I just watched a video called The Science of Survival. The discussion features Elizabeth Kolbert, agricultural scientist John Williams and a host whose name I couldn't find. The discussion took place in Australia back in November, 2014. At the 21:37 mark, I heard the amazing exchange below.
John Williams — The profound effect [of humanity] on the planet is there for all to see. The human capacity to do that is in our very genes, and our human condition. But my hope and belief is that in that same human condition, is the capacity to be aware of what we've done—we don't have to necessarily be ashamed of it. It's part of what we are. But we also have the ability to be aware of it. But, importantly, we know scientifically how to mitigate it. We know how to live differently, and change the way we live. That we're the first species I'm aware of that not only is able to adapt—many species can do that, they can be aware and can adapt—but we can also understand what is happening, and the drivers that are changing the planetary function, are drivers that we can actually work with to make a better world, and a [better] planet, [and allow us to] operate in a safe place.
Now, the question is, if the human condition actually does [what] I've said, we'll break all the evolutionary Darwinian principles because we'll be responding and mitigating the driver of the extinction. It's in our hands. It's in your hands, and it's in my hands.
Host — Which I find very inspiring because it can be overwhelming when we get hit in the face with some of these [extinction rate] statistics, and these [extinction] stories. [turns to Kolbert] So from some of your experiences traveling to some of the most amazing places on the planet, what were some of the strategies you saw that actually inspired you, that there is potentially some science to survival beyond extinction?
Elizabeth Kolbert — Well, I think the point that John makes is really, you know, the 64 trillion dollar question, it's really the question of our time. Whether the same kind of genius, really, that brought us into this mess [laughs], and increasingly allows us to understand that we're in a pretty dire situation, or certainly at least the other creatures with which we share the planet are in a dire situation, ah, whether consciousness of that brings with it change of the sort that would alleviate it.
And I, you know, do not know the answer to that at all. When I went out to report this book I met a lot of people, obviously, and unfortunately only [gave] talks to people, [because] the animals don't really talk much. They don't have a voice in this.
There it is. Perfect.
All of the "Flatland" work I've done is an attempt to answer the 64 trillion dollar question. The answers I found do not bode well for other species on this planet, and Homo sapiens itself.