An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Ape That Denied Its Nature

Humankind may have displayed godly feats, but knowledge of our evolutionary origins dispels the notion that we are angelic beings bearing no relation to the ‘less advanced’ animal kingdom. Unfortunately, the modern human-animal relationship continues to operate largely under the latter premise. (TOP ILLUSTRATION IS BY ALAN KENNEDY, BOTTOM RIGHT IS NASA IMAGE OF BUZZ ALDRIN)


Many people put an unconscious distinction between the world as experienced by our daily lives and society’s activities, and the landscapes that we perceive as the ‘natural world’ or domain of the animals. At the basis of this dichotomy, there is ‘Nature’ and then there is humanity, with a clear divide being drawn due to humankind’s alleged special traits that have largely been demonstrated to be of trivial novelty by modern animal cognition research. With the natural environment being outside of our immediate concerns and instead acting as the backdrop to our species’ progress, countless short term concerns take precedence over the imperative of fostering a healthy biosphere. Nonhuman animals are often placed in the distant categories of pests to drive out of our properties, food to consume on our plates, or curiosities to gawk at in the local zoo. When it comes to our nonhuman kin and the environment, humankind certainly acts in a peculiar and often contradictory fashion. We launch exhaustive searches for extraterrestrial intelligence in the far reaches of our galaxy while ignoring the complex minds of the nonhuman species with whom we share our planet (de Waal 2016). Stretches of forest just like those that our hominid ancestors inhabited are cleared for lumber or farming, despite their vital role in providing the very oxygen that we breath. Yet we decorate our cities with green spaces, paint animals on the walls of our newborn children’s rooms, and share a considerable amount of resources with the small carnivores that we welcome into our homes as pets. In a beautiful testament to humankind’s moral reach, ecotourism agencies characterizing wildlife as natural heritage worthy of living space and protection are beginning to outpace industries capitalizing on the death and commoditization of such species. Human compassion is gaining in its inclusion of our planet’s nonhuman life with recognition of both their intrinsic value and our reliance on the ecosystem services they provide, but there is still plenty to consider about the past, present, and future of our coexistence.
Thought-provoking painting by Banksy titled “Cave Painting,” depicting a street worker power washing various Paleolithic-style artworks


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