The positive case for humanity
The UN published a report last year telling us that we have just 12 years to save the planet from devastating climate change which could wipe out species, cause famine and drought, and flood lowland coastal areas. It is an apocalyptic image and has prompted much fear, and many calls for action among environmentalists. The situation is not one with much cause for optimism - it seems we are way off course to achieve anything nearly substantial enough in that time frame and, thus, this doom-laden prediction may well soon be reality.
And reading that, one thought must pop into your mind: this is the fault of humanity. Our untempered greed has waged untold destruction on our planet, and we are going to reap the rewards of that. Every action has consequences, and our mindless pursuit of never ending growth, of huge business profits, of new technological ways to cut corners and make life easier, whether it be the automobile or a new electronic device, has huge consequences for us that we will soon suffer through.
Are we evil?
And then you begin to wonder whether, as a species, we are innately evil. It’s not just the damage of climate change, but look at the countless conflicts that have left their mark on the soil of this Earth. Look at the deep poverty that exists across the world, and the rampant inequality that has helped to cause it. Look at the way in which we are all deeply divided, and the way that those who are different are often treated.
And it is easy to see why this image begins to form. After all, the news in our modern world is almost incessantly and unflinchingly negative, talking of all the worst deeds of humanity: another scandal of lies and sexual deviance by a politician; another murder; more war, global destruction, and heartbreaking destitution. And in developing that thought and that impression, we begin to miss the wood for the trees.
Why we are actually good
With the media presenting this constantly dark image of ourselves, it is easy to miss the man made beauty that surrounds us everyday. Afterall, what are you consuming the news of all of humanity’s ills on? You are watching it on one of the most revolutionary devices ever created and it was invented by a human being. Look around you and look at the extraordinary advances we have made from caves, to wooden huts, to medieval town, to cities reaching into the skies.
As a species we have split the gene, spliced the atom, and put people on the moon. We have made a world that is now more connected than ever, with instant communication between people in Alaska and Australia now possible in a way that it has never been before, and travel between these disparate parts of the world is now quicker and easier than ever. And we have seen the extinction of so many terrible diseases. And despite all that we have achieved, we are not stopping.
We are continuing on, developing new breakthroughs that will revolutionise the way we live and give us more opportunity than ever, whether it be the internet of things, the ability to 3D print replacement organs, or the further abolition of physical distance. Each of these things, and much more besides, has the chance of being the next great revolution which reshapes the world for the better, and forever. We are far from perfect as a species, however, and we have done many terrible things. Slavery, the holocaust and nuclear weapons are just some of the attrocities we have committed, and these should never be glossed over or diminished. They should be remembered, and they are, and we must resolve never to repeat them.
But it is clear that the extent of the good that we have achieved, the goodness that exists in the hearts of so many stuck in the worst situations in the world - for every terrible act of one person, there are stories of so many others who did heartwarming things in response - and all that we have done to make life happier and more comfortable than once thought possible, the human race is fundamentally good, and this is something that must be recognised much more.