4 Matching Annotations
  1. Jul 2022
    1. One of the sad ironies of our time is that we have become very good at studying nature just as it begins to sicken and die under our weight. “Weight” is no mere metaphor: of all land mammals and birds alive today, humans and their livestock make up 96 per cent of the biomass; wildlife has dwindled to four per cent. This has no precedent. Not so far back in history the proportions were the other way round. As recently as 1970, humans were only half and wildlife more than twice their present numbers. These closely linked figures are milestones along our rush towards a trashed and looted planet, stripped of diversity, wildness, and resilience; strewn with waste. Such is the measure of our success.

      As the Tel Aviv researchers who revealed the pattern of progressively overhunting the largest fauna to extinction, then turning to the next largest available fauna noted:

      "We believe that our model is relevant to human cultures everywhere. Moreover, for the first time, we argue that the driving force behind the constant improvement in human technology is the continual decline in the size of game. Ultimately, it may well be that 10,000 years ago in the Southern Levant, animals became too small or too rare to provide humans with sufficient food, and this could be related to the advent of agriculture. In addition, we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans -- who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created -- from the bow and arrow to the agricultural revolution. The environment, however, always paid a devastating price."

      https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sciencedaily.com%2Freleases%2F2021%2F12%2F211221102708.htm&group=world

      It seems humans have a built-in blindspot that prioritizes short term needs over long term survival. History shows us that we are continuously biased towards prioritizing the human environment over the natural one but future generations eventually pay the price for this myopia.

    1. Dr. Ben-Dor: "Our findings enable us to propose a fascinating hypothesis on the development of humankind: humans always preferred to hunt the largest animals available in their environment, until these became very rare or extinct, forcing the prehistoric hunters to seek the next in size. As a result, to obtain the same amount of food, every human species appearing in the Southern Levant was compelled to hunt smaller animals than its predecessor, and consequently had to develop more advanced and effective technologies. Thus, for example, while spears were sufficient for Homo erectus to kill elephants at close range, modern humans developed the bow and arrow to kill fast-running gazelles from a distance." Prof. Barkai concludes: "We believe that our model is relevant to human cultures everywhere. Moreover, for the first time, we argue that the driving force behind the constant improvement in human technology is the continual decline in the size of game. Ultimately, it may well be that 10,000 years ago in the Southern Levant, animals became too small or too rare to provide humans with sufficient food, and this could be related to the advent of agriculture. In addition, we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans -- who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created -- from the bow and arrow to the agricultural revolution. The environment, however, always paid a devastating price."

      This is a fascinating claim with far reaching consequences for modern humans dealing with the Anthropocene polycrisis.

      Technological development seems to have been related to our resource overshoot. As we extirpated the larger prey fauna which were slower moving and able to be successfully hunted with crude weapons, our ancestors were forced to hunt smaller and more agile species, requiring better hunting technologies.

      Agriculture could have been the only option left to our ancestors when there was insufficient species left to support society. This is the most salient sentence:

      "we confirmed the hypothesis that the extinction of large animals was caused by humans -- who time and time again destroyed their own livelihood through overhunting. We may therefore conclude that humans have always ravaged their environment but were usually clever enough to find solutions for the problems they had created"

      This is a disturbing finding as technology has allowed humanity to be the apex species of the planet and we are now depleting resources not on a local scale, but a global one. There is no planet B to move to once we have decimated the environment globally.

      Have we progressed ourselves into a corner? Are we able to culturally pivot and correct such an entrenched cultural behavior of resource mismanagement?

    1. We did not find strong evidence to suggest that climate, climatic fluctuations, rainfall, or vegetation over the last 1.5 million years, influenced the size of animals hunted and consumed by humans. Rather, mean body size declined linearly on a backdrop of multiple glacial-interglacial cycles. New human lineages subsisted on smaller prey than their predecessors and used more advanced tools to cope with hunting smaller prey. We suggest that hominins were likely the leading cause of Pleistocene

      The evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extirpating the largest prey fauna at the time, resulting in intergenerational decline in prey fauna body mass.

      This early finding has implications for modern human behavior. In fact, it explains our tendency to overshoot resources until we extirpate them is not a new behavior but one that dates back millions of years. The implications for our current polycrisis suggests we are dealing with an entrenched behavior that may be difficult to change and that technology has amplified our ability to mine natural resources, extirpating them at a faster rate. From this perspective, the Anthropocene can be seen as a logical result of an ever decreasing extirpation rate brought about by increasing efficacy of technological tools for resource extraction.

    1. We emerged from the apelike human phase thanks to fire and language. Together, those advantages made us apex predators: we could learn to hunt and forage from our elders and then gain more energy by cooking the food we gathered. After 200,000 years some of us still live that way, but it was what Lewis and Maslin call a “progress trap.” After modern humans left Africa, they effectively exterminated most of the larger mammals they encountered: the mammoths, giant sloths, sabre-tooth tigers, and countless others. In effect, they overshot their resources.

      Archeologists and anthropologists have evidence to suggest that modern humans were responsible for the extinction of numerous species due to superior predation skills combined with lack of ecological foresight, leading to resource overshoot. This lack of ecological foresight is not a modern phenomena, but goes back to our early ancestors.