• Video
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Origin Day Lecture: Audience Question Three

Updated Tuesday 24th November 2009

In 50 million years' time is the impact of modern man on biodiversity going to look significantly different from the meteorite strike which we believe wiped out the dinosaurs?

Video

Copyright British Council

Text

Armand Leroi (as Chair)

Chap on the front row... 

Male speaker (in audience)

In 50 million years’ time, is the impact of modern man on biodiversity going to look significantly different from the meteorite strike which we believe wiped out the dinosaurs?

Armand Leroi

In 50 million years’ time?  I’ll answer that.  Yes.

(laughter)

Sandy Knapp

Could be flushed down the plughole.

Armand Leroi

Sandy, I mean you're very much a biodiversity person, you tell me about the impact of asteroid strikes versus humans on the nightshade family.

Sandy Knapp

Well, now where shall I begin?  No, I think one of the interesting things about thinking, and I gave a talk here on Friday in this same room, so I've been here a lot recently, is about just that, about origins and invasions.  And if you think about human beings - and this is I think one of the things that was one of Darwin’s great advances and one of the traditions that he crystallised, because it wasn’t a new idea with him - is that human beings are not special.  We are a species like any other species.  And what species are therefore, what species do, is they reproduce themselves.  And so we as the homo sapiens are immensely successful.  And so I would say that if you were to characterise, if you had to have a one liner for what is the human species like, is we are an invasive mammalian weed and we've taken over the surface of the planet.  And I think conservation is a complicated thing and I think Randal’s right, that Darwin would have been horrified at what’s happening, but I think he also would have had as an ultimate goal to conserve not just species or even not just habitats, but an earth that retained its evolutionary potential, to continue to generate forms most beautiful and wonderful.  And asteroid impacts are different because they're very quick and you can't do anything about them, and they are actually transient.  And although we think, I mean we know we’re having a huge impact on the planet, I mean we know that we’re having an impact on the planet, but in terms of geological time we’re a flash in the pan.  My youngest son’s favourite video when he was five was Life on Earth by David Attenborough and there is the wonderful analogy in the beginning of that film about the clock, where if you have a 24 hour clock human beings arrived at less than one minute before midnight, and so we really haven’t been here that long.  So we are in effect an asteroid impact, we’re doing the same sort of thing, because if you think about time, our time span of human generation seems vast to us but in terms of life on earth it’s very, very tiny.

(3’02”)

 

Watch the full lecture

EO Wilson Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: British Council Professor EO Wilson's lecture to mark Origin Day

 
 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Doug Allan - Earth in Vision Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Doug Allan video icon

Nature & Environment 

Doug Allan - Earth in Vision

Doug Allan, Emmy and BAFTA award-winning cameraman, talks Blue Planet, changing technology and the changing planet. 

Video
35 mins
Do animals really raise human babies as their own? Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Yellowstone National Park video icon

Nature & Environment 

Do animals really raise human babies as their own?

Myth, history and popular culture tells of children raised by wolves and more. Do these stories have any basis in truth?

Video
5 mins
Joe Smith - Overview of Projects Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Nature & Environment 

Joe Smith - Overview of Projects

Joe Smith, Professor of Environment and Society at The Open University, gives us an overview of his current projects.

Video
Ben Van Beurden - Stories of Change Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Ben Van Beurden audio icon

Nature & Environment 

Ben Van Beurden - Stories of Change

Ben Van Beurden, CEO of Shell is interviewed by Roger Harrabin for 'Stories of Change'.

Audio
We've gone Back to the Future Creative commons image Icon Mooshuu [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr Creative Commons under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

We've gone Back to the Future

If Marty McFly travelled to our 2015, what would he think? Is time travel even possible?

Article

Society, Politics & Law 

Rights Enshrined

What is the role of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the nature of its relationship with the UK Government? What impact does it have on UK law? With British membership of the European Union at the heart of the political agenda, the role of its Court of Human Rights and its influence on UK law has inevitably come under scrutiny. The coalition Government has pledged to withdraw the UK from the European convention of human rights, and to give Parliament the right to veto ECHR rulings. In these 4 films we hear from people who have taken cases to the Strasbourg court. We look at how cases are referred, what laws are used, what the process is like and what impact its judgments have had in the UK - in such high profile examples as Diane Pretty’s ‘Right to Die’ case.

Video
20 mins
Systems explained: Sir Geoffrey Vickers Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: OU video icon

Money & Business 

Systems explained: Sir Geoffrey Vickers

One of the pioneers of systems thinkiing shares his vision.

Video
10 mins
OU on the BBC: Saving Species: Series 3, Episode 4 Creative commons image Icon Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling (threatened) / USFWS Endangered Species / CC BY 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

OU on the BBC: Saving Species: Series 3, Episode 4

Can the world's marine environments remain healthy and functioning despite pollution, overfishing and climate change? The Saving Species team investigates

Article
Is violence declining across history? A discussion on The Better Angels of Our Nature Creative commons image Icon B Tal under CC-BY-NC licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Is violence declining across history? A discussion on The Better Angels of Our Nature

Steven Pinker discusses his book, which claims that there has been a broad historical decline in rates of violence throughout human existence.

Article