Monday, September 6, 2010

Ted talk on the oldest living things

H/t (not that they need it from me) to The Daily Dish:

One of these creatures has been alive for four hundred thousand years. It's incredible.

The most common measure of climate change is how the world is going to look in 2100. That's a useful signpost, but when you look at an 80,000-year-old tree, you can't help reflect on the narrowness of our horizons. The world's going to continue to turn, and the physics of greenhouse gases continue to operate, in 2101 and 2150 and 2200.

Should we think about how the world will look after we're gone? Should we worry about destroying unique patterns of life that have weathered nature's changes since before humanity came down from the trees?

We would be in a bad way if the Greeks and the Romans and the Caliphate hadn't had any concern for the next century or the next millennium. The cultural heritage, and the institutions of democracy and human liberty which grew out of them, would be gone. Billions of people around the globe build their lives around principles and precepts of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism -- the youngest of which is more than a thousand years old.

Our modern world-spanning civilization is the richest, the most scientifically advanced society ever to emerge on this earth. Most of the people in past eras could not begin to conceive of it. It's richness is a result, in no small part, of the labors of philosophers, scientists, and artists, proselytizers and engineers of the last 5,000 years. They knew they were working for a future that stretched much further than a few decades, and we are all the beneficiaries of that legacy.

Have we now as a people embraced the role of the spoiled child, to be given everything and value nothing, work for nothing? Are we so rich and our lives so easy that the concept of building for the future has lost all meaning for us?

1 comment:

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