Saturday, June 26, 2010

What is It to be Human?

Like many others before me, I have tried to understand what defines us as humans. What is it that makes us different from other animals? What is it that has placed us at the apex of all life on this planet?

I wonder if it could be that, unlike any other species, we are continually striving to make the life of our children a little better than our own. We seek to enhance the quality of life that they will enjoy. We seek to eliminate from the world they inherit, the things we found uncomfortable about the world we inherited from our parents.

Understanding that this may be one of the defining characteristics of our human nature though, throws into stark relief the behaviour that our generation has pursued. It is likely that no other generation will ever live as comfortably as the Baby Boomer generation. As a generation we have enjoyed a level of comfort unprecedented in human history. The problem is that in doing so we have consumed in excess of the resources that were ours to borrow. We are indeed, as suggested by Tim Flannery, the future eaters. We hand to our children a planet significantly degraded, which is stressed and is showing the first signs of a systemic collapse of the systems that support our life and consume our waste.

How has this generation so defied our human nature as to actually hand to the next generation something that is less comfortable than the life we enjoyed?

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