Sunday, May 11, 2014

Reaction Paper: Life of Mammals

Mateo, Alyssa De Fiesta 
BA Sociology 

    It is consistently taught that monkeys are physiologically the closest to human beings. We 
are believed to share a common ancestor; furthermore, it is claimed that over 98% of our DNA is 
similar with that of the chimpanzees, with which we share the suborder Anthropoidea.(1)
What is not as often said, however, is that our similarities with monkeys and other species of apes do not end simply with homologous structures or taxonomical orders. Monkeys, in fact, exhibit a social structure similar with a basic human society—one with social mores, established hierarchies, and entrenched customs. 

 This similarity was highlighted in the documentary segment, The Social Climbers. Basic 
survival, for different species of primates, involves working within social groups—for feeding, 
grooming, and protection, to name a few. It was shown in the documentary, for example, that 
some species of monkeys form alliances which serve as an effective way by which they can 
avoid common predators. The existence of hierarchies among ape species was also exhibited 
most apparently in mating, in which alpha males have a wider selection of mating partners. 
These intricacies in social relations play an integral role—the ability of one primate to fit in its 
social group can mark survival and death. 

These complex social behaviors exhibited by primates are made possible by their large 
brain size. It is also this this advanced capacity for thought which enabled human beings to 
dominate their environment—the next segment, Food for Thought, centered on this idea. We 
human beings are now able to control the number and behavior of animals through 
domestication. We are able to alter our environment to better suit our growing needs. We are 
able to multiply our population, our food supply, and many other resources; however, some of 
these resources are either finite, or cannot be renewed quickly enough to match our consumption. 
Currently, our use of natural resources has gone beyond sustainable yield: As much as 76% of 
the Earth’s original forestry have been degraded or destroyed; almost 70% of marine fish stocks 
are overfished, exceeding the set ecological safe limits; and, there is a reported 80% species 
decline because of the continuous habitat destruction.(2)

These are only a few statistics highlighting the degree by which our natural resources have been exhausted. 
 The two episodes frame man as both masters of the environment and a part of it. Through 
this juxtaposition, we trace ourselves back to when we first travelled on two feet, hunted for food 
using brute force alone, and generally had a more direct dependence on the naturally occurring 
resources in our surroundings. The brief discussion on the Mayan Civilization reminds us that 
technology is not necessarily the end all and be all—no matter how seemingly advanced one’s 
society is, it does not serve as a guarantee of its endurance. It leads one to better grasp the idea of the significance of sustainable development, and the need for genuine stewardship. 

 [1] Española, Carmela. “Human Evolution: Biological and Cultural.” Powerpoint presentation, Biology 1 lecture.
 [2] Stat House, Environment, n.d., (accessed May 8, 2014); available from

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