Monday, December 5, 2016
The Sixth Extinction
So I did picture myself with a book in my lap, hers! She and the scientists and naturalists she interviewed and went out into the field with agree that humans are trouble for the earth, basically starting with the industrial age but also because of our ability to use signs, symbols, language. "As soon as humans started using signs and symbols to represent the natural world, they pushed beyond the limits of that world." She quotes Michael Benton, a paleontologist,* as saying, "In many ways human language is like the genetic code. Information is stored and transmitted, with modifications, down the generations. Communication holds societies together and allows humans to escape evolution." That is, evolution, like our democracy, has some natural checks and balances. We've thrown them out of whack.
And it appears we've thrown our democracy out of whack, too. I couldn't help but make the political comparison when I got to this paragraph in The Sixth Extinction:
"The one feature these disparate events [the previous extinctions] have in common is change, and, to be more specific, rate of change. When the world changes faster than species can adapt, many fall out. This is the case whether the agent drops from the sky in a fiery streak or drives to work in a Honda. To argue that the current extinction event could be averted if people just cared more and were willing to make sacrifices is not wrong, exactly; still, it misses the point. It doesn't matter whether people care or don't care. What matters is that people change the world."
Elizabeth Kolbert on the Colbert Report talking about her book, and that she was Stephen Colbert's sister. But why, then, did she spell her last name with a "K"? Evidently, I had remembered seeing her, as Wikipedia reminds me, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, way back in 2014. The Elizabeth Colbert I was remembering as Stephen's sister with the one from Clemson, who ran for office in South Carolina, way back in 2013, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. My brain is losing some cells and twisting the other ones together.** Sigh....
What matters now is that people change the world.
*like Ross, from Friends
**like the double helix
***like a giant orange rat