“Embrace Our Planet.” That’s the punchline to the recurring story. Here let me show you three brilliant ways it’s being told:
Erle Ellis tells us: Human impact has been around for some time. We humans are changing the face of the earth. We have to put ourselves into the picture and work out what impact we want to have on the planet. The problem is we don’t know how to manage the future of this planet. Erle Ellis is an ecologist at the University of Maryland, quoted in this week’s Economist magazine. An erudite article about how we destroy but can consciously create. Hell, there are more trees on farmland now than there are in wild forests. The article introduces the concept that we’re in a new period the Anthropocene. Where people are at the centre. Most ecologists talk about the ecosystem with human influence removed:
The advent of the Anthropocene… means treating humans not as insignificant observers of the natural world but as central to its workings, elemental in their force.
Okay – that makes sense. Every city we build has a profound impact on the future of the planet. But we’re a pragmatic species that needs to worry more about the present and the future. Right?
No. Wrong. The past is what’s important. David Christian spoke at TED in March 2011 about BIG HISTORY. A beautiful story about where we sit in the world. It’s worth taking the time to listen:
DNA has created organisms that can learn in real time. They accumulate information, they learn. The sad thing is, when they die, the information dies with them. Now what makes humas different is human language. We are blessed with a language, asystem of communication, so powerful and so precise that we can share what we’ve learned with such precision that it can accumulate in the collective memory… We seem to be the only species in 4 billion years to have this gift.
He calls this “the threshold moment in the history of our beautiful planet”.
And then there’s the Monty Python version of the story:
Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour…
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.
Notice that none of the stories have a happy ending. Not yet anyway. And let’s not resign ourselves to the Monty Python way of thinking. Even though it’s the only one of the three stories that is easy to quote after a few drinks at a wedding… or, er, so I’m told.