The Fruits of Civilization (1) Foreword

Foreword

Man is a part of, not apart from, Nature. ~ Scottish ecologist Fraser Darling

The wondrous fecundity of life is encapsulated in the term biodiversity. Absent humans, Nature balances biotic populations, maintaining a rough equilibrium.

Even after many millennia of observation, we still understand little of Nature’s intricacies. What we do know is that lessening biodiversity is a profound disruption to the ecosystem in which it occurs.

Biodiversity can be crucial for ecosystem stability despite appearing functionally insignificant beforehand. ~ Canadian biologist A.S. MacDougall et al

Biodiversity is sometimes quantified purely by the number of species. Simple species counting is too simplistic. ~ American entomologist Heather Grab et al

Ecosystems are never isolated. Instead, Nature is an integrated whole. However distinctive in its varied appearances, Earth is indivisible in its energetic gyre.

Life does more than adapt to the Earth. It changes the Earth to its own purposes. ~ English naturalist James Lovelock

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The human animal is a leaf in the tree of primates that has had thousands of leaves. Dozens of hominids preceded the various species that spread across the globe and become humankind.

There is no singular trait that makes humans unique, nor any combination that makes them superior in any meaningful sense except destructive power. Physically, humans are among the weakest animals for their size. When it comes to savvy, people are only comparable to other animals.

Rats are cunning, excellent navigators, and fierce. Octopi are superior problem-solvers, as are corvids, which are mischievously clever, with stunning memory and wit. Dolphins are wondrous creatures: more intelligent, sociable, playful, and altruistic.

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From microbes on up, innumerable species create constructions or otherwise alter their habitat. Eusocial insects build elaborate colonial homes that are meticulously maintained. Birds create nests and other constructions for mating and breeding.

Beyond burrowing, few mammals augment their habitat. Humans aside, beavers are the most ambitious mammal builder.

The most beneficent builders by far are plants, which erect ecosystems by their very presence. But then, plants are exceptional in most every way. Plants are the most intelligent life form: capable of mathematical computations far beyond any animal. And plants are socially adept beyond our imagination. They know their own bodies and that of other species so intimately that we have no idea how it is possible.

Plants show respect for other life, which is something that cannot be generally said of humans. Flowering plants take extraordinary care of their pollinators. For instance, sunflowers provide the bees that visit them with anti-parasite fortification.

Animal builders are often keystone species: contributors to the lives of others in their habitats. Men are a stark contrast. Almost all of our technology is a detriment to other life, especially at the scale seen since the onset of industrialization.

The fruits of civilization resulted from technology, the development of which was ever within the confines of economics and constrained by the lack of concerted cooperation and the constant conflict that defines mankind. Men do cooperate, but cautiously compared to women, who generally possess superior social skills, most notably that of nurturing. Cooperation comes easier to women than it does men. But women do not rule the world, and so civilization’s fruits are those husbanded by men.

The predominant economics throughout history have not been of abiding cooperation. Instead, exploitation and competition typify the endeavors of men.