Monday 21 March 2022

Environment Monday - Darwin was wrong, it's not the fittest who survive!

 I did an A Level in biology back in the day. It may shock you to know the reason why? I didn't really have much of an interest in the subject when I made the choice and I failed my O level in it at the first attempt, but there was method in my madness. My sister had done Biology and she told me that if you did the A Level, you got a week away in Millport in Scotland on a field trip. That was reason enough to go. 

I was rather lucky, the biology teacher at Orange Hill was a bloke called Bob Wright, who I got on very well with. I think Bob liked me for reasons that were nothing to do with my acedemic abilities, he'd chat about music and politics and I after I left, I got the odd invite around for a scotch and a chat with him and his wife. As I liked him, I tried marginally harder than I might have otherwise and secured an A Level. I also realised that I found the subject extremely interesting. I never really excelled at tasks that required memorising lots of numbers etc, but I found many of the things we covered fascinating. The one that most intrigued me was Charles Darwin. I'd have loved his job. Sadly by the time I was doing my A levels things had moved on. What fascinated me most was that if you ask anyone who hasn't studied Darwin what he is famous for, they will tell you "He came up with concept of survival of the fittest". 

When we were first introduced to the subject, it was in the text books and I'd heard it mentioned, so I accepted it on face value. But as I delved deeper, I realised that this wasn't really what Darwin was saying at all. Survival of the fittest sounds as if the biggest strongest and toughest should survive. However if we have a nuclear nightmare, I'd put my money on the cockroaches instead of just about anything else. My Dad, being a serving World War 2 pilot and a Roman Catholic, had an alternative theory. He believed in survival of the luckiest. He said in the war, the first to die were the bravest, then the strongest and biggest, with the RAF, the pilots were madly superstitious. Those that survived believed it was their superstitions that saw them through, those that didn't. Who knows?

Flying a bomber over enemy territory was a dangerous business and in many ways it was pot luck as to who survived. As my Dad was shot down on the 40th mission, the last of his tour of duty, it sort of supported the theory that it was pretty random when your turn came.

But what's this all got to do with the Environment? Well I've heard some arguments recently that the 'planet will evolve' to deal with climate change. There is a school of thought that super, carbon  guzzling life forms will evolve that will simply gobble up the CO2 and save our bacon. If this were to happen, it would give crfedence to my Dad's theory that the lucky survive. It may happen, but what will we lose in the process? As new life forms evolve, others are pushed out. Maybe it will be us who suffer? Life forms evolve all the time. That is why we have antibiotic resistant diseases. That is why We went from Covid, to Delta Variant to Omicron. Sometimes these forms develop to our advantage and sometimes they don't. It seems to me a tad stupid to bank on being lucky and hope evolution deals us a good hand

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