[Guest Blog] ‘It is essential for us to understand what impact we have on this planet’

Nikhil Mahen

Day Two arrives and the excitement hasn’t even begun to wane. Pardon the cliché, but the sessions have started with a Bang, the Big Bang that is. David Christian is one of your everyday people who came up with a science and field of study. I came up with one and called it Mishmash, the difference is that David Christian actually teaches his. Even though I had heard his lecture on Ted, this one seemed even more exciting. The magnificent imagery of the creation of everything was the kind that sticks in your head.

He started by sharing a beautiful picture of his grandson and asking an all-important question, which most of us don’t think of — “what sort of education will Daniel and his friends need?” He then started on what would be a fantastic journey from the beginning of the universe to the new age of man. The start: the big bang, the beginning of stars, nebulas (a picture of Helix Nebula looked like surrealist art) and a picture of the Cassini satellite, which absolutely blew my mind. Then came the breaking down of the Periodic Table, a sobering story about the complexities of elements formed in stars and the formation of plants.

From cosmology and chemistry, David transitioned to geology, particularly Earth’s geology. David had earlier given us a relative period to think of the age of the universe as 13 long years. On this scale, the Earth was 3.5 years old. David gave quite a slick term for the conditions on earth, which I think will stay in my mind forever: “The Goldilocks Condition”. Not too hot, not too cold, “Just Right”. The story now quickly moves on to single-celled organisms, and continued complexity to form the smart one – “the primate”. One should note that we have moved on from geology to biology now. 3-D vision, opposable thumbs and the whole lot, which we take for granted, apparently is quite relevant in our evolution.

The next chapter includes the rise of Homo Sapiens. The intelligent, resourceful creature has now learned an art of communication called Collective Learning (Please note, the topic of discussion now is Anthropology). This leads on to the agrarian era, human migration and speaking about the development of modern society. And after all that praise of technological development, collaboration and what he so eloquently called “Energy Bonanza”, the use of fossil fuels in modern society, he hits us with dreaded fact. We use 100 times the fossil fuel required of us.

Are you struck with a thought? I am. For all the power and intelligence of the human race, our rate of consumption of fossil fuels has crossed ridiculous levels and we should spare a thought about what is the price of our actions in the grand scheme of things. Where do we lie as a species in the universe and how are we significant.

I think it’s imperative for us to realise such questions and the knowledge of humanity would be the best way to understand the same. David depicted this in a beautiful way with his interpretation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. From the present to the past, it is essential we understand the impact humans have on this beautiful world, but at the beginning, it all has to start with a big bang!

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