Saturday, May 10, 2014

Reaction Paper: The Life of Mammals

Samia, Dorothy Ann C. | 2013-15089

Mr. Juned Sonido | STS X2

On Monkeys, Humans and the Environment

            The documentary The Life of Mammals by Sir David Attenborough is very educational and informative. The Social Climbers episode talks about monkeys and how they survive while the Food for Thought episode includes the life of apes and their close relation to the humans. The documentary is very interesting for Sir David himself is on the actual place and is interacting with the animals. He also explained very clearly how the animals adapt to their environment and fight for survival.

            The Social Climbers episode showed how the monkeys look for food and how smart they are to do certain things in order to get food. An example would be how the monkeys try to smash the clams on wood in order to get the meat inside. It is very interesting that monkeys are so patient for some clams cannot be easily smashed. Monkeys also have big brains enough to create social positions. The most important thing that I have learned from this episode is that the monkeys’ social ladder is very similar to humans. The monkeys’ ways of interacting in their social groups are also similar to that of humans. Monkeys have certain characteristics that show their social position. A monkey’s face color would show seniority while in humans, the hair color or face structure would show seniority thus signaling that this certain individual has more experience than the younger ones. Monkeys also use their social positions to gain advantage in getting food, mating and fighting enemies. Dominant monkeys would easily get food by scaring away others and stealing their food. They would also find mates by intimidating rivals. Humans also use their social status to gain advantage in the society. Rich people have better lives than the less fortunate. They can afford to buy everything they want. Indeed, social status plays a big role in the lives of monkeys and humans.

            The Food for Thought episode showed how apes behave like humans and how humans made innovations that can adapt to their changing lifestyle. Apes are the closest relatives of humans. Sir David also said that apes imitate whatever they see (Attenborough, 2002). An example in the documentary was when the apes used the hammer to hit the nail on the wood and the saw to cut the wood in a similar to humans (Attenborough, 2002). The apes also invented a tool for getting insects inside the bark of a tree. As an older ape uses this tool to get his food, younger ones watch him so that they could imitate him. Similarly, humans also watch what others do or learn from others experiences so as not to make the same mistake. The documentary also showed evidences of footprints of primates that walked upright. These primates may have some connection to the ancestry of humans. It was also shown that these primates may have originally walked on four legs but because they need to cross small bodies of water such as a river, they started walking upright and eventually evolved to being bipedal. The documentary also showed how humans invented tools, weapons and techniques for hunting animals for food. They also had rituals showing their belief in animal spirits and that these could give them strength. They also built storage houses for their crops. They also learned how to domesticate cattle to become another source of food. Of course, they would not forget their own houses for shelter. Because of these innovations, human population grew and because of this growth, humans explored and inhabited other places. They change their newly explored place and make it into a place suitable for living. But humans change the environment so much that they already exploit it. Because of this, Sir David suggests that “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it is time to control the population to allow the survival of the environment” (Attenborough, 2002). This message struck me the most for if humans follow this, it would really help our environment in coping up with our advanced lifestyles.
  For the episode The Social Climbers, the similarities of the social behaviors of monkeys and humans are very important to me because this really established the close relationship of monkeys and humans. I can say that the root cause for this similarity in behavior is that humans and monkeys almost have the same brain size. Because of this, I am now more interested in finding more information about the ancestors of humans that had a very close relationship to apes and monkeys.
     For the episode Food for Thought, the final statement of Sir David really struck me because we can now see how our actions caused many environmental changes. Because of the growing population, people migrated to different parts of the Earth and eventually consumed and destroyed all of its natural resources. Overpopulated cities also produce large amounts of waste and pollution that contribute to global warming. Because of this, people should be educated about family planning to control the population. Through this, there would be lesser wastes and pollution. Also, using our knowledge in science and technology, we can create new innovations that would help us reduce pollution. Educated people will now become more aware of the situation of the Earth and would help in taking care of it because the survival of Earth would mean the survival of all the species that lives on it including us humans.

Attenborough, D. (Writer) (2002). The social climbers [Television series episode]. In Salisbury, M. (Executive Producer), The Life of Mammals. BBC One.
Attenborough, D. (Writer) (2002). Food for thought [Television series episode]. In Salisbury, M. (Executive Producer), The Life of Mammals. BBC One.

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