The fundamental human question is this: How much can our species consciously, intentionally and wisely shape the future course of life on Earth? That is, how much can we become “co-evolutionists” with the forces of nature that hitherto have determined biotic development on our planet?
Clearly, in just the last century, our scientific knowledge and technological prowess have impacted other life-forms measurably and mostly adversely and continue to do so at alarming rates: we have ravaged woodlands and rainforests, have fouled freshwaters and oceans, have poisoned the soil and polluted the atmosphere, altering Earth’s temperature and affecting the delicate ecological balance established by centuries of spontaneous adaptive adjustments, or—if you will—by Mother Nature’s motive to maintain a flourishing and ever-diversifying constellation of creatures.
Having set about playing god or the sorcerer’s apprentice, and doing so disastrously, we need now to wise up fast. We need to see how we’re running amok and ruining the world—and why.
Why? Because we’re greedy. We demand more and more territory, more material possessions, more energy, and more resources of all kinds—with little regard or respect for the needs of other humans and even less of other species. The downside of our inclination toward freedom is to make free with the world we inhabit, exploiting it for our own ends limitlessly.
We need to learn the limits of nature for supporting the outrageous, unconscionable demands we’re collectively imposing on our planet. For us to mature as a species would be to develop not only clear knowledge of the effects of our greed but to decide to curb our consumptive avarice so that our demands don’t exceed what the planet can sustain, and all species can flourish optimally.
We can begin by decrying disparities of wealth among people: no one should live in a mansion when another is homeless and starving. Given the present world population of nearly seven billion people, what would be the average figure for human wealth? That should be the limit allowed by conscience to anyone. Increase of that amount would come from either decrease of population or increase of total wealth. Humane logic dictates such a social policy—but our custom of competition revolts against it.
Privilege accrues to the strong and the cunning, who are looking out for themselves and following the Law of the Jungle, not the Law of Love. Yet in the jungle there’s no hoarding, no Swiss bank accounts. Only human beings stash mountains of wealth, denying it to the impoverished and oppressed. Only human beings are so out of whack.
Unless we clean up our arrogant act, Nature might dispose of us as deleterious to its cosmic project of bringing forth life in diversified abundance. We’ll be sloughed off as an errant experiment gone terminally bad, and ironically we’ll probably be the agents of our own demise. We may take down many other species in our catastrophic finale, but some life will survive and continue to struggle up the ladder of complexity and sophistication—perhaps to produce eventually a more sapient species than Homo sapiens sapiens.