Greed, Brutality, and Destruction: The Difference Between Animals and Mankind
The following work is about the interaction of man, compared to the interaction of the animal kingdom based on the subjects of: greed, brutality, and destruction. Hopefully, this information perpetuates a less ignorant community surrounding the knowledge of mankind’s past and present cruelty towards one another. Here, we will compare mankind’s cruelty to various zoological societies that express similar human emotions and require similar necessities: mankind’s interaction with others; the animal kingdom’s interaction with others; a comparison of the two; and finally, how it affects all of us.
It is often wondered why people are so mean to one another and what makes one person “better” than any other. They start wars and destroy the planet, they litter, and kill animals for sport. They evolved to be dominant over any other species on the planet but continue to abuse this advantage, compared to animals that have plenty of reasons to squabble or attack one another, but they still manage to coexist most of the time. Certain people have always had a fascination with how people can be so destructive and ignorant of their impact of the planet and its inhabitants. These people have read schoolbooks, done their research papers, and still are baffled, angered, and saddened by the whole idea of this.
Humans don’t exactly plan ahead as far as preserving other species, who depend on many of the same things that mankind does. Humans have already pushed many species to extinction and to the edge of so. Still, humans go about their ruthless destruction and have no second thoughts regarding their actions (Bernheim). Prey animals however, are overpopulating and being slaughtered due to the fact that humans have pushed their natural predators to extinction or very near so. Mankind has messed up the ecosystem, and yet keeps on introducing species to places that they weren’t meant to be. Animals are struggling to survive in a world that man has recreated for them, and yet they still don’t start war or kill others over resources that have been limited to them. What is it that animals possess that allows them to live so harmoniously among each other? There are too many “excuses” humans have for their crimes and violence towards each other and other species. Every time a new extinction is announced, and every time another person is ruthlessly slaughtered over something such as gluttony or religion, people become even more angered and confused, and begin to express these emotions by lashing out, so why do we continue to do this?
For over 200,000 years mankind has existed, or rather thrived on this planet, utilizing and stripping it of its resources. We human beings constitute the most successful species on the Earth, with the exception of insects. Unlike any other species, including insects, non-vertebrate, and vertebrate, we prove ourselves to be the most destructive species on the planet. Within the past 100 years, we’ve created 80,000 deadly chemicals that we continuously blast into the air, water, and land 24/7 (Wooldridge). The damage we cause is overwhelming to the natural world. Our burning of fossil fuels toxifies and contaminates the biosphere with endless carbon debris, acidifying and destroying our oceans as well as causing holes in the ozone layer. We cause the extinction of 100 other species daily from our onslaught and poisoning of their habitats and water supplies (Wooldridge). Our population exceeds seven billion, and a huge fraction of that number live in utter misery because of things such as war, starvation, sickness, and injury (Wooldridge). Over ten million children and eight million adults starve to death annually or die of starvation related disease (Wooldridge), yet we continue to reproduce and overpopulate the planet.
Humans express their emotions in a multitude of ways. Most scientists believe that we have at least five basic emotions: happiness, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust (Barret). Each of these can be triggered by past or current events, thoughts, or actions. They can change our behavior or body without any personal effort and/or control, leading to actions we may later end up regretting. Action refers to what different organisms do and more specifically, say. Behavior is regarded as any kind of activity of any living things (Bruce). Certain factors can affect behavior, such as heredity, environment, and learning. Heredity is instinctive behaviors, whilst environment controls conditions that affect behavior ie: food, shelter, family, social support, and education. Learning contains behavioral developments that change, depending on different environments (Bruce). People who experience fear or anger may act more aggressively (Richardson) than those that do not. This may cause someone to lash out with the intention to harm others, by direct physical and/or verbal abuse (Richardson), or by indirect abuse such as spreading rumors, or stealing from a targeted individual. Aggression can also be caused by a multitude of other reasons, like: gaining status, gaining money, gaining pleasure, or even gaining control over others (Richardson). This leads into another trait of humankind: greed.
Human greed began when we were still single-celled organisms, gasping for food and other resources we needed to survive. As we evolved, we continued to gulp down everything in sight (Taflinger). When asked exactly why humans are so cruel to one another, Professor Robert Bernheim said, “ I would argue that it’s a question of human nature, so I would say that human nature is such that it’s selfish, and therefore when humans are put in places, often times when they are given an opportunity to assist, too often, I would say humans tend to go to their default position of selfishness. [...] To see extraordinary means of giving and altruism, I think is a huge shock to the system [...] [...] It shouldn't shock us in my opinion that people are selfish. What that means is they're going to do ‘everything for me first’ and everybody else is kind of an afterthought” (Bernheim). Human beings aren’t necessarily programmed to be cruel to one another as they may seem. “They’re just very self-centered, and that self-centeredness can lead to cruel behavior” (Bernheim). Most people may not engage in cruel behavior, but given the right circumstances, they can really bring out the worst parts of themselves. To be selfish and greedy, and to only look after yourself is fine and dandy until it happens at the expense of another person, that is where the line is crossed, and it becomes considered cruel (Bernheim). Say, when someone wishes death upon another. Bernheim claims that it’s mankind’s default setting. “Our default setting is that we don’t care about anybody but ourselves. We underestimate the power of words. Sometimes I don’t think we mean it in that sentence, but there are other people who truly mean those things because they are just about themselves, and for anyone else who gets in their way or challenges them, there is no remorse. I think that speaks to just the selfish nature of who humans are [...]” (Bernheim). This is just one of many examples of human aggression, which often occurs for many reasons.
