In order to fully appreciate where the future will take us, we must first understand where we’ve come from and what progress has brought us to where we are now. I would like to further address the progression of humans from being equal to our fellow organisms to the point at which we saw ourselves as more precious than all other life on earth. Harari’s first section of the book, called Homo Sapiens Conquers the World, discusses the time in history when humans became the first species to change the earth and what aspect of the humanity sets us apart, what “Human Spark,” as Harari calls it, makes us significant?
In regards to other animals, humans have long since become the gods of this world. Most people are disturbed by this thought because they believe the idea of a “god” is reserved for beings that are supernatural. Harari, however, believes that it is because we as humans have not been particularly merciful gods. It is easy to get the impression that the earth is teeming with wildlife because we watch the Discovery Channel or National Geographic channel, but it more accurate to believe that our world is mainly populated by us and domesticated animals that serve our needs. According to WWF Global, wildlife populations have been cut in half since 1970, despite the growing ecological awareness. There are more domesticated birds and beasts than their wild counterparts.
Scientists had divided the history of the planet, from creation to present, into periods, eras, and epochs. The official epoch we currently live in is the Holocene, though it is rightfully speculated that we should refer the last 70,000 years as the epoch of humanity, the Anthropocene. During these past several thousand years, humans have become the “single most important agent of change in the global ecology,” according to geographers Lewis and Maslin, authors of ‘Defining the Anthropocene.’ Never in the history of life on earth has a single species processed the power to alter the ecology of the biosphere single-handedly. Homo Sapiens stands right alongside devastating natural forces such as severe climate change, volcanic eruption, and cosmic interference when it comes to changing the world. Such a comparison makes it understandable why we humans have ascended to the level of gods. According to Harari, our impact on the planet already revivals that of ice ages and tectonic plate movements.
However, while natural disasters and events drastically change the ecology of the places they affect, their influence varies from event to event. Humanity, however, has driven the planet to, for the first time, a single ecological unit. Humans have caused organisms on every continent to interact with each other (invasive species), despite geographical barriers.
We have come from an archaic hunter-gatherer nature of being animalistic and equal to other animals with genetic predispositions and preferences, to beings who have become enlightened to the world and have transcended to a superior status, thanks to the rise of modern science and industry, the start of it all being the Agricultural Revolution. From there, Homo Sapiens has established itself as the dominant species on the planet. But what makes us so special? Why is it seemingly ethical to exploit the lives of other organisms for our own needs? In my second installment, I will be discussing human nature and its power and what mythical, spiritual, or scientific aspect of humanity separates us so much from all other forms of life.