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Misanthropic Musings

In my recent post about some small irritants of life, I stayed away from human behaviour, because that’s more than a small irritant. It warrants a post of its own, which has been brewing for some time. Here it is. Rant warning issued!

We are literally eating the Earth, even though we understand only a fraction of how it works and see its mysteries only as challenges to our cleverness. If you don’t believe that, read this: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/understanding-extinction-humanity-has-destroyed-half-the-life-on-earth-1.5324721

I have come to think our species should be called Homo destructor rather than Homo sapiens. Wisdom takes a long, wide view. Wisdom values thought before action. That does not describe us.

We destroy wilderness to satisfy our endless needs. We glorify explorers, adventurers, disrupters, and exploiters. We’ve left footprints and junk on the Moon, and are keen to set foot on Mars, having already sent machines there. We’re looking feverishly for Earth-like planets — more worlds to conquer mess up. We tell ourselves this is as it should be, because we are by nature clever, curious, and inventive. Why shouldn’t we strive to know and control?

But why can’t we learn to value observing and contemplating more than utilizing and exploiting?

We pride ourselves on our inventiveness, always finding a way to adapt our environments to ourselves rather than accepting that evolution adapts us. Because the pace of evolution is too slow for us. We spent too many millennia in the stone age, and aren’t planning to go back there.

We want everything to be bigger, faster, cheaper. Short-sighted, greedy, and destructive — that’s us, as a species. We congratulate ourselves on our achievements in discovery, invention, and artistic creation. But consider this: almost none of that benefits any other life form. The Earth doesn’t care about books, the stock market, religions, or even the music of Beethoven.

And yet, we see ourselves as the pinnacle species. After 4.6 billion years, a life form on Earth turned and saw itself in the mirror of its intelligence and imagination. It split the atom and decoded life and gave itself license to manage the planet.

We pride ourselves on Knowing, on our self awareness, our god-like capability to stand outside ourselves and observe. If we used that capability with a broader purpose, it might benefit both the Earth and ourselves.

I’ve tried to convince myself that we are just another force of nature, like the asteroid that created the Chicxulub Crater, ending the age of the dinosaurs. We should be what we are, with no more regret for our effect on the Earth than that giant chunk of rock.

Science tells us the only life forms on Earth for its first couple of billion years were microbes. Compared to that, the present human-caused extinctions seem trivial. The planet will survive our depredations (even if we don’t) and life in some form will return. What’s wrong with that?

I’ve tried to convince myself of that, but I can’t. We are living creatures, made of the stuff of Earth and utterly dependent upon its life-supporting qualities. So why do we continue to do things that threaten those supports?

We humans need to develop and express a reverence for the Earth.

OK, enough ranting. I could go on, but I think I’ve made a few points, or at least fired off some wildly random shots. For a more positive and hopeful view, read this post from Anima Monday: https://animamonday.wordpress.com/2019/10/21/you-are-not-powerless/ (BTW, I heartily recommend the Anima Monday blog for its unique perspectives on humanity’s relations with the natural world.)

So, fellow Pressers of the Word — are you hopeful or despairing about the immediate prospects of life on Planet Earth?

Mouth image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay. “Eating Earth” image created by Audrey Driscoll with Canva.

54 comments

  1. When will man realise he is just one of a species and no more special than any other creature? Ther is a curtain in the Natural History Museum in Durban with the notice look behond the curtain to see the greatest danger on earth. The curtain hides a mirror.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Actually, I hope not! I’ve spewed out my negative thoughts about humanity, but I keep turning the picture this way and that, folding and refolding it, looking for a reason for optimism or a clear direction to take. Thanks for reading my glum musings, Liz.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a brilliant way to deliver the message. Believe it or not, I’m trying to find a way not to give up in despair. Perhaps some phenomenon (even within ourselves) that we’re not yet aware of will change us.

