Andy Revkin of Dot Earth has just posted the text of a talk he has been giving recently. In it, he suggests that H. sapiens is in the throes of civilizational and planetary puberty, facing for the first time both the scope of its power and the profundity of that power’s consequences. He writes about the moment that he came to terms with this on a personal level, shooting at birds with a BB gun in Rhode Island as a kid:
I pulled the trigger. A ball of feathers fluttered wildly and fell to the snow, flinging flecks of blood and downy tufts in every direction on the whiteness before it lay still and died. Every detail of that little murder was welded indelibly in my brain. I have great respect for the hunters I know who hone their woodcraft carefully and shoot to kill — and eat. But after I shot that bird, I never shot at a living thing again.
There comes a time in almost everyone’s youth when those remarkable human traits, self-awareness and empathy, catch up with potency, when you pause and reflect, when you first look back at the muddy tracks you just left across a floor and conclude that you are the person who needs to mop things up. Most people go through this transition successfully and become responsible citizens. Most of us would not leave the scene of an accident.
Now it may be humanity’s turn to go through the same kind of transition…
Revkin is usually pretty good, and this piece, I think, is outstanding. Read the full text here.