My wife and I recently went on vacation to New Zealand. It is quiet interesting to learn about New Zealand’s history and how things changed multiple times when humans arrived.
New Zealand was untouched land – there were no mammals present on the islands besides some bats. Large forests inhabited by birds were common all over the land. The largest ever-living eagle called NZ home and fed of some great non-flying birds called ‘Moa’.
About 700-1000 years ago the first humans arrived on NZ from Polynesia. Civilized but yet primitive they started settling from north to south. One great source of food they found were the Moa. These birds were large (6 foot high and larger), didn’t have real predators on land and with that weren’t easily scared. Perfect to hunt and eat. The eggs, large also, were great and easily accessible also, plus the shells worked as drinking containers after consumption.
With that the Moa were doomed to be killed. And they got killed and eaten – until there were no more Moa and they went extinct.
It struck me that we actually divide the timeline of New Zealand’s development and history into ‘before’ and ‘after Moa’.
During the abundance of food due to Moa-availability the tribes used to settle on river mouths in open settlements. Once there were no Moa anymore the tribes started to move to more ‘defendable’ grounds and started building fortified settlements as they started fighting each other for resources.
Many years later the Europeans arrived in New Zealand. There is a whole slew of information about how they mistreated the indigenous people (the ones that ate all the Moa) but the most interesting and really visible actions the Westerners contributed to New Zealand’s development is the increased deforestation. When the Westerners arrived the forest cover was already reduced from 86% to 56% – they then took it down to 31%. There are different reasons for cutting down the trees (wood, farmland, using the trees for other purposes – see ‘Kauri’) but it is amazing how visible this change in the land is on the ‘little’ islands. I bet hundreds of different species of birds went extinct due to that deforestation.
Early on I learned (5th grade or so) we are cutting down forests like crazy all over the place. I knew we are competing for resources and I knew we are killing people and animals for them. But I never really had this appear as clearly as on New Zealand.
Humans are in their current state hurting the land, air, water, the animals and themselves on a scale that they are not capable of understanding – nor are they able to repair the damage they are causing.
We humans are really bad at being able to grasp humongous things. We can imagine how long one meter (or yard) is. 10 meters. 100 meters. But what about imagining how long 5 billion meters are. How long does it take to build a table? How about a house? How about a city of the scale of Mumbai?
The larger the scale, the harder for us to understand what is involved and what it takes. I believe humans as a whole are simply not capable of understanding what the reaction to our way of living and acting is. We can’t really relate to the impact the world sees once there is no oil left. No drinking water. Earth warming up 5 degrees Celsius or more.
For most of my life I thought that it isn’t wise to bring children in this world. Years ago I read about somebody who sued their parents for bringing him into this world. He was saying that the world is a terrible place and that his parents knew he was doomed by being born – so they should have rather aborted him. I don’t recall the details but the story stuck with me.
Why would we bring children into this world – to live in an environment that is killing itself and a civilization that is doomed to die? Where your chance of survival is based on pure luck of in which part of the world and during which time you are born, with which color of skin, to which parents with which religious and worldly beliefs. Not everybody is born a son to white, hippie-ish, middle-class, loving and caring parents in Western Europe in the 1980s.
Things are going bad around the globe. Finite fossil fuels. Forests are vanishing. Fish will die out. You know the story. But nobody really ever had a good answer for me on how to fix this. What can I *personally* do – every day – to make things better? Separate your trash. Recycle. Eat ‘humanely raised meat’. Free-range eggs. Use less plastic products. Save fuel. Support Greenpeace.
All great things but none of them will ever stop deforestation or fix the fact that a large amount of people on this planet are staving. How about stopping global warming?
There is nothing I can do *right now* to stop the world from going to shit. It is actually quiet liberating to know this. I am not advocating to stop making the healthy and wise choices or stop doing the things that can have a positive impact. But we have to realize that all this ‘small stuff’ is not going to make a difference. Oil is finite! Oceans are being fished empty! Global warming is happening and we have no way to stop it! We are growing as a species into proportions that we can not support in a sustainable way!
We are capable of changing things. But it takes time. I takes multiple generations to learn, adapt and work hard on fixing our ways of thinking and acting. That is where I see that children are actually the solution. Bringing children into this world with good starting conditions could be called ‘our duty’ to allow mankind to survive. Teaching them how to think differently about ‘everything’ and how to change us humans as a species over time is necessary so that the future generations are able to make this planet a better place and they are able to leave it in better shape than we have left it for them in.
It is our duty and contribution to teach our children what they need to know about the past and give them the tools to develop new ways of thinking and acting to break down these huge problems we are facing. This way we can chip away at them and solve them one at a time so that a new equilibrium can be created that allows us to live and prosper and allow the planet to do the same. So that we are not just another civilization that is going to break under its own weight. Sorry kids… a lot of work to do. I hope we can help – and hope we can do before it is too late.