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  2. Oh. I can’t help but agree with you. My mother used to say, there are too many people in the world. I’ve come to believe that. We have the scientific capability of keeping even the weakest members of our species alive and we seem to believe it’s a god-given duty to do that, instead of letting survival of the fittest prevail. I think we’re overdue for a good asteroid strike – maybe wipe out half the population of humans, and then we could start over. Even that would probably be too many people left. In my books I indicate that civilization is in for a fall, a new Dark Age, but I present an optimistic view that humans will be able to recover and find a better way to live. Lately, though, I’ve begun to wonder whether I’m right about that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It might take a while. Or Homo sapiens just may go extinct, like most other life forms that have lived on this planet. Your ideas about these issues as expressed in your books were one thing I really appreciated while reading them. And I have long thought there are too many of us humans on Earth. Remember the Zero Population Growth movement in the ’70s? It sort of disappeared in the following decades; I have a pet conspiracy theory about that, but won’t get into it because I have no real supporting evidence. Hint: it’s to do with business and markets. I think we all need to develop an awareness of the Earth as something greater than ourselves, rather than a bunch of resources we are entitled to “manage.”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with you all the way Audrey.
    For a very long time (in human terms) the history of the planet in both pre and post-life circumstances has interested me.
    Of course we do not fully understand the entirety of mechanisms of this world and thus we should appreciate we are not Rulers of this World, just another species.
    Now here is the thing about species, throughout the history of Life on this world. Failure to adapt means extinction, the fossil and geological records will show this.
    We are one species with a capacity for large levels of ‘Thought’ and we have utilised this capacity. What we have failed to do is to demonstrate the capacity to adapt our ability to maintain a sustainable environment for our continued and benign existence. In this case I mean a future of surviving tens of thousand of years into the future, which on a World History scale is pretty footlingly small stuff.
    Thus if we do not adapt to what we are doing…. pfffffffft! Smear on the fossil records (after….One Hundred Thousand years of being ‘Advanaced’……nothing in the History scale).
    Simple as that.
    Deniers are essentially, deep down afraid of the very basic animal instinct warning them of what could be. They cannot cope with it, hence the violent hostility to such as Greta Thunberg; they do not want to hear.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You’ve expressed some of my points better than I did, Roger. Something about the way we evolved has resulted in our destructive tendencies, so we can’t really blame ourselves. But being the self-aware beings that we are, we can certainly direct our adaptive energies differently. I think our road to ruin (so to speak) has its roots in agriculture and private ownership of resources — not a popular notion, I’m sure! Climate change, though, is the result of industry, including industrial agriculture. It has taken only two centuries to make global changes that normally take millennia. That’s gobsmacking!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Audrey.
        I fear we have not come up with a systems of government or economic interactions which in the former do not result in conflict and in the latter the celebration of greed.
        These need time and effort to evolve, for currently we are still at the stage of two hunter-gather tribes arguing over territory.
        We do have the gift of intellect to see that but that gift is not being used to its full potential.
        Therefore we are not evolving.
        And there nothing any ranter or raver who doesn’t like the message of climate change can do about it.
        We might get lucky…we might ‘get it’

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Two thoughts occur to me – what’s it like being a whale and what would the world be like if all humans had stayed close to their own land, like the Aborigines in Australia and hidden tribes in Amazon jungle.
    Have whales left the earth undamaged because they do not have hands or because they are full of wisdom and at one with Gaia.
    Some peoples have stayed in the land of their ancestors with their own culture and history – while most humans seem to need to explore, conquer and build big things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we celebrate those who explore and conquer, don’t we? And now it’s indigenous people in different countries who are speaking out against destructive development. I wonder how things would be if exploration didn’t lead so quickly to exploitation. Some will say we’d still be bashing rocks together and making up stories about the stars, rather than communicating over the internet after a nice shower with hot running water. Well, yes, I admit to appreciating modern amenities, but surely there’s a way to keep some of them and stop our really destructive activities. Thanks for reading my gloomy thoughts, Janet!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In a couple of weeks it will be remembrance Sunday as I will recollect my father’s and grandfathers contribution to the two world wars and I should be grateful that the third one has not come along yet although their is great preparation for it as the nations of the world spend two trillion dollars on the latest military tech in 2019 and then I go to my allotment site and find so many people from different parts of the world getting on with each other all working towards a common goal it’s one place you can feel so happy and at peace

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your reminder about people who get along and don’t try to do each other in, David. Being aware of the good within us is the point of the Anima Monday post I linked to, so I appreciate your bringing my attention to that attitude.

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  6. You had me at “Misanthropic” Audrey. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, but I would add that most of the damage has been done by Western cultures. America – I’m looking at you. Me. Us. Disclaimer: A single country cannot shoulder all the blame, nor can any country be absolved.
    It’s depressing but necessary to talk about. I have no answers, but appreciate the read and will check out those links.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I followed the links you gave us. The extinction article might give me nightmares. I read the About FAQ on the Anima Monday blog and bookmarked that one. Very good info. So now I’m giving you a link to an article posted by a friend. It’s a beautifully written of what must be an awesome book judging from the quotations cited, all about how trees communicate and how we are all part of the network on planet earth. I thought you’d like it as it reflects some of the themes in this blog post.
        https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-songs-of-trees-a-biologist-s-lyrical-ode-to-how-relationships-weave-the-fabric-of-life

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Knowledge that we soil our own beds is one thing. Only a fool shits where he sleeps. And awareness to ameliorate that fact should be dominate in all our (and our leaders’) minds.

    Yet, we are just a blip in the Universe’s absurd story. One that will end in annihilation for all matter. One we cannot deny. So, sure, use a bio-toilet in a place that won’t sully your, ours, everyone and everything’s bedding, but realize that in the end, it just doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, of course. It really doesn’t matter if you zoom out and take the really long view. But in addition to our short-sighted destructiveness, we also have the ability occasionally to see things in the abstract, including ourselves. Hence this post and other fervent blatherings.

