What's in a Fossil? The Playbook for Our Future as a Species
The awareness that we can choose our future is new to us as a species.
When I say the word fossil most people think "dusty old museum and fossil." But fossils are incredibly important because they tell the story of this planet in a way that no other object does.
No matter how good the breakthroughs are in modern science, there’s still a story to be told by the bodies of extinct plants and animals that lived for the last three-and-a-half billion years on this planet. It’s the history book of our planet and it frames for us the knowledge of how our planet works.
Now we live on a planet with seven billion people, up from 1.7 billion people three generations ago, four generations ago. And we are facing a century - the twenty-first century - that’s incredibly interesting and challenging: more people, more need for resources, incredibly rapidly changing technology. What fossils give us is the playbook of this planet that’s happened before. And it frames the opportunities we have for choosing our future.
We are at a point in time now where we actually have the opportunity to choose our future. The awareness that we can choose our future is new to us as a species.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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