The idea that humans in and of themselves are “natural” beings is hard to wrap one’s mind around. We are living, breathing organisms that live in ecosystems and communities, so what about us makes us “unnatural?” The concept that humans are natural beings is an idea that anthropology in the Anthropocene can support and oppose.
In Dr. Randall’s lecture to our class on March 5th, he explained that since humans came into existence, we homosapiens have been modifying and changing the earth, carrying out our own form of “niche construction” or “ecosystem engineering.” This change can be intentional or unintentional. He claimed that the point at which humans entered the world is thought to be the start of the Anthropocene. We often think of the Anthropocene in a strictly negative light concerning human impact on our environment, but were the changes humans were making in the early Anthropocene so terrible? When did our actions become unnatural?
Ecologist M. L. Henneman contends that human beings are not natural when our movement across the globe becomes so extensive that it results in a loss of biodiversity. Essentially, movement of species and overpopulation results in destruction, and this is an unnatural process. I have to agree with this view, but I also believe we become unnatural when human behavior becomes purely selfish.
It is my opinion that human behavior began to grow more and more egocentric and exploitative over time. While early human behavior that affected the environment in the paleoanthropocene may not have had a significant negative impact at the start, such as the beginning of agriculture, as humans grew more civilized, our treatment of our environment became increasingly abusive. This is when I believe our actions became unnatural: when we began to completely ignore the consequences of our actions in order to solely seek out what nature can provide to humans. Even if one continues to consider that this type of behavior is “natural” if humans themselves are natural products of evolution, it cannot be denied that this behavior is wrong and unethical.