Sunday, December 5, 2010

An Evolving Dog Day Afternoon

Indi half-dog-half-kangaroo (either half-kangaroo or half-jumping bean. I think the former isn't as big a genetic leap as the latter is) took me out for a stroll Sunday evening. It was cloudy and chilly. Probably in the mid 60's Fahrenheit (yes, that is "chilly" by a spoiled Southern Californian standard. If it ever gets cold enough here for the car doors to freeze shut, most of us would be unconscious and couldn't careless about using normal people's adjective in describing coldness).

I was bundled up in 3 layers and dreaming of steaming mugs of hot cocoa while furry Indi just went about her business with total indifference to the dropping temperature... Which, naturally, made me ponder about the 'common wisdom' that man is the most evolved species on the planet.

But, of course, man is not 'the most' evolved species on the planet. All the other species (hyperactive furry canines included) are just as evolved as we are! We just evolved differently to cope with our natural niche. And that's the same thing all the other living species do!

Drop an unarmed man into the middle of the wilderness anywhere with no tool whatsoever (knife and flint included), and most likely he won't survive anywhere nearly as well as all the other untooled local species can and do. Indi the kangadog, for one, is so well insulated by her fur that she'll be able to survive winter nights out without suffering hypothermia. Without my clothes, I probably won't be able to do that. And if the cold doesn't do me in, I'd probably starve because I'm not fast enough nor can I see well enough without my glasses to catch a rabbit or a panicky squirrel for dinner. 

Physically Indi the dog and Spooky the squirrel are much better adapted to the Southern Californian land environment than I am (and I can't live in water the way the sea bass and other fish can either). The one luck I and my fellow humans have, however, is that many many moons ago our human ancestor hit the genetic jackpot with brain development. Intelligence. It doesn't give us any physical advantage to other less intelligent species, but it along with the physical convenience of the opposable thumb allow us to improvise like no other earthlings could. We can't run as fast as the cheetahs can, but we thought up and built not only speedy cars but even rockets that can travel beyond our solar system. We can't see as well as the eagles do, but we thought up and created binoculars and even telescopes that can see galaxies forming so far away that it takes light 14 billion years to deliver their sight to us.

Having said that, having intelligence and using it are two different things. Why do I keep hearing people dissing the effort to reduce CO2 gas in the atmosphere and (hopefully) reversing the current global warming trend as if the natural- or unnatural- ness of its cause should make us behave differently? If you know that a moon-size meteor is taking a dead aim at planet Earth, would you not want the scientists to do everything possible to try to prevent the collision - regardless of how natural the event is? If you spot a naturally occurring wall of wild fire making a mad dash toward your house, would you not ask the firefighters to try to fight the blaze? Shall we sit prematurely defeated at home instead of organizing flood containing levees of sandbags when the river nearby overflows its banks?

Why should inaction be excused if man isn't the main cause of the current speedy warming trend (though the scientific consensus is that it is)? We are not trying to save the earth itself. The planet will survive the next ice ages as well as boiled ages with or without us. What the sensible people are trying to do is to do what is humanly possible to preserve the current earthly condition that supports our species' survival... regardless of whether its cause is more natural or man-made. Yes, the earth has seen many naturally heated and iced periods in the past. But why let it lapse into one of those humanly inhospitable conditions again if we can do anything at all that may prevent it???

The earth is going to be here whether Southern California turns into the bottom of a hot ocean or a frigid mile-thick glacier... You can either do what you can to prevent so drastic a climate change that will make it hard for your offspring to live or you can just sit on your hands while condemning others for causing you energy-inconveniences in their attempt to pass along a humanly viable earth to future generations. There is no escaping doom in the latter, whereas the former retains a possibility of survival. And if the driving force of this drastic climate change is more natural and our every efforts to stop and reverse it fails, at least the species will have gone down in fighting dignity rather than as a bunch of defeatists. If only all choices in life can be as clear cut!!!

PS: If you click on the link at 'climate change' to see the EPA's page on the phenomenon, be sure to read the footnote at the bottom of the page. It always bugs me how lay naysayers like to dismiss scientific views for the use of 'passive voice'. In the scientific world 'uncertainties' are measured on a very different scale as they are in lay conversations.


Anna said...

Hello Smorgy

Nice to hear that the weather is finally cooler in your part of the world.

I hope that you've completely recovered from that flu. It's good to read that you are getting out and about despite the cold weather. I hope that Indi is enjoying walking you.

Best regards and good music wishes from rainy Melbourne.


Smorg said...

Ciao Anna!
I've been loving the cooler weather very much indeed. Good for walking, among other things. The stomach flu is definitely on the go, I think, but it still tries to linger a bit... There is some benefit to that. I'm finally shedding some of those poundage I gained over the Thanksgiving holiday. :o)

Indi is pretty much my walking clock. No matter what I'm doing (napping or working or just goofing off) she shows up by my couch everyday at 4PM and stares me into taking her out (and when I get up to do that, she goes bouncing around the apartment jumping and munching on a squeaky toy in celebration). :o) The lass is a walkoholic!

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods and that you are catching lots of good music and books, too! Thanks a bunch for stopping by!

Smorgy :oD

Georg said...

Bonjour Smorgy,

Yes,you have hit the nail on its head. Future will tell if our species is so well adopted as we hope. Because in case we transform this planet too much we'll not be able to prosper there any longer.

And even if we manage to avoid atomic death or a too harsh climate change, we still have to cope with ten or 15 or 20 billion of people mulling around.

Won't be there to witness this one.


Smorg said...

Hallo Georgy,

Ah, the joy of not having to live forever, ay? ;o) Overpopulation is a problem I would be interested in seeing how it would be solved, but would at the same time probably be grateful to not have to actually witness the solution indeed (I doubt that it will be a peaceful one).

I really don't get why the religious right here in America is so keen on dismissing global warming/climate change as a 'political conspiracy/propaganda' regardless of what the scientific consensus says (they are forever hanging on to what the few detractors say, the same way they do with the 'creationism/intelligent design v evolution' case). I mean... in these information-overloaded days, it isn't exactly an understandable thing anymore to stick one's head in the sand and disregard all evidence that says things one doesn't like. :oP

Hope winter is treating you and yours well. Merry Christmas a bit early! :oD