Humans: We're Terrible, Always Have Been
Fossil records shows we've left waves of extinction in our wake: George Monbiot
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2014 1:05 PM CDT
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(Newser) – If you're looking to read about the transcendent majesty of humankind, you might want to skip George Monbiot's column in the Guardian. As he puts it, the piece will leave you with a "soul scraping sadness—without an obvious antidote." Essentially, we've made a mess of things on the planet since our arrival, he concludes after attending an Oxford conference assessing the human impact on the planet. Just look at the fossil record: "Almost everywhere we went, humankind erased a world of wonders, changing the way the biosphere functions." Modern humans, for instance, arrived in Europe and Australia between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago, developed a taste for meat and a knack for hunting at a distance, and, sure enough, mass extinctions followed.

The effects go well beyond the loss of a particular species. In Australia, for instance, "the sudden flush of vegetation that followed the loss of large herbivores caused stacks of leaf litter to build up, which became the rainforests' pyre: fires (natural or manmade) soon transformed these lush places into dry forest and scrub." And this isn't just the stuff of ancient history—just look at the fast-dwindling numbers of elephants in Africa and Asia. "Is this all we are?" asks Monbiot. "A diminutive monster that can leave no door closed, no hiding place intact, that is now doing to the great beasts of the sea what we did so long ago to the great beasts of the land?" Maybe, he suggests, we can finally put our "ingenuity" to work not for destruction but to "defy our evolutionary history." But he doesn't sound optimistic. Click for Monbiot's full column.

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Showing 3 of 108 comments
Avrahama
Apr 3, 2014 11:19 AM CDT
We've got to be the only creature on earth that gives a $%# about what becomes of our environment by our presence. How about the fact that we've learned from our mistakes. We mostly herd and crop now so we don't actively hunt. Not to say tribes in other parts of the world don't. But who feels sorry for what they eat anyways? Seriously. If we are the dominant species on the planet lets start acting like it. I'm really sick of all this boo-hooing about everything we touch. We're working on our environmental footprint, http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2013/06/04/top-10-greenest-cities/#.Uz2JsPldV8F , as well as the vast numbers of scientists out there working on improving our world, engineers, etc. I'm proud of THAT.
WillRogers
Mar 27, 2014 8:29 PM CDT
I doubt that man is the successful exterminator that the Guardian article seems to claim. Man has done away with species that need certain graze and or terrain or have low rates of reproduction. Some have disappeared as climate changed or disease stuck. He has gained little in his war against pests. IE rats mice,roaches, lice. bedbugs, mosquitoes, locusts etc. Even failed to rid the planet of those other humans he disagrees with( which I believe to be to my benefit}.
jgarbuz
Mar 26, 2014 6:55 PM CDT
Oh, baloney. More left-wing Guardian ragging on our own species! Man is bad; Jews are worse, blah blah blah. All the wild animals are just lovely. More balderdash.