The November/December 2012 issue
of Orion should be required reading for
every American. From Charles C. Mann’s
“State of the Species” to Glenis Redmond’s “What Hangs on
are humans a successful species? learning to love a clearcut where creation began a city devours the farms that feed itnovember|december2012 www.orionmagazine.org nature/culture/place artlthepetriislandproject Life in a Petri Dish Iflefttotheirowndevices,bacteriainapetridishwillreproduceata remarkablerateuntiltheyreachthelimitsoftheirsurroundingsand thenperish.Asaspecies,Homosapienshasflourishedonearthina relativelyshortperiodoftime, butasauthorCharlesC.Mannwritesin thisissueofOrion,wemaywellbeacceleratingtowardasimilarfate.
Trees,” Orion’s writers,
artists, and editors have
assembled a challenging
and provocative text for
this post-election/post-holiday period of hope-laced optimism and
So while I doubt all
300-odd million of us
will read the November/
orion november | december 2012
December 2012 issue, it
is still encouraging to know that we live
among writers, thinkers, and artists who
have the nerve to act as if we might.
While I don’t believe we’ll be able to
refrain from growth, I think humanity
will use the only tool that has proved successful in avoiding past calamities: technology. Yes, the world
is our petri dish, but
we are far from really
exhausting all available
resources: chemistry is
far more e;cient than
agriculture, and nuclear
power could be nearly
inexhaustible. Also, why
not increase the size of
the dish? Humans migrated from Africa in
the past; many will leave
Earth in the future. Thanks, Mr. Mann,
for your powerful essay.
ND12_cov1-4_FR3.indd 1 10/2/12 6: 40 AM
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charles C. Mann’s “State of the Species” (November/December 2012) is one
of the best assessments of human evolution I’ve ever read. And I agree with Lynn
Margulis’s argument that the mere idea
of balance is not natural — Homo sapiens
has never been in balance with its environment. In fact, the universe itself is
unbalanced; movement and discontinuity are the source of everything we know.
Charles C. Mann’s summary of the state
of our species is lovely, eloquent, clear,
and useful. I’d only add one small foot-
note to Mann’s history of human devel-
opment: Clothing can be thought of as a
kind of technology, too. People who wear
clothes consume fewer calories in cold
weather, so the person possessed of a bark
robe didn’t need to do as much work as
his or her ancestors and could settle far-
ther afield during transhumance (and stay
there longer) than naked, chillier people.
We can hope that rich humans will
not eat the planet in a last supper of self-destruction, but I don’t know if this hope
can be based on the progressive mythologies put forward by Charles C. Mann’s
essay. Mann bases his hope for the future
of humanity on the end of formal slavery
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