For her role in Fences, Viola Davis won the Oscar for best supporting actress. In her acceptance speech, she spoke of graveyards full of people who had stories yet to be told. Those stories—“the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost”, said Viola, needed to be exhumed. My mother’s story is one of those stories that needs to be told because her story is that of so many other women who have had to adapt in order to survive. And adaptation is the keyword here.
Recently, tourists on a ship cruising Lago Argentino in the Patagonia were awed when they saw a puma adrift on an ice floe. After giving the puma the best photoshoot he’ll ever have, local authorities were informed. “No problem”, they said, “pumas are great swimmers.” It’s doubtful, however, that the drifting puma shared their tranquillity. And our total lack of respect for the Earth, this planet we call home, is provoking more and more situations like that of this puma living out of context.
Eighteen years ago, I began this blog after reading the Scientific Warning of 1992, an appeal to mankind written by some 1,700 leading scientists including Nobel laureates in the sciences. The warning begins like this:
“Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.”
And that was 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the situation has only gotten worse. Mankind is actively pursuing his own self-destruction as we have been warned for years that we are reaching the tipping point, that is, the point of no return, and continue to do nothing about it. And so here we are, standing on the border of total disaster.
Remember the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes” where astronauts crash on what they believed to be a foreign planet controlled by apes. The astronauts are imprisoned and treated as inferior beings. One astronaut, George Taylor, manages to escape with Nova, a female captive. On horseback, they follow the shoreline until something shocks Taylor so much he gets off his horse. There in front of him is a broken Statue of Liberty. Only her head and arm holding up the torch remain. Taylor then realizes that he and his crew had not crashed on an alien planet but on their own planet, Earth. The Earth’s apocalyptic dive had been cause by the planet’s own inhabitants. The film ends with Taylor on his knees screaming “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
Before the theories of Charles Darwin were known, it was actually Herbert Spenser who promoted the theory of an evolution based on the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Darwin, instead, was more interested in the concept of adaptation.
Evolution and adaptation are not the same thing. Evolution is a process of growth whereas adaptation is a change needed for survival. Evolution comes with time whereas adaptation has a feeling of urgency– sometimes you must be able to quickly adapt in order to survive.
Adaptation can be passive or active. Conformity is an example of passive adaptation and, as seen in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, it is a form of adaptation often chosen by the masses.
Active adaptation has different levels of intensity depending upon the situation.
Providing trees to create shade for livestock is a form of active adaptation. Colombian farmers have discovered that shade not only protects the animals from suffering the heat, it can also, for example, make cows produce larger quantities of milk as well as make it more nutritional. Source HERE.
Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick took active adaptation even further. Salgado was in Rwanda documenting genocide when a close friend, along with his wife and children, was murdered. The atrocities he saw traumatized him so much that when his parents offered him the family farm in Brazil, he and his wife immediately accepted the offer. But once there, they found a land with a devasted ecosystem. What the land needed was trees.
The couple got others involved in their replanting program. They started with a donation of 100,000 seedlings and hired two-dozen workers to help with the planting. Many of the seedlings died but they kept on planting and seeking donations. It took years but eventually they were able to heal the land by restoring its ecosystem.
To be continued…
More examples of Active Adaptation: This Tower Pulls Drinking Water Out of Thin Air…Ethiopia collecting much needed water from the air + Have you ever heard of Hans Brinker, the little Dutch boy who put his finger in the dam? The story may not be true but the dam is. Without it, Holland would be flooded + What’s the Deal with Bamboo Scaffolding?… a 1918 earthquake in China was the catalyst for constructing buildings with bamboo
+ A 3°C world has no safe place, The extremes of floods and fires are not going away, but adaptation can lessen their impact (unfortunately, the article requires signing up but there’s no need to—the title says it all but try this FB link + Niche construction + Photographer and His Wife Plant 2 Million Trees in 20 Years To Restore A Destroyed Forest And Even The Animals Have Returned + Instituto Terra, foundation created by Sebastiao Salgado and Lélia Deluiz Wanick + Sebastião Salgado Has Seen the Forest, Now He’s Seeing the Trees