Humankind: The Masterpiece of Evolution
Arvin Wilson S. Alba, 2011-18060
It was wondrous to see humankind’s evolutionary history so skillfully weaved into one overarching narrative by David Attenborough. This is, after all, the story of Earth’s most dramatic transformation.
Attenborough first stresses the existence in our closest taxonomic relatives of decidedly very human-like social characteristics. Monkeys play, fight, cooperate, survive and exhibit loyalty to their immediate kin and clans. Monkey society is, after all, not that different from early human society, where species of above average intelligence learn to live with the limitations set by their environment.
Another observation is the complexity of the ecosystems these monkeys are situated in. Millions of years of continuous adaptation have resulted into these incredibly delicate biological systems. Here, monkeys of different species cooperate to warn against possible predators. Here, monkeys have settled into various biological niches. Here, monkeys have established a very complex society with much of the hallmarks of human society, such as territory and social structure. Disrupting even the smallest aspect of this delicate ecological balance would probably lead to ecological disaster.
Thousands of years ago, humankind evolved from apes after several dramatic changes in the Earth’s climatic and geological characteristics. They evolved with the ability to stand upright, opposable thumbs and an enlarged brain, all of which led to the ability to alter their ecological surroundings to suit their needs. This unique ability of humankind has led to the most dramatic transformation of the planet we live in. We dominated every ecosystem we settled in, and reached further into the world than any other species before us. We are the masterpiece borne from nature’s millions of years of constant evolution and adaptation.
Attenborough provides us with a new perspective in dealing with Earth’s recent history. Humans deal with their environment much in the same way monkeys did, constantly looking for ways to take advantage of the world. Unfortunately, we are much more successful than they are, and this means that nature can’t use its system of check and balances to fight against our excesses. And, as the documentary points out, once the world has reached the saturation point, we may be facing the most dramatic and destructive ecological disaster the world has ever seen.
Remember the Mayans. The world has its limits, and if we do not adapt as effectively as monkeys do, the consequences may be too horrendous to describe.