More than 1200 ecologists and environmentalists from around the world are in Columbus, Ohio right now for EcoSummit 2012. Among presenting research posters, symposia, and workshops, the delegates are treated to philosophical talks by leading ecological thinkers in daily plenary sessions.
Yesterday, Pulitzer Prize winners Edward O. Wilson and Jared Diamond began the conference with words about Appalachian biodiversity and lessons from past societies, respectively. Wilson started as an entomologist and is now an international advocate for biodiversity and the connections between science and the humanities; his most provacative book is the popular On Human Nature. Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, is a physiologist/ornithologist turned wonderer about the reasons societies thrive and fail.
Attendants at the opening plenary filled a ballroom in the Columbus convention center. Wilson and Diamond inspired and encouraged the crowd. These quotes spoke to me:
We’re living in a “Star Wars civilization: Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and God-like technology and that is a dangerous combination.” -Wilson
“I never could be very dignified, looking at ants. Nevermind, the pleasure was enormous.” -Wilson
It’s an occupational hazard of ecologists to regard Europeans as evil, natives as particularly innocent. “In fact, people are people, today and in the past.” “People have competing interests, people make mistakes.” -Diamond
Diamond was asked, Do you anticipate (future societal) collapse? His response started with brief overview of societies currently lacking in organization and government services in Somalia and Haiti. He continued, “(I am) not so much concerned about possible collape of any one country. Now when any place collapses, that has effects of everywhere else.” “My gentle bad case is spreading collapses like more Haitis and Somalias. Worst bad case: world collapse all together.”
An audience member asked Wilson, What are the three most important things for ecologists to do? He answered: 1) “In preserving land and watersheds that relate to human sustainability, always carry surveys of flora and fauna.” 2) “Keep on acquiring land aggressively, I’m talking Texas oil barren aggressively.” 3) Form partnership with entrepreneurial entities. “Give them a key role in saving the world.”
What words inspire and encourage you?