The Earth doesn’t need saving, humans do.
A lot of people are talking about ‘saving the earth’. They proclaim their intention is to protect the earth and to save it from human activity.
But the Earth doesn’t need saving. It’s humanity’s health and survival that is at stake.
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. It has survived asteroid strikes, and much more, and will still be around long after we have gone. It will be destroyed about 7 or 8 billion years from now when the sun balloons into a red giant. In contrast, our human ancestors were around about six million years ago, with the modern form of humans having evolved only about 200,000 years ago. Civilisation as we know it is only about 6,000 years old and industrialisation started in the earnest only in the 1800s. We are all but a tiny speck in the history of the earth.
There is no doubt that human activity is harming the Earth’s natural systems, threatening entire ecosystems and the extinction of many species. But Nature is good at eliminating anything that threatens its equilibrium – i.e. humanity. We ourselves depend on those natural systems and species that we are destroying for our own survival.
It’s not all gloom though. Like the planet, life is very resilient.
We are now deep into the Sixth Mass Extinction. Of the previous five mass extinctions, the most serious was the Permian-Triassic extinction event 252 million years ago which wiped out 90-95 percent of all species. The most recent, triggered by an asteroid strike 65 million years ago, wiped out about 75 per cent of all species, including the dinosaurs.
But life itself continued.
Scientific studies have incontrovertibly established that human gluttony and pollution are causing the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. If current trends continue, half of all species will be extinct within this century. One species to which we are greatly attached – homo sapiens – us – also may not survive. An event that would probably make the rest of life on earth breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But our future is not necessarily all dark and dismal. In her 2014 book, The Sixth Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert calls us a “Weedy species” who “has unwittingly achieved the ability to directly affect its own fate and that of most of the other species on this planet.” Like cockroaches and rats we can live pretty much anywhere, breed, and more worryingly, shape and bend our environment to our own ends.
But, protecting life on Earth, including our own species, requires a radical transformation of society.
Cell biologist, Bruce Lipton, in his book Spontaneous Evolution, says “Crisis ignites evolution. The challenges and crises we face today are actually signs that spontaneous change is imminent. We are about to face our evolution.”
But how will the evolutionary advancement of humans come about? Lipton describes our path as being similar to that of cells in the metamorphosing butterfly larva. “When provided with a new awareness, the cellular population that comprises the deteriorating larva collaborates to restructure their society in order to experience the next highest level of their evolution.”
So the chances are that humans will survive, although potentially in smaller numbers, and possibly driven back to a more basic way of life. What might need saving, if indeed it is worth it, are parts of our current ‘civilisation’, a civilisation that is radically altering the Earth, creating mass extinction and undermining the basis for its own survival. The parts that might need ‘saving’ are the good bits such as the scientific advances, creative masterpieces and quality of life.
Even though Nature is nudging us toward this exciting possibility of a more evolved human race, it cannot happen without our participation. We are conscious co-creators in the evolution of life. We have free will. And we have choices.
Our success (and survival) is based on our choices, which are, in turn, totally dependent on our awareness.
Protecting life on Earth, including our own species, requires a radical transformation of society, a new way of relating to the Earth, its many species and each other. It needs a planet-wide civilisational shift which will allow our species to evolve.
Just a glance at the women’s magazines in the local supermarket shows that the shift has already begun. A new type of human is evolving, one who is more spiritual looks after their own health and the wellbeing of other species that we share this planet with. Will these new spiritual, minimalist, yoga-loving vegans be the ones who ultimately save humanity from themselves?