I just finished reading The Sixth Extinction by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin. Two interesting things they said got me thinking about parallels in human society.
One was the idea that “disturbance is the midwife of evolution”. Or, in other words, stressed environments are more likely to produce innovation and new species than are stable environments.
The second thing was the example of birds who became flightless when they inhabited islands where they had no predators. Since they no longer needed to expend the energy to fly, they didn’t bother anymore, and quickly lost the ability.
I’ve been thinking about how modern culture has us living in this dream, living mere shadow lives, basically stagnating. We don’t seek to discover and live our full human potential. Life is too comfortable and too entertaining to be bothered. Why ever leave the couch?
All of this vicarious living through the television and the internet—most of it unreal or irrelevant to our immediate lives. It makes us soft. It’s not just the media though—it’s everything that makes our lives easy and comfortable.
If anything catastrophic happens will we even have any survival skills intact to pull us through? There are people out there who barely have a clue where food even comes from, let alone how to grow it or gather it or butcher it or preserve it. There are plenty of urban dwellers who don’t even know how to cook, who eat out at restaurants all the time. That is truly going soft. What would they do if society collapsed as oil ran out? We’re forgetting all of the old agricultural lore. We’re turning more and more helpless.
We’re so comfortable that we’ve fallen into a stupor. All of these catastrophes are nearly at our door and we do nothing but flop on the sofa to watch this season’s hit crime/drama or sitcom. We’ve become nothing but a bunch of flightless birds.
What would it take to wake people up again? To get them at least to flap their wings a little? They will wake up for sure when society really begins to crack, when their immediate habitat is stressed. By then it could easily be too late.
It all gets a bit depressing. I can’t help getting to the point in my thinking that it just doesn’t really matter if we live or die. The earth for sure would be infinitely better off without us. Why should I do anything to fight for our future? Why does the human species matter?
I don’t know if it does, ultimately, but is there any value in simply acting as if? Shouldn’t I act as if, just in case?