Doomed Planet

Dumbing down debate

The ABC lowers standards, again: 

KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: Scientist, writer and explorer Tim Flannery has a new and ambitious book launched today called ‘Here on Earth’ that sets out to chart two histories: the twin stories of our planet and our species. The celebrated author of ‘The Future Eaters’ and ‘The Weather Makers’ draws on two somewhat conflicting views of the evolution of the planet, Darwin’s theory of natural selection and more recently James Lovelock’s Gaia theory of a self-regulated environment where living organisms and their surrounds have evolved together, including humankind. He argues that a deeper awareness of our evolutionary history – that is Tim Flannery – of our evolutionary history is the key to the survival of our civilisation. I spoke with Tim Flannery in Sydney today.

TIM FLANNERY: I don’t think we can ever dictate how we’re gonna evolve. You know, there’s – evolution’s due to outside forces; selection is a very important bit of it. One of the interesting things that’s happening with us of course is that sexual selection’s become very important.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Ah, I was gonna come to that. Go on.

TIM FLANNERY: No, well, as women have gained control of their own reproduction, which is only fairly recently in human history – you know, women now have the potential to, I guess, forge future generations of men who will reflect some sort of ideal in their own mind.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well, you say over evolutionary time this selection, related to women post-contraception, will change the nature of men.

TIM FLANNERY: Yes, absolutely.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So that that becomes a part of the process of evolution.

TIM FLANNERY: That is really fundamental. It’s a very big driver and it’ll be quite a fast one. I mean, it’s a very strong driver of evolutionary change. You know, up till now, men have had a very big say in this. You know, we’ve had a lot of social taboos – and, you know, whether it be stoning for adultery or, you know, the power men have over women to control their reproductive potential has been a big driver in evolutionary force, and in some ways the more aggressive, more assertive, more dominant man has been able to spread his genes. Women may have a very different view of the sort of man that they would like as the father of their children, and as that view becomes manifest in flesh in their children, through their selection of men, we will see a shift in what it means to be human, particularly to be human and a man.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And yet at the same time, globally we are becoming increasingly urbanised, massively urbanised, increasingly disconnected from nature, disconnected from the Gaia of James Lovelock. Now that must pose a threat in itself. For some, when they hear about putting a price on carbon to protect the planet, their thought is, “How is that gonna affect my hip pocket through electricity prices increasing?” Or they hear about threats to biodiversity and they think, “Well that doesn’t affect me directly, so, you know, I’ll just go about my business.”

TIM FLANNERY: See you’ve put your finger on a really profound issue there that’s been part of the human trajectory for at least 10,000 years, you know. As we’ve built ever-more sophisticated and capable societies, individuals have become less capable, in a way. And if you took me now and put me out on the African Savannah I’d probably be dead in a couple of days, whereas my ancestors could have survived there. And, yeah, we have lost many of our links, individual links with the environment. But it’s what we believe and do as a society that really counts and the rules that we set. And I think that we have to understand that bearing the costs, for example, of regulating carbon will create a better outcome for all of us. Where would we be today if we hadn’t regulated DDT, we hadn’t regulated CFCs. As we understand more about the environment and the consequences of what we do, we see that we just have to move towards a more sustainable basis. Yes, there’s a cost, but it has to be done.

KERRY O’BRIEN: If we survive this century, you say, future prospects will be enhanced. Now I guess none of us are going to be around to test that proposition. But why – what are you basing that on? That if we survive this century then things are gonna be a lot brighter from then on? We’ll do it better? Or what?

TIM FLANNERY: Yeah, look, this is century of crisis really, because this is the century population is gonna peak. This is the century of the great social transition where we’re building a unified human capacity. We’ve been nations before, but we’re now in transition to something a bit more than that. And it’s also of course the century of the great climate crisis. And I think once we pass those, we’ll be in a much, much better position to forge a sustainable global human entity on this planet and then, you know, the universe beckons. We’ll be constituted as a part of an intelligent and very capable Earth and the challenges there we can choose as we want.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Tim Flannery, thanks for talking with us.

TIM FLANNERY: Thankyou very much, Kerry. 

Source: The 7.30 Report

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