By H H Mohrmen
The story that is common to all of us is that humans are unique beings and they have placed themselves at the pinnacle of creation. Humans were meant to be the masters, to lord it over all creation. And oh my word! Aren’t humans the worst masters? We are the favourite children of God while his others creations are inferior to us and they were created for us. We believe that we have been assigned this job by God the mystery of which is infinite but unfortunately the resources of the earth He made are finite. We have not only exhausted all the earth’s resources but we have also burned down our own houses in the process.
Of the Homo species, which include Homo-erectus, Homo-Neanderthal, Denisovan and others, Homo sapiens which have narrowly escaped extinction are the only species that have survived till date. We were almost extinct like our cousins and yet we have flourished and multiplied at an alarming rate and we have dominated and filled the world with the likes of us. Homo sapiens have colonised every corner of the world and reached every part of the globe, greedy for her resources and used it to the hilt. In the process we have cleared forests, levelled hills and we have modified about half of the land surface of the earth. We have destroyed birds and animal habitats and have also caused soil erosion and killed coral reeds in the ocean.
We are consuming 160,000,000 million litres of oil every day and by doing so, increased our carbon footprints on the Earth. In his march to progress, man had emitted harmful gases to the atmosphere and it is said that more than half of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuel was emitted in the last 30 years. In fact there is more emission in the last 30 years than in the centuries and the millennia before. We are not only responsible for green house gas emission which has caused serious global warming but we have also polluted our water bodies, land and air. This pollution is the result of our different activities which include mining, industries and indiscriminate use of pesticides in intensive farming.
Humans are also responsible for species extinction. It is said that by 2050 humans will wipe out 30-50% of earth species. Studies have also found that insects are in a serious decline and most of them could die out by the end of the century. And if insects die, then humans will also follow suit, because without insects there is no pollination and recycling of nutrients in the soil will stop. Soil which is the major food source for most of the creatures will also die and when soil dies, humans will not be far behind. The author of a recent report on insects worldwide concluded: “If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for the planet’s ecosystem and for the survival of humankind.”
Still humans continue to deny that this is happening and carry on with their activities. And now the major by-product is waste which we don’t know what to do with and we continue to dump 8 million tonnes of plastics into the ocean every year. In April 2019 more than 48 pounds of plastic, including disposable dishes, a corrugated tube, shopping bags and a detergent package with its bar code still visible, were found inside a dead sperm whale in Italy, the World Wildlife Fund said in one of its report. The whale, a young female, washed ashore in Porto Cervo, a seaside resort in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Earlier similar news where whales washed to the shore were reported from Indonesia, Philippines and Spain and inside the whale’s stomach huge amounts of plastics was recovered. And we continue to dump waste and million tons of plastic into the ocean every year.
We are in a serious problem now and if this is not a crisis then what is? This crisis is caused by humans and only humans can solve it. But how can we stop this crisis? It is not as easy as pulling the brakes or engaging the reverse gear of a vehicle, but by doing one simple thing and that is by changing the story. The need of the hour is to change the narrative.
We have seen where the man-centric story takes us; the story where man was placed at the centre of the creation has not only taken us on a slippery path in a journey to kingdom come, but we have almost reached the destination. It is time to change the narrative that put man as lord of all creation because he had failed in his duty in the first place. It is time for humans to get down to their rightful place where they are equivalent to all creations and to understand that we are interdependent on each other. Humans are but a small part of creation and a tiny speck in the universe and humans are mortal beings.
The story of humans has to be rewritten and the truth be told that the Universe, the solar system and humans do not have separate stories but are part of one story. That story is that man is not the master or the lord of all creation and that, in fact he is but a small part of the entire creation. And like all creation he is part of stardust which came from the Big Bang and will one day die, disintegrate, consumed by bacteria, become part of the soil and grow as a plant again. This new story is much more fascinating, it is scientifically true and it is more convincing than the story we already know, because it is not only the story about man and the world but of the entire Universe.
It is estimated that the Universe is about 14 or to be precise 13.772 billion years old which means that from Big Bang till today it is approximately 14 billion years. And it is also said that during most of this time the Universe was lifeless and in chaos. It was only in about 5 billion years ago that the solar system began to form and modern humans have only evolved in the last 200,000 years ago. And this human civilisation as we know it is only 6000 years old and industrial revolution which has changed the world is only 200 years old. The revolutions which work to satisfy the insatiable demon inside man, called greed is only 200 years old, but look at the damage that we have done.
We have to change our views of ourselves as the pinnacle of creation, the centre of the universe or a unique creation, because this is not only destroying the earth and eliminating other species, but it is killing us too. We are no extraordinary creatures but same and equal creations with animals and plants and in fact we are animals like any other animal. Yet some people still find it difficult to accept that the human race evolved from a common ancestor with chimpanzees which is an endangered species. Mind you we Homo sapiens are not much different from chimpanzees with which we share 99% of our DNA and if they are on the verge of extinction, why not us?
Recently in one of the All India Radio programs which was produced by the North East Service, Shillong, the moderator of the program raised a very pertinent point which I never thought of before. If I am to rephrase the question she asked, it was something like, ‘why worry, we are going to die anyway?’ Yes, our Homo species cousins, the Home erectus, Homo-Neanderthal, Denisovan and others have become extinct from the face of the earth, but like the old Native American saying goes, “We do not inherit this earth from our parents; we only borrow it from our children.” Hence as much as we can, we want to handover a good if not a better earth to its rightful owners – our children.
To do that we need to get down to the ground and understand that we are no different, not even from the tiny parasites that we cannot see with our naked eye. We need to get down from our high horses and be humble. We need to change the narrative.