I’m writing a novel that takes place 100 years in the future. To do that, I had to read as many books as I could find about what might happen to humans and the planet in a century. When you think about 100 years ago – 1916 – you can imagine all that changed. Two world wars – the Nazis, television, cars, Apple, the internet. Figuring out how things are going to change, evolve and destroy us has been a challenge. I read about six or seven books on human evolution. Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind was the first of these and it was a horrific wake-up call. In looking at how we’ve evolved as a species, I began to put it all together.
About 30,000-50,000 years ago, homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and came upon the Neanderthals. They too were hunters but nothing like us. For instance, there is evidence that homosapiens killed hibernating bears where Neanderthals did not. Meat was a staple for both creatures but no one went at it with as much vigor and opportunism than homosapiens. This is true in any book you read about our evolution and more importantly, where our species might be headed. We killed off most of the land mammals everywhere we went. Just wiped them clean out. The wooly mammoths we killed and ate. Giant birds – done, dead. We killed and ate them mostly because they didn’t see us coming. They had not developed a few of mankind and so they were all easy pickings. Just as humans are today – using whatever they want for their own pleasure and taste — they were back then, yes, even the beloved native Americans. That’s just what humans have always done. Nature pushes back on us, of course. We are stopped even when we can’t stop ourselves (we never stop ourselves, even now).
We domesticated dogs, probably, to help us hunt better. They ate our meat scraps and a lifelong friendship was formed. We domesticated poor horses and enslaved them for thousands of years. Cows, pigs, chickens – you name it, we have not “domesticated” them so much as enslaved them because that’s what people do. Christianity only served to give great justification for the mayhem inflicted on animals.
Once I came upon this unshakable truth about what humans really are, I could no longer eat any kind of meat or dairy – nothing that came from the suffering, drugging, imprisoning and torturing of animals. What we do to pigs to create the bacon that the truly monstrous internet celebrates daily is nothing short of an animal holocaust. We keep them confined to crates for their entirety of their lives in rooms so toxic farmers have to wear gas masks just to walk inside. They are used up and then killed for meat. Dairy cows are forced to have babies over and over throughout their lives, only to have those babies taken from them so we disgusting humans can drink their milk.
That’s just for starters. You can move on from there to animal abuse of domestic pets, not to mention slaughtering dolphins, or capturing orcas for entertainment. To see humans in this pure light as the monsters we really are was a troubling wakeup call. What do you do with that information? You sit there with it and suffer in silence because there is nothing you can do. We are the sixth extinction. We are the monsters. We are the worst invasive species the natural world has ever known.
I could be down with all of the geniuses that have been born, the great artists and such. But to me, the only true humans worth celebrating are those who are actively trying to undo the harm we’ve caused. Jane Goodall is one of those people.
There are roughly 7 billion and change of us grotesque monsters inhabiting the planet. We are growing at a rapid rate, using resources we can’t replace, polluting waters, turning our oceans into plastic aquariums, driving our stupid monster trucks and eating meat or something derived from animal at every meal. We have whole television shows devoted to cooking this way. All I can think when I watch them is – what have we done?
I wish vegans weren’t so annoying – I know, they are. And I wish vegan cheese tasted better. And I wish there were more food options that made it not hard to switch. It is so hard. But the thing is, I no longer get any pleasure out of eating something I know caused another creature great great pain. Look, if you have your own farm or you buy humanely raised meat — I have no problem with that. It’s your choice. But if we all stopped tolerating the factory farms – if we could extend our hearts a little bit to other mammals who love as we do, bond with their babies and nurse those babies as we do, feel pain and sadness and fear and grief – we could start to undo some of the damage we have caused. Maybe in 100 years we will have. I do not think we will, not knowing what I know.
I take only some relief knowing that humans are not long for this world. They can’t possibly be. I predict a maximum of 200 years before we’re all wiped out. And not a moment too soon.