SciSun: Long Lived   Leave a comment

With every new year, it seems science is finding ways to make our lives better: Grow more hair! Remove excess hair! Sleep better at night! Have more energy during the day! Eat anything you want and still loose weight! Drink protein shakes and gain weight! Today, it’s almost as if the countless improvements and enhancements and enrichments will never end, and humans can stay healthy far into old age, long past the lifespan of any previous generation. But maybe, are our long lives too long, and the combined magnitude of our years ultimately diminishing the well-being and survival of other species, and the earth we all share?

While studying environmental quality among diverse regions and nations throughout the world (over 100 countries, from Finland to New Zealand and Africa to the United States), scientists unexpectedly found it’s not economic, social, or historical circumstances that lead to the most significant environmental impacts – it’s human lifespan. And in the past 100 years average human lifespan has increased from 30 years to over 80, while at the same time diversity and populations of native plants and animals have almost universally decreased.

While other factors are clearly responsible for less diverse and unhealthy environments: Climate change; inorganic chemicals and pesticides; energy use; stewardship and management of natural resources; the research shows longer and more intense use of the land by human populations is causing a lot more stress on the world than anyone ever thought. And the more people on earth, living longer and more healthy lives, and requiring more and more resources, could ultimately result in not enough land or food or water for native plants and wildlife. While no one, yet, is concerned that the ‘natural’ in nature will one day go away (you can’t spell ‘natural’ without ‘nature’!), there is growing interest in actions mankind needs to take today so in the future the only ‘wild’ animals remaining aren’t just those in zoos.


If prehistoric cave art are any indication, there did seem to be a lot more wildlife then, than there is now.

If prehistoric cave art are any indication, there did seem to be a lot more wildlife then, than there is now.

Of course, it’s not long human life itself that’s the cause of concern – don’t go blaming everyone over 60 for taking up space – it’s the amount of ‘stuff’ we all use while we’re living these long lives. Just four generations ago, the average person had about the same lifespan as our hunter-gatherer relatives of Paleolithic times. Within 100 years, largely due to improved living conditions, easier access to high-quality food, advances in medicine, and overall most peoples’ lives being much easier that it was in the past (with a lot less Sabre-tooth tigers to chase and eat us), the average lifespan more than doubled. And as most people prefer good food and feeling strong and not being eaten by Cave-cats, longer lifespans require more and more resources and ultimately less for everyone.

So what can we do, just as individuals, to help environments remain diverse and keep the planet healthy? No, we shouldn’t all die at age 30 – there’s a lot of good work each of us can do for many, many years. But we can take steps (literally) like walking when we can, rather than driving; taking only the food we need, cleaning our plates and not wasting (your mother was right!); and re-using, re-cycling, and renewing resources so we don’t live in a disposable society. Because what we throw away today might not be trash – it could be our future.


Michonne Says: I think marmots are some of those ‘hunter-gatherers’ that are in the story. We hunt and hunt until we find the best berry-bush or flower-field. Then we gather and eat all we can. Then we take a nap. Is there such a thing as ‘hunter-gatherer-napper’?

Posted January 5, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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