Facing an Uncertain Future in the Age of Humans – Part 2

“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist.”
~ Sir David Attenborough

So far 2020 seems to be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us… Humanity is lurching from surviving environmental paroxysms to coping with germ warfare!

Since I last posted the Coronavirus has become a serious global health threat, possibly a pandemic, if infection rates continue to grow and the mortality rate increases. Risk of death rises with age, diabetes and heart disease. 

The hubris of Homo sapiens

There is no doubt that our species has achieved some truly amazing feats.

But we have made many mistakes too, some with serious ramifications. Man’s innate curiosity led him to explore his surroundings and then spread further afield until he covered the planet in his search for a better life for his ‘tribe’.

But the current hegemony of Homo sapiens will be short lived, in evolutionary terms, if we don’t have the humility and hindsight to take responsibility for how we got here.

“It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life undeformed; that it is a crisis of the “natural” world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth; that growth, and the technology it produces, will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat, in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence in staring it down. None of this is true. But let’s begin with the speed of change. The earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a wiping of the fossil record that it functioned as an evolutionary reset, the planet’s phylogenetic tree first expanding, then collapsing, at intervals, like a lung: 86 percent of all species dead, 450 million years ago; 70 million years later, 75 percent; 125 million years later, 96 percent; 50 million years later, 80 percent; 135 million years after that, 75 percent again. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 250 million years ago; it began when carbon dioxide warmed the planet by five degrees Celsius, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane, another greenhouse gas, and ended with all but a sliver of life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is one hundred times faster than at any point in human history before the beginning of industrialization. And there is already, right now, fully a third more carbon in the atmosphere than at any point in the last 800,000 years—perhaps in as long as 15 million years. There were no humans then.”
~ David Wallace-WellsThe Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

We must now harness the creative and critical thinking edge that the Cognitive Revolution birthed, and that catapulted us into the Anthropocene, to figure out how we can repair much of the destruction left in our wake; now that we have woken up to the fact that it threatens our survival.

One could argue that our rise to the Age of Humans is ‘progress’, a necessary evolution, but such progress comes with responsibilities. We cannot accept a continuing  attitude that the end justifies the means. Unless we curb and alter our progress it will prove to be the road to perdition for Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens means ‘wise man’, but for a species credited with such erudition we have certainly demonstrated ignorance in equal measure…

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
Isabella (Act 2, Scene 2)
~ William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

The four horsemen of the apocalypse could prove to be greed, arrogance, apathy and indifference.

As well as conveying the beauty, awe and wonder of Earth in his latest programme, Seven Worlds, One Planet, Sir David Attenborough repeated the ongoing message of habitat destruction and climate change.

Despite the Coronavirus, the fact remains that climate change is the single biggest threat to all life on Earth in the Age of Humans.

Biodiversity and sustainability

At the launch of the spectacular Netflix nature programme Our Planet, Sir David Attenborough gave a clear message: we must find a way to survive that does not entail decimating the natural world, because biodiversity equals stability.

SUSTAINABILITY should be our new watch word, a global standard that helps to protect biodiversity in the interest future generations.

If we managed two mass extinctions as hunter-gatherers, (the decimation of two continent’s mega-fauna with just hand tools), imagine what damage we can inflict now, thousands of years later, with efficient machines in this industrial and technological age?

Rapid, wholesale destruction of rainforests by agribusiness for short term profit over long term ecological stability is crazy, and should not be allowed to continue unabated.

We cannot continue to bludgeon our way through our planet’s natural resources with no regard for the consequences.

Over the last year I have phased out processed food from our diet (apart from the odd treat), and I look carefully at the ingredients and buy brands like Nairn’s that only use sustainable palm oil.

This passage from Sapiens illustrates how Homo sapiens have evolved too quickly, thus creating massive environmental problems for ourselves and the planet:

Genus Homo’s position in the food chain was, until quite recently, solidly in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures and gathered what they could, all the while being hunted by larger predators. It was only 400,000 years ago that several species of man began to hunt large game on a regular basis, and only in the last 100,000 years – with the rise of Homo Sapiens – that man jumped to the top of the food chain.

