Home | Short Stories | Nº 117 – An autist called homo sapiens

Nº 117 – An autist called homo sapiens

Saturday 4th December 2021.

Careful! This story is only suitable for animals of the species homo sapiens able to read freely and think for themselves, who have some interest in biodiversity maybe and want to know what is really hiding behind this grandstanding name. Those who are already enjoying a friendship with a pet, a „friendship“ in the true sense of the word, mind – are sure to undertake a first step in the right direction, into the nature of planet Earth and its still fairly colourful diversity of flora and fauna. The latter is however steadily shrinking. Why? Because over many generations, homo sapiens has turned into a carnivore and because a scary majority of them are still hunting down the resources of the Earth. More? Yes, taking more raw materials from the earth is another way of subjugating the Earth. Or, as the Club of Rome recently described it: plundering the planet. There you have the homo sapiens’ M.O., right there.

Fotos: Henk Hin

Of course the odd homo sapiens, that dominant animal on Planet Earth, may still in 2022 go on a trip to the ice fields of Greenland to take a look at the last glaciers before they’ve finally melted (but why exactly do they do that?) or to La Palma, to get a real close look at a very active and very hot volcano. Life on Planet Earth is exciting and full of adventure. People fly to São Tomé for a hiking holiday and to New York for the weekend: homo sapiens love adventure and live on their planet as if any day was their last, as if there was nothing left to see tomorrow, as if there were no generations coming after them, as if they didn’t care whether other animals and plants share their planet…

Take everything you can. It’s this frivolous philosophy of infinity, of eternal economic growth that’s set on a frontal collision course with the finality of the planet’s resources. Homo sapiens go on safaris to shoot lions, rhinos and elephants. Annoying flies are killed with the fly swatter. Beetles and small plants in the forest are trodden on and die. They subjugate the Earth in their own style and on a large scale: building houses and roads using machines and a lot of technical expenditure, and felling the forest, tree by tree. They build planes and fly from A to B and on to C, and at some point back again. Homo sapiens fly to the moon and to Mars and soon for a holiday break too, only because they can and have to do something with their lives, and because they want to poke their nose into everything.

So let’s stay at home? Remain totally within yourself? Maybe think about whether things couldn’t be different? So the story could start in the HERE and NOW. We’ve now reached eight billion. Some are even of the opinion that there are too many to find sufficient space on Earth. Yet, what is „sufficient“ and what do we mean when we say „space“? The vast majority of these eight billion homo sapiens eat meat. These days, only 13% of all animals live in the wild, with 87% in stables or zoos, alongside chickens and pigs mainly, those animal species that homo sapiens eat on a daily basis, or should that read, „feed on“? Lobsters in water tanks are also still part of this setup, as are fish. Does the greed for meat know no bounds?

What can we do to slow down species extinction, to conserve biodiversity? And how do we communicate that? Which narratives do we serve? Hardly anyone wants to accept a meat-free day per week. Shall we start with ethics? Let’s talk about the moral aspect? Or had we better go straight into hypocrisy? Why is it allowed to kill people in war, yet not in peacetime? Why do homo sapiens eat pigs and chickens, yet not their own kind? How do you explain that to a child?

Hypocrisy always starts with turning the key in the ignition of your private car or pressing the start button, and when the diesel engine starts up, pointing the finger at the others, at Exxon Mobile, let’s say, or the government. Or I buy a plane ticket and justify it with lack of time. After all you don’t want to have to deal with a long train ride. Why aren’t all those who are no longer emitting CO2 into the atmosphere rewarded with a free railway ticket?

Do we approach biodiversity through climate change? If homo sapiens weren’t to carry on the way they have done up to now, it will depend on looking at all crises together, and they will find out that all crises form part of one single major problem. The entire animal kingdom, that homo sapiens also belong to, the entire flora and fauna are in acute danger, as most crises condition each other. As the scientist Alexander von Humboldt once noted: everything and anything is connected to everything else. If we learn to understand that we’ll start moving through the world in humility.


Every fourth of all recorded animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. The current rate of species extinction is progressing ten to a hundred times faster than in the ten million years that lie behind us. We are witnessing the biggest surge of species extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. And responsibility for this lies with homo sapiens, modern humankind with their desire for ever more: more furniture and more paper, through a way of life that uses glyphosate and other environmental poisons to wipe out their fellow species from the face of the Earth. Very slowly at first, then faster and faster, until they’re on its own with all their trash…

You may find it tragic that polar bears or pangolins die out, when the last panda bear loses its native habitat or the last black rhinoceros is shot. What is more crucial however is that the disappearance of a single species may trigger a chain reaction permeating the entire ecosystem. Animals and plants, across their entire biological diversity are part of a network – providing food and themselves being food for other species. If a part is missing, there are consequences. And those are having an impact on homo sapiens as we speak.

Bees are the best example for this. Bees are pollinators responsible for the fact that fruit trees and other plants blossom every year and bear fruit. If they die, there are immediate consequences for the food spectrum available to homo sapiens: no bees, no oranges, no apples, no medronho, and so on. In Portugal, 25 per cent of agricultural yields are dependent on pollinators. The number of insects, forming the largest class in the animal kingdom, has declined rapidly over the past 30 years; experts talk about a decline of up to 80 per cent.

The diet of homo sapiens may protect both species and the climate. Let’s say we were to feed ourselves predominantly vegetarian or vegan even. In that case the way agriculture and forestry are conducted could be changed too, alongside this dynamic. Instead of cultivating industrial monocultures, the many sustainable ideas provided by the permaculture movement, with their all-year-round fruit and vegetable succession, could lead to seasonal, colourful and cyclical nutrition. Think reducing waste, renouncing plastics, prioritising short distances for food transport, strengthening the local economy as well as lending life a deeper sense. Why are vegetarians and vegans not rewarded with a tax rebate for their efforts?

That which fortifies health is also better for the environment, where this particular animal called homo sapiens is only one part of the whole. Protecting biodiversity and the climate at the same time is only possible accepting a certain renunciation. What’s missing now is simply how to find the way there.

Uwe Heitkamp (60)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations : Dina Adão, João Medronho, Kathleen Becker
Fotos: Henk Hin

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