What use is evolution to environmentalists?
10th November, 2009
Evolution may be a brilliant model by which to explain the diversity of the natural world, but it doesn't contain the slightest hint as to how human beings should act towards that world
Charles Darwin would have celebrated his 200th birthday this year. And his magnum opus, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection has its 150th anniversary.
It is difficult to underestimate Darwin’s legacy for 20th and 21st century thought: his theory was largely accepted during his lifetime despite a tidal wave of controversy at its launch, and the fact that it was not confirmed experimentally until 20th Century.
But just what does the theory of evolution mean for ecology, and for environmentalism? Does it explain how we should respond to and interact with the natural world? Does it shine a light on the current ecological crisis? Is it even helpful to think of nature purely in evolutionary terms?
As with all great theories, the idea behind the theory of evolution is in fact really simple. It goes like this: what if species are not fixed entities?
Think of the following: a given habitat does not have enough resources for a population. It follows that some individuals from that population will die before they can reproduce. Others, which have slightly different characteristics, may be better suited to survive.
The mechanism tugging at a species...
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