That spectacular leap from the middle to the top had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to co-operate better, and rhinoceroses to be more bad-tempered.

In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana-republic dictator.  Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump.

~ Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens)

On our way to the top of the food chain humans domesticated fire, gaining control of a powerful, obedient and potentially limitless force. Unlike other animals, humans could decide when and where to ignite a flame and use it for numerous tasks. Our use of fire was not limited by our physical form, structure or strength. A child with a fire stick could burn down an entire forest.

Metaphorically, this seems like exactly what our still relatively ‘young’ species has done to the planet!

The Cognitive Revolution

The Cognitive Revolution was probably the defining moment in humanity’s evolution thus far – the ability of our species to communicate, to gossip, to develop ever larger social structures, to organise ourselves, collaborate and plan and imagine outcomes. It was the beginning of creativity and storytelling.

No other creature on Earth has developed this mental capacity.

Creation of Man by Michelangelo

We lived for millennia in a similar fashion to our closest genetic cousins, chimpanzees; who survive still in small hierarchical communities lead by an alpha male, having to intervene in squabbles when necessary, and deal with challenges to his authority from younger males who would usurp him, along with his right to sire many of the infants in his group and continue his blood line.

The atmosphere can be aggressive at times, but it is permeated with playfulness, loving mothers, friendships and sub groups that garner support by giving and receiving favours such as picking out fleas and grooming.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours… It’s a well known fact in psychology that people respond in kind.

What is the American president but the alpha male of the United States, if not the world? Or for that matter, the Pope is the alpha male of the Catholic Church.

Current political favours and manoeuvrings aren’t so far removed from our ancestral chimp roots, just more sophisticated.

Image by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Brutality is cloaked by bullies in suits: corruption, corporate malfeasance and brainwashing in the media and all the machinations of imperfect democracies.

What is democracy but millions of people choosing to believe in certain imagined realities?

Feminism

Female chimpanzees are not able to look at and study the example of the more balanced and loved-up societies of Bonobos, which are run by their more emancipated female relatives, and translate that learning into more freedom and peace for themselves in their own environments.

But the rise of feminism in human society arose from women’s collective desire for a fairer, more meaningful and egalitarian life. It is, of course, an ongoing challenge in a patriarchal society.

Such dramatic changes in behaviour do not occur in the animal kingdom unless environmental pressures or mutations in DNA initiate them.

But since the Cognitive Revolution humans have been able to change their thoughts and pass on new ideas and behaviours to future generations without any need of genetic or environmental change.

This ability to transform our social structures, the nature of interpersonal relations and our economic activities is a beacon of hope that we can collectively adapt our social behaviours in relation to conservation, waste management, consumption, future innovation and living more cleanly in respect to climate change.

Environmental pressure is certainly driving our continued evolution!

Our species’ nascent curiosity all those thousands of years ago made us think and ask: what would it be like to sail to another land?

The diverse cultures that we are part of and can experience through travelling could not have grown without a curiosity about the world and our place in it.

The temples and pyramids we have built, the gods we have worshipped, the land we have tilled and shaped, the art and music we have expressed (even from the days of cave men) has all been possible because of the Cognitive Revolution.

The freedom to think and act gave us power, and we’re still learning how to wield it.

Sophisticated language and the ability to create ‘imagined realities’ meant that humans could go from living in small groups to creating cities and empires, religions and ideologies, law and order. We could co-operate on hitherto unknown scales.

Money was, and is, the most universally successful creation that mankind invented. Even two people who are born in different geographical locations, and diametrically opposed in their beliefs, their lifestyles and outlooks will both use money in their everyday lives. It is humanity’s common denominator – as is nature and our home planet, Earth.

How do you get millions of people to act in a certain way? It comes down to common goals and shared beliefs. We are individuals, but still able to work together for perceived mutual benefit.

