Monday, November 09, 2009

The Vanishing of a Species

I read a book called The Vanishing of a Species? A Look at Modern Man's Predicament by a Geologist, written by Peter Gretener on the weekend.

The book was published posthumously and had been written mostly in the 1970s. It's largely a compilation of opinions and views on what impact man is having on the world and what it means for us.

The book is divided into three parts. Yesterday, where we were... Today, where we are..
Tomorrow - where we might go..

He quoted from George Gaylord Simpson, a paleontologist whose research contributed heavily to our understanding of evolution, "Man was certainly not the goal of evolution, which evidently had no goal".

He noted that one of the major challenges is population growth. He believed that the world's population was doubling every 30 years, although at 7 billion people today, it didn't quite double in the last 30 years (but almost).

He then went on to talk about the crowding problem: "One point on which there seems to be general agreement is that crowding enhances latent aggression or invokes aggression. This appears to be true for animals as well as man. Scarcity of room, resources or other vital ingredients is likely to lead to a tooth-and-claw ethics."

The book talks a lot about scarcity and he calls himself a realistic pessimist and challenges unreasonable optimists. His view is the resources in the world are limited and that it's not likely technology will change this and it's likely the standard of living will reduce for all dramatically.

"Much of the confusion that exists can be traced back to what one can label "the battle of the optimists versus the pessimists." The optimists are more pleasant to listen to, while the pessimists are usually right. This, of course, in itself represents a biased statement. The optimists are those who believe the present status can be perpetuated, that growth can continue, and that technology –a little improved perhaps–can solve anything. The pessimists are those who hold that our present way of life is doomed and drastic changes, voluntary or impsed, are inevitable."

He devoted a whole chapter to the most devastating invention which was not the nuclear bomb, rather the television. "an instrument that destroys our most valuable assets of creativity and originality."

The clear message in the book is to strike a balance between doomsday pessimism and irresponsible optimism.

The book contains much fact intermixed with commentary on many areas of life from working mothers to leisure time, to consumer vs producers, to ego etc.

An interesting read.


At 12:44 PM, Blogger As u like it ;) said...

An interesting read... Must probably be, especially when both sides of the coin are well handled and highlighted.
The thinking quotient of an optimist doesn't always correspond to the technological advancements that happen. Advancements fail to advance enough to meet the expectations. This lag ends up proving the pessimistic theories right.


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