What is the Telos of the Species?

Published by costrike on

I’m reading “Nature as Measure: The Selected Essays of Wes Jackson.”  The essays that I’ve read so far have been thought provoking, elegant pieces which center around our agricultural systems and the necessary changes we face.  The following passage was a response to a section from Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac.” (Another on my ever growing “short list” of future reads.)

“A natural inclination is to suggest that we must be patient, that these things take time. Certainly patience is a virtue, but after eighty to a hundred centuries of a decline in our terrestrial dowry, and at a moment when the decline is at an all-time high, it almost appears as though nature has invented humans for two purposes: to return nutrients to the sea to become sedimentary rock again, and to return carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning the fossil fuel. It is ironic that our actions in the name of progress are accelerating the return of this planet to conditions similar to a few billion years ago.”

-Wes Jackson

Image by PerennialsProject

 This poignant passage has me questioning if we’re the reset button.  It’s sad  and troubling to consider, but I think it’s still a choice and not a fate.  We can choose to change our perspectives and do things differently, but I think we need to do so in a hurry.
The Jackson passage reminded me of another possible purpose for our species.  If this is it, we’ve far since outlived our calling. 🙂
telos (from the Greek τέλοϛ for “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”) is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. (Source: Wikipedia)