We may be able to disagree on one or two issues, but have many other overriding positive connections that outweigh any disagreements. That is the beauty of freedom of speech and social interaction. The challenges occur when we can’t overcome our differences or agree on a particular imagined reality.

Brexit springs to mind!

Once Homo sapiens started telling stories we never stopped. We evolved our capacity to craft and learn from stories. Myths and stories are the glue of our social connections.

Our physical evolution may have continued at the normal glacial pace, but our imagination raced ahead, enabling us to build networks of mass co-operation.

Social media amplifies this ability to a truly staggering global level.

All the leaders in history have used stories to their advantage, and the best ones used them for the good of humanity. We still tell and read stories that were written years, decades and centuries ago, because we continue to find value and entertainment in them.

Now it is time to tell the most important story in modern history, the one that’s uncomfortable and sometimes frightening to hear, about how we are destroying our planet.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein

Dystopian climate disaster movies that have been portrayed on the silver screen are now becoming an all too frequent reality in different areas of the planet.

A few months ago the ex-governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, issued dire warnings about the consequences of climate change to business and continued investment in fossil fuels.

“Fully half of British emissions, it was recently calculated, come from inefficiencies in construction, discarded and unused food, electronics, and clothing; two-thirds of American energy is wasted; globally, according to one paper, we are subsidizing the fossil fuel business to the tune of $5 trillion each year. None of that has to continue.”
~ David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

It’s one thing to hear that elephants, tigers, lions, bees, dolphins and whales are going extinct, and that the earth is becoming uninhabitable, and quite another to experience an unthinkable reality that moves us emotionally into action.

Big Think on global warming.

Whether driven by love or fear, we need lots of new stories about climate change, biodiversity, mass extinctions, pollution and human disease to be told in different ways to different audiences.

It’s our only chance of making such rapid changes to create a paradigm shift on how we have contributed to the problems facing humanity and how we can solve them. It no longer serves us to be insatiable consumers of natural resources, our fictional realities now need to focus on being the protectors, custodians and lovers of our dwindling abundance.

Conservation

International co-operation is key. Leaders of nations need to come together and set aside large areas of land and sea as protected from human activity, purely for conservation. Nature has shown she can recover if we give her a helping hand.

Sir David Attenborough used the example of a group of islands in south east Asia as an example. Massive over fishing depleted the waters and the coral reefs significantly declined.

The screen filled with eerie images of thousands of giant jellyfish undulating below the surface – the consequence of there being no fish. This is what awaits us beneath the ocean if we continue in that vein. However, this group of islands was declared a national marine park, and within a decade it had recovered most of its biodiversity.

Sir David stated that a third of coastal seas on our planet should be protected as marine parks in this way, so that they can recover from over fishing.

The wasteland of Chernobyl is another example of nature recovering free from human interference:

Sir David Attenborough with some solutions:

The giant Australian marsupial Diprotodon became extinct because it couldn’t adjust in time to develop a fear of humans, who duly massacred them all.

The irony is, nature is now forcing us to adapt to ourselves…

Spiritual evolution

There is no one single historical antecedent to the Anthropocene.

What we call ‘history’ is us recording and looking back at our fictions and imaginations and the outcomes our actions shaped.  This elusive, mysterious quality of mind was the driving force behind our evolution.

To me, the logical next step in our evolution is that of the spirit – the unseen.

Moving from being a person that purely experiences the world through just their five senses, to being multi-sensory beings; developing awareness of our inner motivations, emotions and behaviour, being comfortable with stillness, the oneness of all that is, developing empathy, gratitude, a loving nature and a love for nature, becoming highly intuitive and learning to transcend our evolutionary animal inheritance from our chimpanzee days – the ego.

I feel strongly that healing the planet will be achieved with more insight and awareness, and more rapidly, if we can first take responsibility for ourselves and care for each other.

World domination never succeeded (at least for very long), on an individual level, national or empirical level. Just look at Hitler, Stalin and countless other despots, egomaniacs and repressive regimes.

