I sometimes reflect on the events of the world around us over a mug of tea /ti:/ and so I’ve challenged myself to write on any subject that ends in /ti:/.
Today’s topic is Rapacity
According to the Cambridge dictionary, the definition of rapacity is:
the quality of having or showing a strong wish to take things for yourself, usually using unfair methods or force:
the rapacity of big corporations
Our rapacity is destroying species at a rate not seen in 65 million years.
- She talked angrily about the rapacity with which we have ransacked the earth’s resources.
For generations we’ve believed that tigers, snakes, lions and crocodiles are the world’s most dangerous animals and it’s only now, in modern times, that we are beginning to understand that the most dangerous predator on this planet is us, humankind. Although not so ‘kind’, as it turns out. Since time immemorial humankind has, in one era or other, ‘legitimized’ the exploitation and mistreatment not only of other species, but of humans, for entertainment, persecution of religious beliefs, sport, competitions and vanity.
Maybe we should consider renaming our species to humancruel?
As a species, we’ve become greedy, too greedy. We’re overworking the Earth and other species for our own financial benefit and comfort. Whether it’s the mining and burning of fossil fuels, the burning of rainforests and the cutting down of trees to create greater land areas for agricultural exploitation or urban development, or the breeding and culling of animals only for their fur, we’ve become insatiable.
Millions of years ago, there was a world balance. Early humans could eat only the food that they were physically capable of hunting or gathering themselves. Their bodies were exercised to develop the muscles necessary for the primordial need for survival, and the ingestion of nutrients was in strict accordance with their ability to acquire food. The process assisted their neurological and cognitive development; it honed their intelligence and reflexes and led them to understand that the tribe had a better chance of survival through organized, egalitarian, teamwork. Division of labour according to gender came into existence as early humans began to eat meat. The men of a tribe would go out to hunt; this involved walking, running or climbing over rough terrain for long hours, or days to hunt the animal and carry its carcass back to the village, where it would have been shared among the whole tribe. Sometimes the hunters would come back empty-handed so, while they were gone, the women and children of the tribe would also walk large distances to fetch water and gather fruits, nuts, berries and other edible plants to eat in order to survive if there was no meat to be had. Early humans didn’t need gyms and obesity didn’t exist. Nowadays we drive to the gym in order to exercise.
Indigenous tribes worldwide have an ancestral reverence for the land that provides their plants; the rivers and lakes that provide clean water and fish, and the animals that they hunt and slaughter to eat. They take due care of their natural habitat and they use absolutely every part of the animals they kill. Their flesh for food; their fur for clothes and the building of shelters; their bones for tools, and their teeth and other smaller parts for decoration and distinguishing social rank within the tribe. This can still be seen in the few remaining, and ever decreasing, tribes of North American Indians, albeit on Reservations, Aborigines (Australia), Maori (New Zealand), the Inuit (Alaska, Canada and Greenland) and the Saami, the only last recognized Indigenous people of the European Union. The latter are, sadly, now on the verge of extinction.
Within these tribes, provision and consumption are in fine-tuned harmony and balance, in stark contrast to the modern-day concept of ‘supply and demand’ imposed by the market-driven consumer society within developed countries.
This ancestral reverence to the Earth and nature, in gratitude for the harvests they provide, also exists in relatively undiscovered, and thus ‘untouched’ tribes in remote parts of the world. For us, in developed countries, these people and their lives are the stuff of documentaries, and we only learn of the massive destruction of their habitat in mainstream news when their homes and very survival are in danger:
Can you imagine people, more powerful than us, coming from another place to Murcia (or our hometown, wherever that is) and tearing up Sierra Espuña for their own personal gain? How would we feel? Imagine people bulldozing the ‘huerta’, and us not being able to do a thing about it. Think about that. Our livelihoods, our homes, our cultural identity and heritage smashed under the inexorable advance of heavy machinery in the name of ‘progress’.
Meanwhile, somewhere else on the planet, a new strain of Covid has been detected on mink farms in Denmark. Mink, small mammals that are bred and slaughtered only for their precious fur; bred to satisfy our demand for luxury in many societies which, in the twenty-first century, no longer have any real need to wear fur coats for warmth. The mink-farm workers passed Covid onto the mink, the virus genetically mutated within the organisms of the mink, and the mink passed the genetically mutated strain of Covid back to the mink-farm workers.
Approximately seventeen million mink have been culled and their carcasses have been bulldozed into specially-dug holes, in an attempt to stop the spread of the new strain.
All of that is pretty horrifying, but it gets worse. Although Covid appears to be equally as rapacious as us, it’s our own stupidity that endangers us further. Of two holes into which they bulldozed the dead mink (potentially a lot of which would have been infected with the new strain of Covid), one was close to a bathing lake and the other was close to a natural water source that supplies drinking water to the nearby population. In other burial sites some of the dead bodies have come to the surface because of gas emissions. Now the carcasses are being dug up again, with no clear idea of how to safely dispose of them:
On a more positive note, during the period of lockdown, almost worldwide, nature quickly began to recover from our rapacious intervention. For the first time in decades, we were able to see the sky clearly and breathe clean air in the inner cities. Wildlife quickly adapted to the ‘New Normal’ and animals began to reclaim their lost habitats:
So, it seems to me that a miniscule organism has come to hold a mirror up to ‘humankind’; to remind us of our vulnerability and to make us reflect on the impact of our rapacity, and to remind us of the sovereignty of the natural world.
I wonder if we’ll learn anything from this and whether we’ll finally understand that, unless we have a ticket to Mars, there really is no planet B.
- Recommended watching: Film – Captain Fantastic
- Recommended reading: Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood