One of the differences between humans and animals is that humans are aware of their own mortality.
Death is a completely ignored fact for animals who not only do not understand it but also fail to comprehend it when it happens. That’s why it’s common to see social animals like whales or elephants attempting to nudge their dead companions (without understanding death). And perhaps, this can explain some behaviors.
If a shark were hungry, it would simply need to swim close to a whale and with one quick movement, tear off a huge piece of its fatty, protein-rich flesh from the slow-moving animal. But sharks don’t operate that way; otherwise, whales would have gone extinct thousands of years ago. Maybe sharks, like the rest of the animals, believing they will live forever, do nothing to disrupt the environment, especially when it comes to prey they may need in the future.
Humans, on the other hand, do operate that way. But if we were aware that our lives could extend for thousands of years… would we cut down all the forests? Would we poison the coral? Would we pollute to the point of leaving a small plastic sunscreen container on the beach, which would end up killing a sea turtle? (Next summer) Would we allow the planet to heat up to the point where the melting poles submerge the emerged lands in water? Most likely not. We would probably be more concerned about our future than our present.
Yet today, we ask government leaders to seek solutions for problems that will arise in 200 years. About 195 years after their terms have ended and around 150 years after the last of them has died. Even ourselves: would we be willing to spend our money today to solve problems that will be faced by our grandchildren’s grandchildren? The answer is “no, they will figure it out on their own.” Perhaps it’s because, knowing the end of our days, we find it difficult to see beyond ourselves into the future.
Being intelligent animals clouds our reason and common sense to the point where we fail to understand that in the absence of other intelligent animals, there won’t be any stupid ones either. Intelligence and stupidity are so closely linked that one requires the other to exist. Sharks are just sharks, not intelligent or stupid, just sharks. The opportunity for intelligence is necessary to suffer from its absence.
Meanwhile, the planet quietly warns us. What used to happen over geological eras now occurs within a human lifetime. The planet has changed more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500,000 years. What used to be the future is now simply “tomorrow,” something that would happen to our great-grandchildren will happen to ourselves in the final years of our lives. Unless we start using common sense, our successors will remember us as the dirtiest, most careless, and therefore, the least intelligent generation. People who claim to love their children but do not truly worry about their immediate future: tomorrow.
“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”