Collectively we influence each other and the planet, to the extent that the consequences of our actions are magnified and compounded in the Age of Humans.

If we all adopted the attitude of asking  what serves all of life, rather than what just serves humanity, or purely what serves me, where could we be?

In today’s world, amid efforts to combat a myriad of crises of climate, politics, medicine, and socioeconomics, we are in a constant state of emergency…

Which leads to forced adaptation rather than evolution.

But in order to evolve to our highest potential, individually and as a species, we must access and cultivate the innate and largely unexplored capabilities already within us.

~ Steve Farrell, Worldwide Executive Director – Humanity’s Team

We don’t have to become monks, saints, or even permanently altruistic beings, we can still follow our dreams and aspirations, enjoy our lives; but with an increased awareness of the impact of our actions.

We each have more power than we think.

A profound solution – Consciousness creates reality:

I heard a beautiful explanation of intuition by Gary Zukav, he said that it is the voice of the non-physical world. Cognition could be exponentially more powerful when we are aligned with a higher purpose and the non physical part of ourselves – the soul.

To give future souls a chance at evolving we must preserve the physical stage upon which they can do so – planet Earth.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
~ William Shakespeare (from All the World’s a Stage speech) As You Like It

Facing an Uncertain Future in the Age of Humans – Part 1

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” ~ Albert Einstein

What with all the global turbulence of late I got to thinking: What is our evolutionary destiny as a species?

It’s a difficult and provocative question to ask, let alone to answer!

But we must ask it, if we are to understand where we are now and where we are heading. If we don’t, how can we create a happier, more bountiful and sustainable existence not just for ourselves, but for all creation, than we have thus far?

In my small slithers of time I have been reading Yuval Noah Harari’s brilliant book, Sapiens. I’m only half way through, but am finding it compelling and sobering reading.

I’m expanding on my interest in Anthropology as part of my research for my next novel, (a corporate conspiracy thriller), but it’s also insightful for a blog post or two!

The challenges of the Anthropocene

Scientists have named the new epoch of our planet the Anthropocenethe age of humans.

Human activity has impacted the face of the planet and its animal inhabitants to such a degree that we now largely hold the fate of the entire planet’s biodiversity in our hands. A scary fact, considering our past record!

There is little that we have failed to plunder or indirectly affect and use for our advantage over aeons of our species’ existence. We should heed Einstein’s advice and ruminate extensively on the challenges and opportunities of this new human epoch.

According to Sir David Attenborough we are now experiencing the 6th wave of mass extinction on our planet, and (I’m sorry to go all ‘doomsday’), unless we radically alter our trajectory it could be the precursor to the extinction of Homo sapiens. We are the masters of our fate, one way or another.

We face untold misery unless we rapidly develop a global awareness of what’s happening and how we can adjust our behaviour to avoid cataclysm. Otherwise, as scientists continue to tell us, we will reap a bitter and devastating harvest…

This has been painfully demonstrated with the destruction of the Amazon and as this article in The Guardian points out, deforestation damage goes far beyond the Amazon.

The world has watched in horror at the devastating, unprecedented bushfires that are continuing to ravage Australia.

In addition to the devastating stories there have also been uplifting stories of heroism, altruism and love.

This article highlights visually the conditions that have exacerbated the fires in Australia.

It is thought close to a BILLION animals have perished in the bushfires: koalas, kangaroos, flying foxes and other precious wildlife. If like me, you feel devastated by this and wish to do something to help in addition to prayer, you can donate to Australia’s Wildlife Emergency fund on the WIRES website.

It has been heartbreaking to see the level of suffering. And yet, Australia’s impotent PM, Scott Morrison, is an outright climate change denier and has demonstrated a dire lack of leadership to his nation. More also needs to be done to heed the advice of the indigenous aboriginal population.

My grandfather grew up in a mining town just beyond the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. I have happy memories of the time I was there. I just want to sit and weep when I read of the impact of these fires.

