It is a simple question posed by teacher to pupil, yet the words resonate with a force that transcend their simplicity. In his book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn explores human origins, human culture, and the consequences or our blind anthropocentricity. More relevant today than when I first read it in 2004, Ishmael’s perspective on the human condition sheds light on how we have arrived at this place and time.
I have been purposefully cryptic about the book’s content because I want… rather, I need you all to read it. While this blog is posted days beyond its inception, you should know that I began outlining my thoughts following the publication of some disturbing news that appeared in my twitter feed. As I sat down to formulate some thoughts focused on Identity, the following New York Times banner appeared on my screen: “2.9 billion birds have disappeared from the United States and Canada.”
The words sent chill down my spine, and I thought to myself… “With gorilla gone, will there be hope for man?” One day later young people around the world walked out of their classes in protest, and Greta Thunberg was preparing to give her impassioned speech to the UN Council on climate change.
The news of disappearing birds is not the metaphorical “canary in the coal mine,” it is a direct indictment of the environmental damage that is linked to human expansion, human population growth, and our addiction to fossil fuels. While governmental officials wait for the “smoking gun” to incite action, or wait for innovation to bring us back from the brink, the damage continues and those with power don’t care.
As a teacher I profess the power of collective action to my pupils, and sincerely hope that today’s children will be the solution. Yet, the biologist and latent researcher in me fears for the devastation that seems to be the prerequisite before the restoration of biodiversity can begin. Now I wonder… With bird gone, will there be hope for man?
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