Human Impact on the World: How Can I Help?

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As an assignment for a class, the professor asked us what we felt our role was in the universe and what human life provides to the universe. This essay was my attempt to answer those questions. I would love to hear feedback!

Submitted: December 27, 2009

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Submitted: December 27, 2009

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The interdependence of every living organism must be protected through global responsibility. With increased awareness of how human action affects the earth, we can begin to mend our ways and learn to live more sustainably. The impact that humans have on the environment is often detrimental to all of life’s health and needs to be addressed. We all have a role in this universe and should not take our lives for granted. Although humans have endangered the environment and all living species, there are still many humans that do not want to continue the destructive patterns of the past and are willing to live creative and sustainable lifestyles. Through self-education and effective communication, individuals can increase their awareness to become responsible world citizens.
Our society is witnessing the devastation of a planet’s life unraveling due to our very own impact. Sure disorder and entropy may be inevitable, but humans have most certainly sped up the process. Our species has evolved into increasingly complex organisms that require an increased amount of energy and resources to sustain (Spier 14). Humans consume a fourth of all photosynthesis products (Maps of Time 140).The organization of states greatly impacted the escalating destruction to our planet. The gravitation of people to centralized locations has destroyed the surrounding ecosystems as a sacrifice for human living. As humans began to restructure the natural landscape, they also altered the natural ecological cycles (Maps of Time 242). Our choices in agriculture alone have left the land in critical condition (Maps of Time 460; Ehrenburg 20).
Agriculture was the beginning of mankind’s ability to control the environment in a way that was most suitable to their species with disregard towards other species. Not only was there now inequality among species, but within the human species as well. As resources became a tool for power control, disregard for the health of individuals and the planet was increased. People in Chechnya are being persecuted because the leaders in Russia are more concerned with using the Chechens’ natural resources than their quality of life (Rodrigue & Lawless 9; Crying Sun). The misuse of deadly chemicals by Union Carbide and Dow has lead to many deaths and continues to degrade the health among the people in Bhopal, India (Students for Bhopal). By taking advantage of those who are less fortunate or unaware, the global community is not helped in any way and is manipulative and cruel. It is important to stand up against those who prey on the citizens who do not know how to fight back.
People’s quest for power and control over nature and each other is regressive of the idea for improved quality of life. As some people are trying to make lives better for all species, some people are trying to find ways to own all species. Monsanto is an example of a corporation trying to take over the world. By altering seeds at the genetic level, Monsanto has found a way to own all seeds and offspring of their genetically altered plants; Monsanto has patented nature and has nearly no regulations to hold it accountable (The Future of Food). Genetic engineering is altering the genetic makeup of plants that naturally crossbreed (The Future of Food). Genetic changes are not the only changes our bodies are experiencing. The uses of pesticides, which have been derived from nerve gas, have also altered our bodies (Future of Food, Flow: For Love of Water). Pesticides have polluted the environment along with bringing increased health risks to all species and the planet itself. Pesticides are not a sustainable practice and an alternative needs to be addressed. Agriculture has brought on many hardships for the planet. People need to confront the truth of what the earth is experiencing. It is not a fairytale, nor is it a hoax. Fortunately, there are communities and individuals who are living exemplar lifestyles. Vietnamese farmers use a closed circuit system that encourages no waste and multiple uses by everything on their farms (Jaman 6). It is commendable that people, like farmers from Vietnam, can respect the earth as though it is not their property. We are not that different than plants and should stop treating the planet as though we are the superior species.
With continued research, scientists will be able to prove the importance of all organisms and the interdependence of all species. De Moraes and her colleagues have provided evidence that is extremely compelling, whether the interconnection of the biosphere is understood or not. They found that plants share similar neurotransmitters to animals and are also able to emit chemicals that protect them against prey (Milius 16). Despite their illusive stationary position, plants are much more active than have previously been admitted. Scientists are proving how plants and animals share many qualities that only increase their relationship to one another. Plants are not only sources of food and healing for humans and animals, but fellow citizens of this planet. How is a flower different from a bee? Neither can exist without the other. Although humans seem to be the dominant species, this does not make us superior to other beings. By not assuming that we have literally evolved from each animal, we are able to better understand the uniqueness of each species and how they learn and function (Patton 74). As a dominant species, we must apply our abilities to alleviate the pressure on the environment and preserve the existing biodiversity (Wilson 32).
Agriculture and plant domestication decreased the food quality significantly and the quality of life for all species (Diamond 64; Maps of Time; The Future of Food). As people learn more about the interdependence of the earth’s biosphere, perhaps people will start to think of the earth’s ecosystem as a whole, instead of the selfish desires of our species. As people learn more about the interdependence of the earth’s biosphere, perhaps people will start to think of the earth’s ecosystem as a whole, instead of the selfish desires of our species. It seems to me that hierarchies in power enhanced the idea that inequality was an acceptable way of life. However, not all humanity succumbs to the destructive frame of mind. Life presents simplicity and order among the chaos and complexity of evolution and destruction. David Christian suggests that order is created in the midst of developing entropy and disorder (Maps of Time 509). Lightman suggests that the passing of time presents increasing order, which is the law of nature (Lightman 51). This can present conflicting ideas which may make it difficult to distinguish what the human role is as we have a trend toward increasing complexity and disorder. We need to learn to live in the moment and not be distorted by altering perspectives. As an international society, I think we are beginning to realize how equal and interdependent we all really are. 
