by Danielle Graham: Recently, research has been published which reports on an evolutionary response to global warming…
A mosquito that lives its entire life in a pitcher plant, “Wyeomyia smithii”, is the first species known to have adapted to our current, quickly changing climate. This tiny creature has transformed its light-response behavior and developed a longer feeding and reproduction cycle, demonstrating an adaptation to environment that is key for the survival of any species. Journalist Elizabeth Kolbert brings the story of this little insect to life in her book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.
Contemplating the wisdom of this insect, I can’t help but wonder about the human implications of Abrupt Climate Change Events: Why does our species create civilizations only to have them leveled during natural climate transitions? Why, after the rise and fall of so many cultures, have we not learned to live in harmony with these repeating cycles of nature? How can a future society build an extraordinary body of knowledge while also retaining adaptive response to cyclic patterns of climate?
Somehow, these tiny little mosquitoes did develop the capacity to both survive and thrive, and the intelligence to do so is buried deep within their elegant little double helix strands of DNA.
Evolution, (the study of the change in the inherited traits from one generation to another), by its very nature is integral with the scientific discipline of genetics (the study of heredity in living organisms). There are many philosophical speculations about evolution, but Darwin’s theory of natural selection is generally accepted as the foundation of modern evolutionary theory. In fact, natural selection is seen to be “self-evident” because we can easily observe that genetic variation does exist within a species and that the offspring of any species do vary in their ability to both survive and reproduce: thus, survival of the fittest. Organisms that do not meet the challenges of their environment, that do not overcome their adversity, cease to exist.
In this issue of SuperConsciousness, attention has been drawn to the obvious: mankind is facing another Abrupt Climate Change Event, whether or not the situation is human-generated, naturally occurring or some complex amalgam of the two. We also know that these types of events punctuate history with the sudden disappearance of civilizations. Inevitably, mankind has survived despite the dissolution of its revered cities. And the humans that responded to earth’s ever-changing climate survived by acknowledging the obvious, uprooting from their long-standing cultures, and creating humble lives aligned with nature, close to the earth. Man survived, yet man’s civilizations did not. Food for thought.
We may pride ourselves on our advancements in science, culture, law and government, but history shows us that when Mother Nature has her way, these advancements never survive intact. What is the lesson here? How do we evolve our sciences and philosophies into more comprehensive thus sustainable models of reason and sagacity balanced with the natural order? And, how do we rise up to address the realities of our current climate crisis, then forward these greater systems of knowledge to future generations?
To meet these challenges, we must evolve. If it is within us to comprehend and appreciate the sheer simplicity as well as the adaptive qualities of a tiny mosquito living in a pitcher plant, then we can also choose to incorporate that understanding into our scientific models and foundations. And when we do, Homo sapiens will have finally lived up to its name: wise humans.