Lately I was arguing online with a person about the issue of the Australian government killing sharks to protect bathers swimming at high-risk Australian beaches. Such an action puts the marine ecosystem at great risk. The argument in favour of this measure was : Sharks are dangerous to humans, humans are more advanced than sharks, therefore humans should kill sharks. Does the trend in the reasoning seem familiar?
Like this person, I am an arts and humanities student myself. However, during my education I had the blessing of meeting people that instilled a deep liking towards science and the environment in a way that although I enjoy learning the arts, I keep in touch with the scientific world. Listening to Carl Sagan, Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall has helped me develop a mentality, where humanity is not glorified beyond its true nature, and a humble approach towards Creation.
I must be clear here. I am not degrading the arts in relation to science. The subject I want to shed light on is the risks of restricting one’s interest to these areas. When studying the arts, there is the risk of viewing humanity on a pedestal. Humans have made such progress whilst t
Focusing only on these truly magnificent products of humanity leaves out the disaster we have been as a species for the Earth, our home. We have polluted it, we have gone on increasing our population selfishly without seeing the threats for the Earth, and now we are killing sharks in their natural habitat just because they are dangerous to women in skimpy bikini and men in bathing shorts. Would it be astonishing then to hear Sirhe chimpanzees have remained sticking sticks into the ground to obtain ants. This was the real intellectual threat I saw in my colleague’s premisses to her argument.
David Attenborough saying that if humanity was to disappear overnight, the Earth would be a better place?
As Goodall argues, “there isn’t a sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s a very fuzzy line and it’s getting fuzzier all the time.” However we do seem to be more advanced than these species and science has confirmed this. The single most fundamental aspect that separates us humans from the other animals is language. The complex language that humans possess is solely responsible for the knowledge and the progress we see. There is not much that divides us from the rest of nature. In fact language as a human stronghold may even deter through the ages since research has shown that dolphins give names to each other and communicate through sounds on a varying pitch.
Religion, may even have a role in the misunderstanding of reality. Humans are portrayed by the Catholic faith [the one I profess] as those creatures being made in God’s image. This is not the case with all creatures. Genesis also says that He even gave us the Earth to “subdue it”. So we can do what we want with Earth? Or is it that by making us in His image, God also gave us the intelligence to defend the Earth rather than colonise it in a way that becomes impossible for her to sustain us?
I believe the Church today have come to understand how the Genesis author was a product of a time when respect for the environment had not yet sprouted. Today the Church has no reason to urge the selfish use of the Earth’s resources. Yet when economic interest comes before environmental conscience, as with the sharks’ case, this ancient idea of humans as owners of the Earth seems to still hold.
Tomorrow’s society will not be lead only by scientists and environmentalists. Future societies will continue having artists and philosophers. Yet they too need to be able to have a background that sees humanity as a part, and not as the master of nature. This is why every person needs to have the opportunity to see the vastness of Creation, to feel that the Earth that seems so huge is just one “pale blue dot” among billions of galaxies as Sagan called it. The feeling must be extended however to the realisation that in this vast universe, the Earth is until now the only refuge for life and as Sir David Attenborough says “it’s future lies in our hands”.