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  8. I vacillate from day to day. When I see a bunch of humans going above and beyond to save a beached whale, or a dog that’s fallen down a cliff, or a kitten up a tree or…or… On those days, I think we’re worthwhile. On the days I read about politicians telling blatant lies with a straight face…on those days I don’t have much hope. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s true! Some humans can and do show sympathy toward other animals. Then there are those others… Maybe all the young people demonstrating will have an effect, like it did in the ’60s and ’70s around other issues.

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  9. Thanks for the shout out, Audrey! Like you I have felt despair, outrage and impatience with how we are treating the life around us. It is worth remembering though we all don’t share equal responsibility. The vast majority of people do want to live in harmony with the life around us. Those who pollute the least suffer the most. The rest of us in more privileged settings want to do right but we simply aren’t given options. Public transit isn’t well developed, our power plants haven’t switched to renewables to meet public demand, our food distribution systems waste nearly half of the food we produce (while people go hungry) and most of the food we do grow goes to feed animals instead of people directly. You are right to say we need to buy less but we also need to re-think capitalism itself. Board members are only driven by increasing their personal profits. If workers controlled these places where we could insist on policies that were truly earth and life friendly. We’ve got 11 years left to control runaway warming and the runaway 1% who are killing us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, capitalism does need a re-think. It’s existed only for a couple of hundred years, so it’s not an absolute. I think we will change our ways when pushed; the question is how much will go down before that happens. I do appreciate your blog for its alternate views.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The future looks bleak and maybe mankind has reached the end like the song “In the year 2525” but all throughout history things were bleak and after great loss of life like the black plague or two world wars we somehow bounce back. My trilogy The Fan Plan deals with this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m very pessimistic about the future of humanity. I try not to say much about it in my writing, but my opinion is that the future for our species looks very bleak indeed.

    I remember reading once, in a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s letters, a passage where he talked about how, paradoxically, his bleak world view was what made certain ephemeral things seem worthwhile. In essence, his point was “we’re all doomed anyway, so why not have fun while we’re here?” (He put it more eloquently than that, of course. πŸ™‚ )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just about all species that have appeared on Earth are now extinct, so no doubt that’s our fate, no matter what. We seem to be different in that we have this need to fiddle with and manage our world. It’s presumptuous to think we own the place and can mess it up for other creatures. But yes, ultimately we’re doomed so should make the most of our lives. I wonder what HPL would have done for fun, though, given that he wasn’t exactly a party animal. He did enjoy travel, but couldn’t afford any really ambitious trips. I suppose he would have loved to explore Britain and Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think you’re right. What puzzles me about human ability to over-exploit and then destroy everything around us is that it is ubiquitous, and it had to come from somewhere. I hypothesise that it was a survival technique that maybe worked well in hunter-gatherer times: we had to exploit everything in the environment (and fight each other over it) or go extinct. Back then it wasn’t hard to move to a different environment after the first one had been broken – we’re talking isolated bands of about 150 individuals. Today it’s threatening the planet, and what worries me is that we seem to be hard-wired to do it, which says it’s unlikely we will, collectively, find a way out of the mess. A bit depressing really…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It seems to me that humans are driven by greed — for possessions and particularly for power. That’s an exaggerated instinct for survival. We all want to survive, but not all of us have intensified that desire into greed and grabbing for power. But that desire will always be prime for many of us.

    I’m never been interested in politics, merely in getting on with my own small life in my own small corner. However, a couple of years ago I woke up to this “climate emergency” thing and it didn’t make sense to me. So I’ve been studying meteorology and climate science ever since. And, believe me, there is no climate emergency! The Earth’s climate is driven by the sun, atmosphere and ocean currents, NOT by carbion dioxide. The meteorology professor said that scientists don’t yet know enough to be able to predict what will happen beyond next week. Which you will realize if you pay attention to weather forecasts! lol So the whole idea of having only 12 years left to do anything is nonsense. The people who promote that idea are doing what people do — looking for power over the rest of us.

    I used to despair of humanity, but not now. For one thing, such emotion doesn’t accomplish anything. You can’t change or control anybody but yourself, after all. I do the best for the world, and for myself of course, with what little I have, and let it go at that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apologies for the tardy reply, Lea. A few comments ended up in the spam bucket, including yours. Yes, the Earth has experienced conditions radically different from those of recent times, and no doubt will again. The difference now is that human activities have changed the composition of the atmosphere. Natural processes keep going, and life on Earth will change accordingly. This is the “we’re just another force of nature idea” I mentioned in the post. Our dilemma is that we are self-aware, whether we think that makes us a special life form or not. We realize what we are doing, and some of us think it’s wrong. In the end, though, there’s more to the Earth and the world in general than us. But I think being aware of the world, and appreciating it, is part of being human. Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

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  14. I struggle to be optimistic about climate change and humans changing their ways to alleviate it. We are too addicted to fossil fuels and technology. Scientists gave us 50 years to change our ways, but no one believed them. Now we are beyond the tipping point and we’ll be hard pressed to turn it around. What we do in the next ten years will increase or lessen the impact, time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

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