Morrison is not the only leader to have failed miserably in his responsibility – Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro should be put on trial for his role in the Amazon’s destruction – and by default the global impact it is having.

“If you had to invent a threat grand enough, and global enough, to plausibly conjure into being a system of true international cooperation, climate change would be it—the threat everywhere, and overwhelming, and total. And yet now, just as the need for that kind of cooperation is paramount, indeed necessary for anything like the world we know to survive, we are only unbuilding those alliances—recoiling into nationalistic corners and retreating from collective responsibility and from each other. That collapse of trust is a cascade, too.”
~ David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

To better understand the immense challenges and opportunities of the Anthropocene we should take a peek into the distant past – through millennia, into the history of Homo sapiens.

The red hand print in the cave at Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, imprinted c. 30,000 years ago.

The history of Homo sapiens

It’s an incredible history, peppered with highs and lows, successes and failures, but mainly it highlights the ingenuity, imagination and endless march of Homo sapiens to become the dominant species on planet Earth.

For better or worse, we have arrived at the Anthropocene – a precarious point in our evolution.

This timeline (plus a few of my own additions), is laid out in Sapiens.

Timeline in years before the present:

4.5 billion – Formation of planet Earth.

3.8 billion – Emergence of organisms, the beginning of biology.

66 million – Extinction of the dinosaurs.

6 million – The last common grandmother of humans and chimpanzees.

2.5 million – Evolution of the genus Homo in Africa. First stone tools.

2 million – Humans spread from Africa to Eurasia. Evolution of different human species.

500,000 – Neanderthals evolve in Europe and the Middle East.

300,000 – Daily use of fire by Homo erectus, Neandertals and the forefathers of Homo sapiens. Some scholars advocate the link between cooking food and the shortening of the human intestinal tract and the growth of the brain.

200,000 – Homo sapiens evolves in East Africa.

70,000 – The Cognitive Revolution. Emergence of fictive language and imagination. Sapiens spread out of Africa.

50,000 – Extinction of Homo sloensis and Homo erectus

45,000 – Sapiens settle Australia. Extinction of Australian mega-fauna. Extinction of Homo denisova. Up to 6% of the DNA of Melaniesians and Aboriginal Australians is Denisovan DNA.

30,000 – Extinction of Neandertals. In 2010 the Neandertal genome was mapped, and scientists discovered that 4% of the DNA of modern populations of Homo sapiens in the Middle East and Europe is Neandertal DNA.

16,000 – Sapiens settle America. Extinction of American mega-fauna.

13,000 – Extinction of Homo floresiensis.

12,000 – The Agricultural Revolution. Domestication of plants and animals. Permanent settlements. Sapiens now the only surviving human species in the genus Homo.

11,500 – Göbekli Tepe built by hunter-gatherer communities in Turkey.

5,000 – First kingdoms, script and money. Polytheistic religions.

4,500 – Stonehenge is built in southern England.

4,250 – First Empire – the Akkadian Empire of Sargon.

4,000 – The beginning of Hinduism in India.

2,500 – Invention of coinage – a universal money. The Persian Empire – a universal political order ‘for the benefit of all humans’. Buddhism in India – a universal truth ‘to liberate all beings from suffering’.

2,300 – The ancient library is built in Alexandria.

2,000 – Han Empire in China. Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Christianity.

1,400 – Islam

500 – The Scientific Revolution. Humankind acknowledges its ignorance and begins to acquire unprecedented power. Europeans begin to conquer America and the oceans. The entire planet becomes a single historical arena. The rise of capitalism.

200 – The Industrial Revolution. Family and community are replaced by state and market. Massive extinction of plants and animals.

133 – The American legal system grants companies status as ‘legal entities’ or ‘corporate personhood’ as if they were flesh blood beings. Companies are the main players in the economic arena. Yet they only exist as ‘imagined realities’.

The Present – The Age of Humans (The Anthropocene). Humans transcend the boundaries of planet Earth. Nuclear weapons threaten the survival of humankind. Organisms are increasingly shaped by intelligent design rather than natural selection.

