Recently a question was posed to me: What advice would I give my great-grandchildren? I considered forming an answer because I now have five great-grandchildren. It is a valid question because the world we are leaving to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren is a perilous world.
Greedy businesses have caused us to ignore the damage we are doing to our climate. Life as we know it is imperiled and society as we know it is threatened. The weather is becoming more violent and extreme, and the changes are accelerating. We were warned over 40 years ago that this was a possibility, but the fossil fuel industry cared more for profits than for people, especially our descendants. What do I base my advice upon? One who studies how humans developed.
Paleoanthropologist Clive Finlayson postulated that the species of hominids who ranged the earth thousands of years ago were to two types. They were the innovators and the conservatives. (Finlayson, 2009, p. 14) His research has centered on Neandertals due to his work on the island of Gibraltar. Some of the most recently found fossils of this species were found in caves on this giant rock. His book speculates that several species of hominids roamed the earth and gradually spread out across it. He realized that what he had studied about a bird species that over the last half century has spread from Southeast Asia to Ireland could be applied to human kind. For the birds, It was not a deliberate journey but one of following the changes in the environment.
Species of hominids most likely followed the same pattern. Only one species of hominid dominated the rest and survived. Having considered the characteristic of the birds he charted, he realized they moved and adapted. The birds were innovators in that they adapted to the changing climate by moving to a more livable area. He points out that only the innovators of our genus survived. Those physical types who were best suited for the climate of the ice age or the savanna grasslands did not survive.
The advice I would give to my grandchildren and my great grandchildren is to be an innovator. We must all become flexible and inventive. We must accept change and adapt to that change. Our world is going to change in dramatic ways over the next 20 years. It has begun with heat waves in the Pacific Northwest, massive droughts in the Mountain West, and fierce cyclonic storms in the Atlantic basin. And that is just in our country. It is worldwide.
We have seriously damaged our world’s ecosystem and will pay dearly for that damage. Only the innovators will survive just like the homo sapiens adapted and survived.
A photo of Hoover Dam showing its very low water levels. Photo by Lindsay E. Durant on Unsplash
Finlayson, C. (2009). The humans who went extinct: Why Neanderthals died out and we survived. OUP Oxford.