In Honor of Earth Day.

As a freshman in college, I’m obligated to muddle through two semesters of biology. The first semester is more of an anatomy and physiology class. The second is focused on environmental science. I told you that so that I could tell you this:

Humans are part of the environment.

If all of the bugs and the trees and the fish and monkeys are part of the environment, then humans are too. But you wouldn’t think that the way environmental science is being taught in the schools these days. In the eyes of most professors, humans are unnatural. When we hear about genetics, it is emphasized how similar human DNA is to other primates’. But in other contexts, our very presence is an aberration. We’re somehow different and exempt from the laws of nature which include

  • Adaptation to our environments
  • Competition with other species for resources

When we talked about natural selection and adaptation early on in the semester, it was explained that some organisms in a species would die because they couldn’t adapt to a hostile or changing environment. Take, for instance, the bugs that died because they couldn’t resist the DDT that farmers were spraying on the crops. Some could survive because of genetic mutations or some other biological mechanism that allowed them to resist the poison in the DDT, but these were in the minority. They would breed and eventually the entire species would be immune to the effects of the DDT.

However, when humans adapt to their environment by, say, killing a bison to make a coat, it’s inhumane! It’s wrong! We should never hurt other organisms like that! The fact is that if humans hadn’t learned how to keep warm by making those coats, we might have died out long ago because our bodies are not naturally suited for cold environments. We did what we had to do to prolong our species. Our bodies are not our evolutionary strong suit. They don’t change very quickly. One quick poke in the wrong spot and we’re dead. Our minds are our evolutionary advantage, and that is how we adapt to our environments. We can’t grow a coat when the weather changes, but we can make a coat or build a building or turn up the thermostat.

The other point I wanted to address was our competition with other species for resources. It’s done all the time. The weeds in your flowerbed are competing with your roses for sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil. One will likely win, but no one laments the death of the weeds. However, if humans want to build a neighborhood in some land which is the natural habitat of an endangered frog, well that’s just cruel! You’d take that frog’s habitat away and drive another species to extinction just so you can build more houses for more humans? Well, yeah. We’ve got the ability. The frogs are free to leave, and they might when they see that their habitat is being changed.

The really intense environmentalists – the ones who believe that the life of that frog is more important than your life or mine – are the worrisome ones. They purport that humans are unnatural and, therefore, can’t live by the predator/prey laws of nature. However, humans are biologically really animals just like any other, so they are wrong. They, by saying that these frogs need protection, recognize that they are the weaker species and that humans are naturally dominant, or the predators. In other words, they recognize that in the natural order of things, another predator would be justified in hunting this frog to extinction, but that because humans are humans, it’s an outrage.

The true outrage is that we’re instilling a double-standard mindset in the school-age generation that humans are both almost identical to other species that we deem “animals” and that we are unnatural and exempt from the laws of nature. I by no means advocate that we stray away from the first teaching. It’s important to emphasize this fact. I believe that the science curriculum in our schools needs to stop teaching the second idea. It’s incorrect, and if left unchallenged, slows down the progression of the human race on this earth.

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