Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Life of Mammals

Reyes, Ronald Angelo A.

The two documentaries, “The Social Climbers” and “Food for Though”, gave us insight on monkey and ape society, their social capacity and its relationship to physical characteristics such as brain size, their society’s similarity to ours and some theories on how humanity’s society came to be. The documentaries ultimately leads us to think about the alarming rapid expansion of humanity’s domain and its effect to Earth’s other inhabitants.

The documentaries were part of a series hosted by David Attenborough, an acclaimed English naturalist and media practitioner. He is known for his ten-part documentary, The Life of Mammals sharing us different levels of insight on life all over the world.

“The Social Climbers” showed us the life of different families of monkeys in South America and Africa. Among my favorites are the parts where monkeys are shown to wield tools to acquire or process food. Among the notable ones are the monkeys training for years of cracking nuts with stone tools and passing the skill to the following generations. The documentary also showed us the different cultures of these monkeys. To unobservant eyes, they might seem to stay in groups simply for safety but it is way more meaningful than that. To every group of monkeys, there is defined culture. There is courtship and rivalry. There is a defined hierarchy followed by the group. There is usually a leader, an alpha. There are also a tradition of hunting, and a concept of warfare and alliances. All these started from a very long time ago brought about by the abundance of food, existence of threat and the urge to survive. The traditions are continued to be passed along from generation to generation making a group’s society to survive. Failure to pass on these skills, traditions, and culture can lead to the group’s annihilation.

“Food for Thought” on the other hand, discussed theories about how humanity came to be, how human society evolved from what apes at present displays to what it is now. In the documentary, monkeys where shown using human tools. A monkey was shown paddling a boat, washing clothes with soap, and using a saw. These show the capacity of monkeys to learn. The documentary then showed us tracks of what could be our first upright ancestors walking on ash. There is a theory discussed in the documentary showing us that walking upright have been essential for our ancestors survival and advancement. It led to so many advantages in different aspects of our ancestors’ life. Ultimately it enabled our ancestors’ society to advance much faster than others’.

The documentary also discussed the rise and fall the Mayan civilization. The documentary suggests that the civilization’s rapid expansion led to a series of disasters like famine, hunger, epidemic, and everything leading to the Mayans leaving their cities. Presently, many nations in our era is facing the same plight and possibly every nation or the whole planet will experience the same problems if our population continues to grow uncontrollably. Even if expanding to other worlds would be sound solution, it still is quite a long shot to be a best solution. If possible, nations should start slowing down their explosive population growth and limit their excessive exploitation of natural resources and start conserving them. There are a lot of movements advocating these changes. We should advocate the survival not only of humanity but also of our mother Earth.

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