The future – Intelligent design becomes the basic principle of life? The development of Artificial Intelligence? Homo sapiens either extinct or replaced by superhumans?

The paradox of evolutionary success

Based on the latest scientific warnings and reports, it seems we are faced with a stark choice: adapt or die.

According to Charles Darwin the premise underlying all evolution is how a species adapts genetically and behaviourally to its environment over vast expanses of time to ensure its continued existence. Herbert Spencer summarised this theory as ‘survival of the fittest’.

But the situation humanity currently faces couldn’t be more critical. According to scientists we don’t have millennia, we have just decades to solve a crisis of our own making; arising it seems, from the activities of our evolutionary success…

Image by Rob Curran on Unsplash

Our current limited measure of evolutionary success is the number of DNA copies of a species. And being as humans (Homo sapiens) account for 96% of the mass of mammals living on the planet, I’d say, based solely on that criteria, we made it big.

We took our domesticated plants and animals with us too. Behind Homo sapiens, cattle, pigs and sheep are the second, third and fourth most widespread large mammals. 70% of the birds alive today are domesticated poultry.

It’s estimated there are some 25 billion chickens around the globe!

As far as plant life goes, wheat crops represent the largest landmass, covering over 220 million hectares.  Our dependence on wheat, a cereal food containing gluten and lectins, two substances that are natural destroyers of gut health, and by default overall health, has been compounding for 7,000 years, when humans began farming in the Levant (Middle East).

The Agricultural Revolution

Gradually our diets switched from diverse forager staples like nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables such as mushrooms and meats like rabbit, deer and mammoth (who disappeared around the same time as Neanderthals), to a reliance on a narrower range of less nutritious crops such as wheat, rice and potatoes.

Image by Evi Radauscher on Unsplash

As our progression from foragers to farmers occurred over several thousand years, so our populations expanded in line with an increased intake of calories. It wasn’t a utopia though; we had to maintain and protect crops through climate cycles and raids from other tribes. We became vulnerable. We had all our eggs in one basket.

By the time humans had achieved significant population growth through complex agricultural societies, it was too late to go back to our hunter-gatherer way of life – it simply could not sustain the new structure of radically bigger communities.

What started out as a way of filling our stomachs more efficiently thousands of years ago somehow morphed into a beast that now controls us.

Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.”
~ Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens)

Our species’ evolutionary success has come at a high price, with mass extinctions in marine, plant and animal life.

Homo sapiens have destroyed much of their natural capital: 50% of the world’s rainforest and coral reefs are gone, over fishing has depleted our oceans and hundreds of tons of plastic waste is killing marine life and polluting our oceans.

Polar bear and plastic cone – image by Andrea Bohl on Pixaby

Many fish are going into the human food chain full of harmful toxins such as PCBs, mercury and other heavy metals. Our water supplies are saturated with chlorine and fluoride and our air quality is full of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Also, the process of biomagnification has a serious impact on human health.

Some time ago I read a recent news story about a new world record for the time and depth of a submersible at the bottom of the Mariana Trench (the deepest place on Earth). Among some wonderful new discoveries of deep sea species there was a more depressing sighting of a plastic bag on the sea bed – seven miles down!

Given the mess we’re collectively in, is it not timely to measure and define evolutionary success outside of the narrow criteria of survival and reproduction?

We have not considered quality of life and diversity on our climb to world domination. Especially not for plant life, the animal kingdom or our domesticated livestock, and not in many cases, for large human populations around the world.

The profits and growth obtained from earth’s natural resources are finite. We cannot eat, drink or breathe money.

“Even though we now have a decent picture of the planet’s climatological past, never in the earth’s entire recorded history has there been warming at anything like this speed- by one estimate, around ten times faster than at any point in the last 66 million years. Every year, the average American emits enough carbon to melt 10,000 tons of ice in the Antarctic ice sheets- enough to add 10,000 cubic meters of water to the ocean. Every minute, each of us adds five gallons.”
~ David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

In part two I’ll cover the Cognitive Revolution, biodiversity and some solutions. I’ll aim to be more upbeat, but the facts are the facts, no matter how much we might wish they were otherwise.

