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.