We are the Best & Worst of Nature
Contrary to what some people think, I don’t believe humans are a bad species. In fact, I have as much admiration for the human species as I have for Nature. Humans make me experience life with the same depth and richness that Nature does. Equally, my relationship with our kind is as complex, challenging, and frustrating, as my relationship with Nature. Truth is, we are Nature and Nature is messy. Evolution is messy. Life is messy. But for the last several thousands of years we have done everything in our power trying to prove ourselves that we were above it, better than it, and definitely separated from it. We might have scientifically accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution, but deep down, we can’t fathom that we are nothing more than a glorified Great Ape, a mammal made of flesh and blood, driven by biological needs and conflicted by the most powerful organ on the planet, our brain.
So we sanitize the idea of nature in the same way we sanitize our grand vision of what we want to be: a righteous and rational benevolent. We create a narrative of our relationship with the world that is devoid of complexity and wonder why we drown with guilt and anxiety the minute we go off-script. For some time now, blaming us for all the problems in the world has become de facto. We see the Earth as this poor little and fragile entity that needs to be saved while we raise our fists in the air, point the finger at our past, and write on big boards that the human species is awful and a cancer for the planet. Quite the irony I know! By the way, the idea of saving the planet today is no different than Noah saving the animals with his Ark. It is still the belief that we sit at the top, like gods, and Nature is under our dominion.
This blaming game unfortunately is not a constructive and long-term solution. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Far from being inspiring, it surely doesn’t incentivize unity and inclusivity when every parent, in every corner of the world, independently of its economic status, is doing what it can to put food on the table and protects its family. We might disagree on what it means or takes to put food on the table or protect the ones we love, but the vast majority of us is trying to do the right thing. From a psychological perspective, if you have children, or work with children, you know that telling them every day how bad they are will simply destroy their self-esteem and hinder any chance of growth. Yet, that is exactly what we do amongst ourselves. We get high on blame and drunk with guilt. It is no wonder why many have had enough and protest even the littlest and simplest of facts, going to extremes and leaving behind their civility.
As the era of space exploration begins, many are arguing against expanding our reach into the Universe. Some don’t see the need to go somewhere else when they are problems right here to be fixed. That fear is nothing new and as old as the time when we started to form tribes and families. The group member or sibling that left the community or nest has always been blamed for leaving the others behind. Others claim that we will disrupt the Universe in the same way we messed up the Earth. That we will break the harmony that reigns when humans are taking out of the equation. If this is what you believe, you have certainly not spent much time in Nature and took a good look at it. I mean looking deeply at all the dynamics and forces that are at play. Some would even go as far as being against mining barren moons or asteroids because they say it will disrupt the natural order. Just to be clear, mining in space will be the best thing that can happen for the Earth. Period.
If we had waited for all the problems to be solved before venturing to new places; if we had never pushed our reach beyond the desert, over the mountain, and across the ocean, we would still be in Africa, piled up in the same place where we first stood up and started walking. If Nature worked that way, we would not even be here today. Evolution on Earth would have stopped after the creation of the first cell. Well, I am not even sure there would be evolution or a Universe!
Humans are not a bad species. In fact, we are the best of Nature. And the worst. What we are, are great amplifiers. We take its greatness to new levels while engineering its savagery. We are Nature in all its glorious beauty and ugly disregard for consequences. And the part in us that we avoid is also what we refuse to accept in nature – the unfairness, the lack of control, and a force that is bigger than us. In other words, we censor the nature within ourselves.
Even in the worst of times, I will never stop believing in humans, because I will never stop believing in Nature. The fact that we are where we are today is a testament to our resiliency. This is what we do best. This is what we are experts at. The reason why we will soon be 8 billion on the planet and about to venture into space is not that we are a bad species. It is because we rise when we fall. We push and risk. We break and innovate. We correct and fix. We learn and reevaluate. In other words, we figure out how to adapt, survive and move forward. And that is exactly how Nature works. We are the best and worst of Nature.