There are two separate processes in nature. One is an evolutionary process in which animals evolve into better animals more adapted to the environment in which they live. Darwin’s idea was of the origin of species by means of natural selection, which was not only the title of his greatest work but also his own summary of how he saw things were happening. His idea is sometimes called “the survival of the fittest” but that name fails to emphasise the way in which the fittest become the fittest by a natural selection of those with the features that are most adaptive.
By itself evolution would logically end in there being only one species – homo sapiens – and no other animals or plants; everything in the environment would be subsumed to and destroyed by the adaptive fit animal – humanity. That would give us a world where we all ate soylent green, or each other because there would be no other species upon which we could feed.
But nature and evolution has another process, and that is a co-operative process upon which one species depends upon another for its survival. In fact with humanity we depend upon many species, from the bacteria in our intestines to the food that we eat which the bacteria help us to digest, there are many plants and animals where the interrelationships are complex. In the case of humanity these interrelationships are probably beyond our present understanding. We can make a good fist of trying to understand but as with all science there is usually a part where our understanding is flawed. One thing is sure; there is an inter dependency between vastly differing species, upon which mutual survival relies.
Ultimately that is why biodiversity is important and humanity, being the most powerful and intelligent organism on this plant and the organism that can change the environment in which all life lives (well, it has changed the environment and can with each coming year finds means to change it further and more drastically) we must not change that which we do not understand, because we might well commit irreversible changes that set us to the path where our food is soylent green.
Humans have committed these changes in many places; perhaps the loss of the dodo might not have had an impact on the environment beyond the impact of the loss of the dodo, but in truth we will never know. John Donne mourned the loss of one man as a loss to all humanity; we are not to send for whom the bell tolls because we know the answer. The place where I most keenly felt that humans had almost irreparably changed their environment was Easter Island which I wrote about in http://robertkyriakides.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/easter-island-a-lesson-for-humanity/ .
Many will disagree citing purely local examples or their misunderstanding of the processes, but I still hold that climate change remains the largest threat to biodiversity and to humanity, largely because the processes of climate change that is caused by humanity are too fast for species to adapt; species are simply not fit enough to adapt as quickly as the climate is changing, with the possible exception of humanity. But if I am right that leaves our planet with just one species, and we all know the consequences of that.
Filed under: climate change, global warming Tagged: | biodiversity, co-operative process in life., dependency, east island, evolution, inter relationships, John Donne, natural selection, origin of species, soylent green, survival of the fittest