Perspectives on Environmental Change: A Basis for Action
Daedalus Journal Special Issue Religion and Ecology: Can the Climate Change?
Written by Michael B. McElroy
We live at a unique point in the history of planet Earth. After almost four billion years of evolution, a single species, Homo sapiens sapiens, has evolved with the capacity to think, to contemplate not only its place in the universe but also potentially to control its own destiny and that of other species as well. What sets our species apart is our brains. We have the facility to absorb, process, and organize prodigious amounts of information. With language, written and spoken, we can pass information from person to person, extending knowledge and experience from generation to generation across the ages. With art and literature we can stimulate the imaginations of our fellow humans. With science we can explore the complex processes that developed in the first few seconds of the universe, in the aftermath of the big bang. We can hope to understand the events that led to the production of the elemental subatomic building blocks of matter, the synthesis of the elements, and the eventual accretion of matter in orderly macroscopic structures we identify as planets, stars, and galaxies. We can track the life cycle of a star from birth, to death, to rebirth. We can enumerate the factors that set our planet apart from other bodies of our solar system. We can reconstruct the history of the earth and speculate as to the events that led to the early appearance of life and the forces that shaped its subsequent evolution. We can hope to unravel the principles that govern life itself. And soon we may have the capacity to manipulate our genes, perhaps to eliminate disease or at least postpone its onset.
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