There are people around the world that are suffering at the expense of irresponsible corporations who are less concerned with human welfare than they are with continuing to degrade life quality for all organisms. Unfortunately, these people have altered perceptions of reality: a mirage of separate beings, which somehow justifies their actions. Lao Tzu offers insightful advice for everyone: “See the world as your self. Have faith in the way things are. Love the world as your self; then you can care for all things” (Tao Te Ching, 13). Although we cannot force insight on the people who are violating human rights, we can hold them accountable for their actions. My role in this universe is to reduce suffering: the suffering that causes people to want to hurt themselves or others. Learning to direct my voice in an effective manner will help me to learn when and how to speak to others in a meaningful manner. 
In the whole scheme of things, I feel that my underlying goal involves being globally responsible. I have learned the importance of global sustainability and reducing energy consumption can significantly improve my negative contribution to the natural environment. However, as Edward O. Wilson points out, these changes that need to be taken in the “physical environment” are just scraping the surface. We need to direct our attention to the “living environment” and focus on protecting the existing biodiversity through conscious development of increasing the quality of life of the poor countries (Wilson 32). Biodiversity is threatened by corporations, leaders, and individuals who deny the interconnection of the biosphere. It is hard for me to not take their actions personally because I know that they are affecting me and my world and everything I love. I need to not take things personally, because people’s actions result from their own experiences of suffering. I believe there is an underlying common sense of the way the universe works. I am still discovering how other individuals work, but I feel that I am gaining substantial insight into understanding myself despite the many more things I need to learn. Along this path toward understanding myself, I have come across endless amounts of information from personal experiences to formal education. This may be mainly due to the rapid accumulation of knowledge that has occurred since the 15th and 16th centuries.
According to Rudi Volti, the rapid advancement in science was due to the ability to mass produce books and print media (Volti 212). While this expansion of knowledge has been helpful in recording thoughts from around the world, it has lead to massive amounts of information that are not without error and are not well integrated. The printing that lead to this “knowledge explosion” did encourage the reduction in error, but did not encourage the integration of new knowledge (Einstein 75). Printing allowed a limited number of people to have the knowledge accumulated by millions of people (Maps of Time 276). Collective knowledge has lead to much advancement, but is not without error.
It seems that the printing of language became a gift and a curse to the human species. On one hand, it helped to increase the collective learning of the human population and their ability to focus on various tasks without having to memorize certain information. However, it also degraded creativity and the global perspective. Interestingly, McLuhan blames printing for the Newtonian view of the universe (Volti 216). McLuhan stated that printing led to an individualistic perspective of the world (Volti 217). This is an interesting concept because of the impact that classical physics has had on our world's perspective. Unfortunately, a large portion of the world now believes that the world operates mechanically, which seems to reaffirm peoples’ doubts about their impact on the world.
Without the global perspective, people lack the responsibility of their actions and their interconnection with all other species on the planet. In physics, many scientists are aiming to find a formula of unification that explains life (Ellis 743; The Elegant Universe). Since Newton, many scientists have tackled the problem of viewing the universe as a classical, mechanical system and have delved into the deeper realms of quantum mechanics. Big history may help to assist this goal through the unification of history. The problem with the current theory of unification is that it attempts to explain the world solely through the lenses of the physics perception (Ellis 743). The unification theory needs to take into account all aspects of life and science in order to have a simple equation that explains the complexity of life. Big history may help to assist this goal through the unification of history by integrating different academic principles (“Big History” 225). While “big historians” integrate different aspects of the past, they can help to unify human understanding.
There are many people and resources that offer solutions to the problems we are facing. The internet has become a very useful tool in communicating personal opinions with others. The World Social Forum presents a place for people all around the world to offer solutions to problems that are plaguing society and the condition of the earth. The World Social Forum is especially dedicated to finding and offering alternatives to neo-liberal policies. I have also been able to share my voice with others through a blog on the internet, called What’s Your Echo?, to offer some inexpert thoughts on making global progress. Although this is a very small step, it has helped me to find my voice and learn to use my voice more effectively for myself and for those who cannot. Being a leader does not mean controlling others. Being a leader means being a teacher, while also being open to learning; being strong and persistent, yet flexible and caring (Pekar & Roberson 98; Tao Te Ching 46). In order to overcome the global problems, we each need to be a leader in our personal lives and in our communities.
Educating and enlightening ourselves is a key ingredient to knowing how to help the global problems. But no matter how much education a person receives, they cannot really learn unless they are willing to incorporate their awareness into their responsibility as a world citizen. This prevents many people from wanting to learn because they are more concerned with personal pleasure. The human impact that devastates the global community and biosphere prevents many responsible citizens from being able to live unaffected by our actions. Khassan Baiev is one exemplar human doing what he can to help others through medical help, no matter their background (Baiev 283). Manu Chao has also helped humanity through spreading awareness of what he has seen all over the world with his multilingual contribution to many societies (La Radiolina). We live in a time where human rights activism is needed from everyone, no matter the age. Spreading information may not force responsibility on others, but is a simple step that may help to make change. It may open the eyes of individuals to continue spreading awareness or to do something different with their lives that will reduce their own impact on the world. We need to stand together and make corporations and individuals accountable for their actions. Learning about the corruption and devastation in the world can help to educate people to learn what they can do to help others.
What can I conclude from this reflective experience? Division of or from the whole, results in suffering. The role of humans within the universe extends beyond the physical, material world and into the realm of caring for one another. Just as an individual is part of a family, it is also part of an extended global family; not only of humans, but of all animals and living organisms that share this planet. Our children and their children will reap the benefits of those citizens who stood against the odds to pursue a globally responsible life by challenging those who threaten life itself. Although science may not be the answer to our global problems, it can help humans to understand the world and how to change the impact from human activity.
 
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