Poetic Thoughts on the Chemistry of Life

“[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” ~ Werner Heisenberg

It’s been a while since I’ve attempted poetry, but every now and then the urge takes me to explore the bigger questions of life.

In order to more fully understand the universe we live out our daily lives in, genius, scientific minds delve into and develop Quantum Mechanics; which tends to fry my circuitry. I don’t think I’ll ever get my head round it!

To me it is the ultimate literary theme, how and why we are even here at all…

The Apotheosis of Homer by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres c. 1827

Looking back to the prehistoric swamps of single cell microbes on Earth a few billion years ago, to Darwinian discovery and biogenesis; studying life’s seemingly simple origins and subsequent progress, one might wonder: is creation and evolution one and the same thing?

When I mention chemistry, especially in the title, it is in the broadest sense of the word; not purely a scientific meaning. For the ‘chemistry’ within beings, between souls and all living things in nature has both a real and ethereal quality.

Noun: chemistry

  1. The branch of science concerned with the substances of which matter is composed, the investigation of their properties and reactions, and the use of such reactions to form new substances. the chemical composition and properties of a substance or body.

plural noun: chemistries

“the patient’s blood chemistry was monitored regularly”

2. the complex emotional or psychological interaction between people.

“their affair was triggered by intense sexual chemistry”

To ponder where and what ‘life’ will be in a millennia, let alone another billion years is beyond my comprehension, but maybe not for scientists and Sci-Fi writers!

“Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” ~ Werner Heisenberg, (Across the Frontiers)

I hope you enjoy my attempt at contextualising random thoughts in prose to arrive at a semblance of understanding of the oftentimes violent and disturbing, but also, profoundly beautiful world we live in…

I find listening to Beethoven puts me in a harmonious state of appreciation to access gratitude, contemplation and reflection…

The Chemistry of Life

Oscillations, multiple compounds and formulas,

Make up even a single, miniscule molecule,

Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen; chemical reactions abound,

Mingling the celestial matter of stars…

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Requisite, smaller parts of a complex, greater whole,

Primordial power creates the alchemy of life;

Diffuse quantum world – coursing through flesh,

Synthesis through eons, seeding infinite heartbeats…

Isaac and Rebecca by Rembrandt van Rijn

Inflating life’s vaporous, continuous, undulating breath,

Sparking billions of neurons; birthing artistry, creativity,

Intelligent, cosmic cellular communication,

Powerful and irrevocable, like a thermonuclear reaction.

The Alpha and Omega of physicality, existence;

Omniscient, spontaneous source; force of the universe,

Spirit – true essence of miraculous transmutations,

Infused with eternity; depleted through neglect.

An Emerald Sea by Albert Bierstadt

No on or off switch, just vibrations, instructions…

Harmful messages disrupt a divine diaspora,

Emotional dams accrue, obstructing ebb and flow;

Signals: benevolent or malevolent, misinterpreted, incomplete…

Interior or The Rape by Edgar Degas

Heavy, dysfunctional intensity, warping actions,

Indelible scars, woven into strands of human DNA,

The One Energy, splintered and diluted into duality:

Light and shadow permeating mind, body and soul.

Sperm and egg unite, ignited through love or desire,

Proliferation of life’s sacred, unique diversity,

Blood, bone and beauty are vital; animated,

Exposed to Gaia’s cycles of destruction and regeneration.

The chemistry of life manifests a zeal for life,

Evolution in flow, obeying its innate laws,

Behold swelling, stormy skies; rays glinting on serene seas,

Marvel at the elemental ardour of the universe!

Electrical pulses compose human symphonies;

Biological orchestras resonating earthly frequencies,

Sounds and rhythm, dissonance and harmony,

Cadences of humanity, expressions of the chemistry of life…

By Virginia Burges

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” ~ Werner Heisenberg