Animal aggression is used for many of the same reasons, but pleasure and money are not among them. Animal aggression is based on survival, and trying to continue surviving in this man infested world. Territoriality can be one of these causes of aggression. “Animals may defend a territory by being openly aggressive, such as by chasing and fighting intruders. They also may defend the territory through signals of potential aggression. For example, a wolf marks out its territory by urinating on bushes, rocks, and other objects. The scent of urine warns intruders of the wolf's presence and the risk of an encounter. The more aggressive forms of defense are generally used when the intruder is especially persistent (Wolf 2).” Other reasons for aggression include food scarcity, protection of young, and procreative rights. Though rarely aggressive for reasons other than these, animals don’t just exhibit instinctual aggression patterns.
Humans aren’t unique with all of their behavior either. Most species exhibit some form or another of play. Play typically occurs when an animal willingly engages in a natural behavior, such as hunting or fighting, outside of its usual circumstances (Berghardt). People play, often in ways that resemble play among the animals. Play has been seen among a variety of mammals, including apes, cats, dogs, dolphins, horses, monkeys, otters, and rats. Many birds play, such as crows and parrots. Play may even occur in some amphibians, cephalopods (a group of animals that includes octopuses), fish, insects, and reptiles (Burghardt). Most species also have a form of dominance, keeping a particular location’s individual species organized in a pecking order. This allows for more dominant members of a species to have better pick of whatever resources may be available to them, thus propagating the strongest of the species. The less dominant members are called subordinates, and are denied use of scarce resources. They may be among the first to die or to leave an area (Wolf 1). The subordinates of the human race often experience these kinds of consequences, and still have vaguely similar examples of our dominance over one another.
Certain species actually have the ability to process more emotion than human beings. Humans only have four lobes to the brain, whereas cetaceans have an extra brain lobe, a whole other part of the brain used solely for processing emotion (The Intelligent). Lori Marino, a neurobiologist who helped co-write “The Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans,” finds the limbic system of whales to be the most intriguing part of their brains, as they may be more complex than our own. In her research of killer whales, she found that the limbic system of a whale is “so large it erupts into the cortex in the form of an extra paralimbic lobe” (Montgomery). Cetaceans have the ability to feel emotions, understand complex problems, and communicate in ways we can’t even begin to understand, humans don’t seem to value this. While primates are often used in studies on animal intelligence because of their similarities to humans, cetaceans are frequently used as research subjects as well (Montgomery). Looking at the brain of a cetacean, it is clear that dolphins and whales are much more complex than previously thought. Behind the glass of our “favorite” marine amusement parks, lives a complex organism who may have more to think and even say than we tend to believe.
We assume we are so smart that we put the other creatures of the world beneath us, even with the proof that other species show evidence of remarkable intelligence. Elephants can keep track of up to 30 absent members of their family by sniffing out their scent and building a mental map of where they are (Alvarado). How awesome would that be for a human mother of three? Rats are wired to show compassion for each other and will help out their fellow rat rather than get a treat (“Rats [...]”). There are a lot of ideas in literature showing that empathy is only unique to humans, but it has been well demonstrated in apes, sea life, and even rodents. Some species of primate (including the orangutan) even use tools to catch their food and hunt (Alvarado). Humans have long believed that they are smarter than other animals, but an increasing body of scientific evidence suggests that we are just being arrogant. So many species have significant intelligence over us, and so many species have the capability to destroy as we do.
In the end, it all affects us in some form or another. The most immediate impact would likely be in the food chain. As sea surface temperatures continue to rise, many species of plankton are beginning to decline. If the plankton, such as diatoms and krill, were to go entirely extinct, it would have an impact on larger creatures, such as fish and whales, who consume it as a major food source. As those larger marine animals have less to eat, and as their populations declines, a chain reaction throughout the entire food chain would develop, eventually reducing human food sources.
Many medicines are derived from plants and herbs, which rely steadily on insects for pollination. As the insect population decreases, these plants would struggle to reproduce, and the fewer plants there are, the harder it would be for the few remaining insects to find food, creating an effect that would hurt all species involved (Michelle). Some animals are resistant to certain diseases. Such species help contain these diseases from spreading to other animals and humans. As these species continue to lose habitat space due to human construction and climate changes, their ability to create the buffer against these illnesses declines. If they become extinct, the creatures that move in to take their place often don’t possess the natural ability to contain the spread of disease and may be more likely to contract these diseases, putting humans at a higher risk for disease (Michelle). “Extinction also has an enormous impact on the world economy. Food chain disruption can lead to job losses as animals such as tuna decline, leaving fishermen jobless. The loss of insect life, such as bees, will also have an impact on industries surround plant life, such as medicine, which depend on pollinators” (Michelle). If large animals such as tigers or wolves became extinct, prey to these animals may begin to run rampant and destroy farms from a lack of their numbers being managed. If farms cannot be maintained due to problematic wildlife, obviously farmers will lose their jobs, and if farmers lose their jobs, not only the country but the world would lose money, food, and jobs More than 21 million American workers (15 percent of the total U.S. workforce) produce, process and sell the nation’s food and fiber (“Fast [...]”).
Humans are brutal, greedy, and destructive due to their need to dominate each other and other species. Humankind is not the only emotional or intelligent being on the planet. It needs to show regard for its cohabitants before its disregard creates an irreparable situation for itself, as well as the planet it calls home. If we continue upon this path of oblivious destruction, we’re doomed. We have to find a way to reconnect with the planet and one another, to prevent further atrocities from happening. People need to take the time to learn from one another and pass on their knowledge to others of how to behave morally and eco consciously.
We undermine the intelligence of these astonishing beings simply because we cannot understand them, but if we keep on this path of destruction, we’ll never have a chance to.
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