as it did, when it did.
And if we evolved differently, could we have had Nero, Caligula, Attila, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Capone, Jack the Ripper, Noriega, Saddam, Osama, Putin or the Donald? Might we instead have leaders like Tarzan, Ghandi, Don Quixote, Mother Teresa, Lesile Gore or Harry Potter rule the world?
And if you argue create paradise vs. sewer of a world, who would you put in charge? On which lists would you put Buffett, Gates, Musk or Zuckerberg? Hero or villain?
Seriously, most species were doing quite well sorting out which ones should survive before man showed up. While many died off because of their inability to cope and compete, one species has populated most of the earth like a noxious weed – recklessly demonstrating superiority and power without accountability.
That species is us.
Like children unaware of consequences flowing from actions, these adult humans – under guise of being most intelligent and superior specie to ever live seems bent on continued destruction of habitat, pollution of air and water and buries its waste underground. This species, deemed superior by itself, seems oblivious to ‘competing values’.
When I first learned the term competing values I was confused. I learned about context and nuance, and how competing impacts policy making in government. I also learned what it meant regarding land use and the environment and how that connected to policy making, regulations and the role of government.
I’m not wasting as much, consuming as much or driving as much as I used to – but that is more lifestyle choice than ‘save the planet’ mode. I hear terms like trade agreements, trade wars, treaties and conventions around goods, technology and intellectual property. We have international agreements and disagreements – those darn competing values.
When my kids were little they watched Sesame Street and attended elementary school – they came with messages about plastic packaging and demanded we buy dolphin-friendly tuna. At first, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I do now in an era when all tuna we buy is dolphin-friendly, but dolphins are not the only species in the ocean.
For billions of years species have evolved – they’ve adapted to change, migrated for food and safe territory, they’ve evaded predators and the cycle of life moved along through ice-ages and warm periods. About 200,000 years ago our human species emerged. We’ve had more change in the last 100 years than in the 199,900 years before by a gigantic margin. In the next 20-50 years our species will likely seal the fate of our species. It’s scary to think of our descendants fighting for survival in a harsh environment or declining due to disease, overpopulation or from failure to balance competing values.
Competing values are not man-made laws about property, borders, abortion or taxes – our competing values are need for air, water, food and territory. Millions of species before us have thrived. Those who did not move when required, adapt when required and run when required have perished from the earth.
I wonder how far behind we are.
Notwithstanding our big brains and innovations – we are a single species. Mildly different variations spread around our continents. We have not yet learned that we are vulnerable to opposing forces – and we’ve yet to collectively recognize the enemy is not a UFO, foreign government or massive pandemic – the enemy is us.
Yes, we are the problem. It’s not coral or sea water, it’s not hurricanes and forest fires. Not microscopic viruses and opioids. Not ideology or politics. Not religions or non-religion, not economics or politics – it is us. It is our failure to balance competing values. Many might argue we are past the point of no return. Many deny that we are. Most of us – not just political and business leaders seeking power or to remain in power – are either ignorant or denying our ignorance of our global reality. For those who disagree with me, for those who don’t think we are past the point of no-return, please tell me how close we are? Are we a century away from the downward spiral to extinction? More than that? Less than that? Good questions, but no consensus on the correct answer. Imagine, 7.5 billion of us with the technology/science and wisdom of all the people who ever lived and we can’t come up with any general agreement on an answer or a course of action. I don’t think the problem is a lack of data, software or intelligence. Or of decision making skills, or tools – it’s simply a failure to balance competing values. No more than that. No less than that.
Our global marketplace needs a correction – to find out what people need, and finding a way to deliver it, and then to deliver those solutions in a way which counters the messages of those who have something we don’t need whose entire focus is marketing to use to create an appetite for what we don’t need at all, but once we’ve been collectively convinced of that we rush like lemmings because of our FOMO (fear of missing out).
I lack Darwin’s research and scholarly approach – but I am inclined to believe life as we know it is the other bookend in the evolutionary shelf. While many are pre-occupied with environmental impacts – ocean plastic debris and salinity vs. balancing scales and settling old scores. Darwin would no doubt agree with me that what is happening is as important as why it is happening.
New thinking is essential to our survival as a species.
Just as scientists can prove the best thing for the environment is to let forest fires burn themselves out, I wonder if the same might be true for us …
Each of us standing on a shore does not look like we are competing with an ocean’s eco-system, but we are. We always have been. We just need to get better at observing the world as it is rather than making lame efforts to change it. And, if we are going to save it, maybe we could learn to get along a little better too. I don’t ‘getting along’ is essential to our survival but that be a good reason to survive – and if not why should we want to?
Our planet, however we use it, does not need to accommodate all species – yet many people hold this notion we should protect them all from extinction. Should we?
If we weren’t here, then what?
It’s a lot like asking, what if dinosaurs aren’t here? They dominated and then they were gone – and we might face the same fate – making way for other species. (Oddly, and perhaps for discussion another day, we seem to the only species who can’t along with their peers. Cheetah’s kill gazelles, not other cheetahs. Anteaters each ants, not other anteaters … but I digress).
Hi Mark, I recently heard somebody say on a podcast that unsolicited advice is about the giver, not the receiver. If you didn’t ask for guidance—you are completely free to ignore whatever somebody else decided you should be doing. I found the idea though provoking. GB, Waukesha, WI
So close to home, I hear you :) . I have grown impatient to listen to unsolicited anything. Greetings, AG, Cancun, Mex.