We’re always changing, and always have been. Surviving change is what characterises us. Had our species not been flexible and adaptable, we never would have survived. However, not all that glitters is gold. A single species lives an average of 4 or 5 million years and we Homo sapiens have been on this planet for about 70,000 years. That’s not long. We can’t yet say we’ve made it as a species. We can maybe say that in a couple million years. If we’re still here, that is.
We don’t trust change because it’s unknown to us. I’ve made a career out of exploring the unknown. Many stop beforehand because they’re prudent and wise, but we are all explorers of life’s choices. If we weren’t, we’d still be living in the trees.
Exploring change means leaving the path you know and moving on to an unknown one, like leaving the beach for the open sea. It’s a victory of hope over experience. And when it’s not despair, it’s optimism.
We’re capable of adapting to change without even realising we’re doing it, just as our eyes adapt to light. Most things we use today, things we consider to be essential, were a luxury just a few decades ago, but we don’t notice it anymore. After a while, we take change for granted, like it were owed to us.
What changes can we expect in the future? Many will be positive. I’m not only referring to changes in technology, medicine, quality of life and economy, I’m also talking about the environment and the sea.
Each one of us can contribute to positive change because we can all have an impact on the planet. No one of us individually creates the hole in the ozone layer, deforests the forests or strips elephants of their tusks, but each one of us can make a change. At the table. Because all of us eat.
Before my grandfather’s generation, we ate whatever there was. Now we have entire shopping centres where it takes us half an hour to find our way around and without the time to remember what’s on the shelves. The selection is enormous, an exhibition of abundance. And we shouldn’t feel indifferently about this. It’s time for us to change our food choices. We should ask ourselves what we can continue eating and what we should stop eating. Which living things we can keep killing and those we can’t. It’s incredible that we’re not already asking ourselves this question.
I’d like to focus on that change.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, all living beings need energy. Animals assume this energy from other living creatures, by eating them. Only plants can live with water and light. Everything else kills to survive. It’s the law of life. But each animal has a specific prey, it’s only us humans that prey on just about everything and kill randomly. This wasn’t a problem once, but now that we are able to choose what we eat, we must eat responsibly. We have to aim “low” in the food chain and eat animals that use little soil, little water, and little food. The food chain spans from lettuce right through to your next door neighbour. And, naturally, nobody eats their next door neighbour and we all eat lettuce. But where do we stop? At what point to do we stop killing?
Humans have not yet considered this problem in a serious and comprehensive way. Some people don’t eat certain animals because it’s against their religion, others because of their culture, and others because of local customs.
Everyone has their own system, but anthropocentrism (us above others) has always been our single mode of thought. The philosophy that animals are at our service. Our sensitivity towards other living beings has dwindled as a result of our habits. We can’t keep going like this, a change is necessary.
Today, science has shown us that some animals have almost exactly the same DNA as we do. This evolutionary closeness might be a reason for us to “stop here”. To this day, we have always believed that it was within our rights to eat almost any animal we desire because monotheistic religions have taught us that we have a soul, while animals do not.
This belief has accompanied us for thousands of years, but today it’s is no longer enough, because while it has been proven that animals don’t have souls, science has not proven that we humans do. And without our soul as an alibi, we can no longer kill whatever we want.
So, again, how will changing our awareness impact on our license to kill?
I rely on science and technology. Science is helping us with intelligent hydroponic agriculture which uses less land, less water and no fertiliser because every seedling is monitored through a chip. Something similar will happen in animal farming. By cloning a stem cell from a cow muscle you can eat a steak without killing the animal. This has already become a reality, only a hamburger still costs $200 and one day it will cost just $2. The change will be epochal and animals will thank us. There will be many changes in our seas. Our children will no longer practice non-selective fishing, they will focus on vegetarian fish farming, they’ll farm at sea and they won’t eat super predators like shark and swordfish.
We often forget that science and technology have lifted 2 billion people out of poverty over the last 40 years. World hunger has not been resolved by 2000 years of religion, it’s been resolved by research and the multiplication of loaves (harvests). But the environment hasn’t only changed for the worse. In his songs, Gershwin talked about London fog, and as a child, my feet would be dirtied with tar from the beach. Today, fog from pollution has almost disappeared and, consequently, so has tar. We’ve gone from burning wood to burning coal to burning oil to burning gas. These are all fossil fuels and, certainly, aren’t good for the environment, but by using gas instead of wood, we have undergone defossilization without evening realising it.
We often don’t notice positive changes because we’re pessimistic, in denial and have outdated views about the environment.
Enlightened environmentalism is about facing facts, not prejudice. And you must know the facts. The facts can be promising or alarming, but if we roll up our sleeves, we human beings can solve any problem, because it’s our nature to work together and make positive changes for the future…
And the future is important, not only because it’s where we’ll end up, but also because it is the greatest gift we can give our children.