A study of man’s behaviours.

A reflection on why living in harmony with Planet Earth seems so challenging.

John Hurlburt is the ‘mover and shaker’ behind a series of talks and discussions under the overall title of Everything Fits Together, part of the adult education umbrella of St Paul’s Episcopal Church here in Payson, AZ.  John generously asked if I would lead the discussion tonight (19th) along the theme of Nature and Faith.  I plan to close the session with these words and the compelling video that was on Learning from Dogs last Friday A planet worth protecting.


Man – a study in behaviours.

The relationship between Planet Earth and man goes back a very long way. But what of today?

There is little doubt that many people, even with the minimum of awareness about the world in which we live, are deeply worried. On so many fronts there are forbidding and scary views. It feels as though all the certainty of past times has gone; as if all the trusted models of society are now broken. Whether we are talking politics, economics, employment or the environment, nothing seems to be working.

Why might this be?

It would be easy to condemn man’s drive for progress and an insatiable self-centredness as the obvious causes of our society failing in widespread ways. But in my view that’s too simple an explanation. It’s much more complex.

I propose that the challenges we all face today have their roots in the dawning of our evolution. Let’s remind ourselves how far back that goes.

The earliest documented members of the genus Homo are Homo habilis which evolved around 2.3 million years ago. Homo habilis was the first species for which we have positive evidence of the use of stone tools.

A theory known as Recent African Ancestry theory, postulates that modern humans evolved in Africa possibly from Homo heidelbergensis and migrated out of the continent some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, replacing local populations of Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.

Thus for tens of thousands of years, the behaviours of humans have served our species well, by definition. Ergo, mankind has evolved as the result of mankind’s behaviours. Behaviours that may have changed little over those countless years.

So one might speculate that these behaviours have been potentially damaging to the ultimate survival of our species, perhaps hugely damaging, for a very long time. But because man’s population footprint has been so small for 99% of eternity the consequences have not impinged on the planet until now. Let’s reflect on those population figures.

Until the development of agriculture, around the 11th millennium BC, the world population was stable at around one million persons, as man lived out a subsistence hunter-gatherer existence. By about 2000 years ago the global population of man had climbed to around 300 million. It took another 1,200 years for that global population to reach the first billion, as it did in 1804.

However, just 123 years later, in 1927, the two-billionth baby was born. The three-billionth baby was born in 1960, just 33 years later! Only a further 14 years slip by for the four-billionth baby to be born in 1974. Another blink of the geological eyelid and 13 years later, in 1987, along comes the five-billionth bundle of joy. Around October 1999, the sixth-billionth baby is born! It is likely that we are in a world where there are now seven billion people! Indeed, the world population clock estimates that on September 12th, a week ago, the world population was 7,039,725,283 persons.

About a billion every decade. The equivalent of a growth of 100 million each and every year, or around 270,000 every single day! Or if you prefer 11,250 an hour (Remember that’s the net growth, births minus deaths, of the population of humans on this planet!)

Combine man’s behaviours with this growth of population and we have the present situation. A totally unsustainable situation on a planet that is our only home.

The only viable solution is to amend our behaviours. To tap into the powers of integrity, self-awareness and mindfulness and change our game.

All of us, no exceptions, have to work with the fundamental, primary relationships we have with each other and with the planet upon which we all depend. We need the birth of a new level of consciousness; of our self, of each other and of the living, breathing planet. A new consciousness that will empower change. We need spiritual enlightenment. We need a spiritual bond with this beautiful planet.

Over eons of time, Planet Earth has favoured our evolution. Now, today, not tomorrow, it is time to favour our beautiful planet with our love and with our faith. It is the ultimate decision for our species.



If you need a reminder of how beautiful our planet is (and I’m sure the majority of LfD readers don’t require that reminder) then go back and watch David Attenborough’s video and voice-over to the song What a Wonderful World.

I will close by inserting into this post, the video that Martin Lack included in a recent comment to my post The wind doth blow!

6 thoughts on “A study of man’s behaviours.

  1. Paul,
    Back in July I watched an old interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio with Robert Downey Jr. and learned that prior to movies he was in a band, wrote lyrics and sang. One of the songs he wrote was titled “Hang on Little Clouds.” I have no idea what the words are but led me to write the following:


    The sky is foreboding
    Little clouds in the sky
    Taken over by thunder
    And God’s bright shining light

    It’s only a message
    No need to be scared
    The answer is coming
    Just be aware

    Little clouds in the sky
    Decide to move on
    Closer to Heaven
    His will shall be done

    No need to drop tears
    Little clouds in the sky
    God’s light will shine brightly
    In all of their eyes
    Merci O’Neil


  2. One of the problems is that, over more than 50 million years, our ancestors, the little monkeys, learned to become strong by making one big monster out of their many small hands. They learned to think like one behind the most aggressive of them, to defend the group.

    That instinctual behavior I call the fascist instinct. It’s made for 50 or 100, not 50 or 100 millions… Once people admit that evolution has made them intellectual fascists at heart, a huge re-organization of everything, from politics to universities, and all the systems of thoughts and moods imposes itself. Because if we don’t get smarter right away, civilization is going to hit the fan, at best, get roasted, at worst.


  3. Please accept my apologies, Paul. I really do not know how this happened but, I managed to get through the whole of yesterday without looking at your blog. So, 24 hours later than normal, I have now read this post, which is excellent. (i.e. Apart from the Little Fluffy Clouds video – which I never imagined for one minute would be applauded for its aesthetic qualities – that was previously inserted as a joke because you are leaving Arizona)… But, let’s move on to far more contentious subjects, such as human evolution…

    I have never knowingly been a Young Earth Creationist, a form of belief which I have always considered irrational and unnecessary. Nevertheless, I have spent most of my life treating evolution as an atheistic form of religious belief (cunningly disguised as a scientific theory). Today, I am firmly agnostic: I will still defend the right of people to believe in God (etc), but no longer insist that doing so is incompatible with accepting that evolution happened (whatever that means). This journey is documented on my old Falsifiable Theology ‘blog’ (no longer being maintained) and the History page of my current blog… So I will not comment further here.

    I find the question “What makes us human?” a fascinating one; but it is also a fundamentally important one to ask (and get right). As I have said repeatedly on my blog, getting the answer to this question wrong seriously undermined all the benefits of the Age of Enlightenment; a mistake that still haunts us today: The mistake being that humans see themselves as being separate from Nature rather than a part of it.

    It is therefore fascinating to consider which of these various hominid species was the first that we would recognise as human. As you say (or imply), I think the significant change came when our ancestors began to alter their environment using tools to chop down trees and cultivate the land. Over and beyond that, I think it is important for us humans to remember that our existence on this planet is very contingent; we could so easily not be here. Cosmologists often like to point out that we are only here because the Universe is the way it is (i.e. it had to be the way it is or we would not be here to observe it!). However, leaving that aside, anthropologists are also now fairly certain that our ancestors were almost wiped out by a volcanic eruption about 70,000 years ago. Just in case you missed it, I wrote about this (and much more besides) over 10 months ago:


    1. Martin, thank you for your long and thoughtful comment and, come on, there’s no need to apologise for not reading Learning from Dogs every day. Well, perhaps a small slap on the wrist! 😉

      In view of your observation as to how man was nearly wiped out by a volcano, then perhaps your recent article about Katla on Iceland puts everything in yet another completely different perspective!

      Interesting times!


      1. The eruption of Mt Tambora in Indonesia was much more powerful than Katla’s will be.

        However, Katla will be the biggest thing since humans invented deforestation, agriculture, cities, and civilisation.


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