Reading the history of different species is, perhaps, the most interesting thing you can do. It gives you great perspective on your place in the universe.
Take the small group of Flores islands in eastern Indonesia, for instance. Lying to the east of the Wallace line, these islands are home to the most fascinating and strange spec­ies of flora and fauna, including giant rats and komodos — the last living ‘dinosaurs’. The Wallace Line itself is a most fascinating demarcation of animal species separating the ec­ozones of Asia and Wallacea. West of the line are found organisms related to Asiatic species; to the east, a mixture of species of Asian and Australian origin. Once you cross that line, you’re in a virtual crucible of the history of creation and evolution.
Drawn in 1859 by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who noticed th­is clear division during his East Indies travels in the 19th century, the world below this is so entirely different you’d think that line was marked when the universe was coming into existence. Particularly so, because in 2003, the remains of an entirely different species of human were found within the caves of Indonesia: Homo floresiensis or the ‘hobbit’. The three-foot tall Homo floresiensis li­ved in these islands for thousands of years before being exterminated completely 12,000 years ago — pushed out bit by bit by the Homo sapien. Interestingly, the destruction of almost 80 per cent of wildlife in these parts also coincided with the arrival of Homo sapiens here. The arrival of man almost always portends doom for other species.
Though humans would like to believe that as the top link of the food chain, we function as part of the balancing forces in nature, we are completely di­stanced from other predators in the insatiable appetite of our greed. Man does not kill to fill his stomach; th­ough he does kill to survive — in other ways. Because no other predator is as cannibalistic as man himself. Th­ere’s a mammoth gap betwe­en their ‘violence’ and ours: theirs has a pattern and it sets itself right. Ours, unch­ecked, would reduce the Ea­rth to a mound of ash.
Man has brought destruction and extinction in his wake from the beginning — it would be a fallacy to assume its origins lie in the Industrial Revolution. What the machine age did was to speed things up to boiling point. The height of human conceit is to imagine we’re restorers of balance. The universe can exist in balance without us… as it did for those millions of years before we showed up. It can wipe out the portions it chooses on its own — without any help from us, thank you — like the dinosaurs that lived and died long before we were even specks of matter on the face of the Earth. That the universe nurtures us and allows us to flour
ish ought to make us grateful to be part of it. But man has assumed himself as master and restorer — much the same way as the white man conquered his
fellow humans, all the while wiping his brow for assuming the ‘white man’s
burden’. Humanity has proved thankless of the bounties it has received and revelled instead in its false sense of superiority.
To quote from Surah Al-Ahzab in the Quran, man assumed the trust offered by the creator, but he proved unfaithful to his task. “Lo! He hath proved a tyrant and a fool.”
(The writer is a freelance journalist)
Zehra Naqvi