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"What the story of 4 billion years of life on Earth tells us about what on earth happens next?"
Diverse life can save the planetChristopher Lloyd, Founder and CEO of What on Earth Publishing Ltd

Christopher Lloyd
author of “What On Earth Happened”

The history of life since 4 billion years ago, when the Earth came into being, contains six mass-extinction eras. There were sudden increases or decreases in oxygen, massive meteorite strikes and so on. Despite such dramatic environmental changes occurring several times, life on this planet has survived thanks to nature’s ability to adjust. The result is called biodiversity.

During the Fifth Extinction era, about 65 million years ago, for example, sunlight was blocked, probably due to collision of a meteorite, resulting in trees dying in darkness and dinosaurs going extinct.

Mammals survived this era, having become nocturnal to protect themselves from attack by dinosaurs. Because they had adapted to darkness, they were able to survive.

<The Sixth Extinction era> Now we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction era, which began 13,000 years ago. The situations of diversity in this era are different from those in other earlier eras, because an animal species that stands on two legs has changed the rules for survival.

Creatures other than human beings cannot exist in this world unless they satisfy one of the following five criteria: 1) They are useful to humans (trees etc.) 2) They make friends with humans (cats, dogs, hamsters) 3) They are tasty (sheep, cows, chickens, pigs) 4) They are able to intoxicate humans (coffee, sugar) 5) They are beautiful (in color or shape)

This rule is totally contrary to biodiversity. Most species do not satisfy these criteria. Bacteria and pests have to be killed. Weapons of mass destruction are used. We ourselves are destroying biodiversity, our natural healing power.

Now life on the Earth’s is vulnerable, doubly threatened by the rule and by climate change. For the first time in the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang, life may be lost. By all means, we must recover rich biodiversity.

<Encounters in Fukushima> Japan can play an important role in tackling this difficult challenge. Let me tell you why I believe this.

The Great East Japan Earthquake was a disastrous event, in which a very advanced civilized country was devastated by an unprecedented assertion of the power of nature. How has this experience influenced people? I visited Odaka (Minamisoma City) in Fukushima last November. The town was almost empty, with half-destroyed buildings; it seemed like a movie scene.

One exception was a barbershop that had been reopened by Sunao Kato. He said, “I want to take the lead in showing how people can rebuild a community.” In fact, after about half a year, people began to come to the shop to have tea.

Answering my question about nuclear power generation, Kato said, “it is important to think about several generations ahead. We should not make decisions from a short-sighted viewpoint.”

The human being is basically an emotional animal. But Kato, who must have faced terribly emotional experiences, is looking at things from a long-term perspective. There are probably many similar Japanese people. I think Japan is a wonderful country.

This represents a new initiative in balancing civilization and nature. Japan, a country with highly advanced technologies, can surely export this as a model for the world, from which the world can learn a great deal.

<Education to inspire curiosity> There are also challenges. Policymakers often tend to look at things with a short-term view, and are mostly men. I think more women should participate in political discussions. In the flow of natural history, the diversity of men and women is important.

The current education system, which teaches knowledge in split pieces should be changed. Children obsessed with examinations become less motivated to study. I want education to inspire young people’s curiosity. I want it to teach everything in relation to others, so that children can see the big picture. Then they can find the tasks for tomorrow and talk about the future.

Do not forget to draw the big picture, in which we can find a clue to saving human beings and other living matter-- and the Earth, I believe.