We stand at the threshold of a terrific challenge, but also a unique opportunity, and a fantastic adventure—never before has a single human generation had the potential to make such a difference. Arguably one serious aspect of the global issues is the loss of ecological diversity—the other living things with which we share Earth. This affects human well-being by interfering with crucial ecosystem services such as crop pollination and water purification and by destroying humanity’s beautiful, fascinating, and culturally important living companions. An important point is that we focus exclusively on species, ignoring the extirpation of populations—the units relevant to ecological functioning and the delivery of ecosystem functioning.
The road ahead will be bumpy and full of potholes. Be hopeful that we actually get wiser. However, we must prepare for a disruptive, dangerous future. In order to navigate wisely, we must remain anchored and true to the best of our collected lore and wisdom. We must not let ourselves forget the complex critical thinking, moral reasoning, aesthetic appreciation, and emotional gifts that make us human and our lives worth living. As we gain successes in improving technologies, we must not lose sight of our keenest skills, creativity, of our friendship, kinship, empathy, love, and our individuality. Now, more than ever, we need to cultivate a solid grounding in the humanities to bring out and hold on to the better angels of our nature. To secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity calls for recognizing the special contributions that the humanities make to our collective culture. This is necessary for giving our grandchildren and their grandchildren a better future.
Meta analyses of biodiversity-ecosystem function studies suggests that the impact of biodiversity losses on ecosystem functions is comparable in scale with that of other global changes (such as pollution and nutrient deposition). However, most efforts to quantify this relationship have focused largely on effects of reduced producer diversity, which may typically have much lower functional impacts than does consumer loss.
Time to reexamine the relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world. There has been a long-standing narrative of humanity and nature being separate, but human activity is intrinsically linked to nature, and is part of it. From the land we live on to the resources we use to the trash we throw away, everything we do is tied into and impacts our surroundings.
Perhaps most importantly, we have self-awareness of the impact of our activities. We are aware of the finiteness of Earth’s natural resources and we have the capacity to create innovative solutions.. Having this self-awareness along with our creative problem-solving will be critical to be conscious of the effects of our behavior into the future.
The decisions we collectively make, or fail to make, in the next few years will affect the course of life on Earth. It’s not too late to stop the mass extinction if we rethink our priorities, face our responsibilities, organize, and act.
The story of human evolution features a unique ability to adapt in the face of changing environments, and this will be no different for human-shaped environment of today and the future. With our own growing awareness of how our actions impact the natural world, the question is how best we can shape our actions so that the consequences of our activities are purposeful and positive.
Altering our surroundings is fundamental to human survival. In this light, how may we come to alter the world that we’ve created in a conscious and productive way? Community and global collaboration, along with innovation, will be the keys to creating a new path for the future of our species and our environment. By looking at it from a human origins viewpoint, the narrative of our collective humanity and the qualities that unite us as a species with a common origin can give us a sense of communal purpose in developing solutions for the problems of today and tomorrow.
Contemplating these questions will help us begin to determine our common future. The themes of self-determination, community, and action will all be parts of the human-driven innovation for the future of the planet. As we look to the future, we will see not only the planet change, but we may even see changes in ourselves as a species. An invitation to contemplate: what will it mean to be human in the future of a human dominated planet.