Well-Intentioned Ignorance


“The first Americans could not have known they were causing extinctions, and they could not have understood the implications. But we no longer have such an excuse.”

The above links to a fascinating article about how certain plant species can reflect past ecosystems, rather than present realities. It’s a beautiful window into a part of the natural world rarely discussed. And it also ends with a bigoted, ignorant proclamation of the intellectual handicap of a people the author has certainly never met in prehistory, but also apparently not met (through their descendants) in the present.

Certainly, I accept the author’s observation, that it seems human migration, land-mass by land-mass, correlates with the extinction of megafauna in those areas. I hold this knowledge lightly, trying to see how it fits into what I know about modern indigenous peoples.

To say that humans 2,000, 6,000, or 50,000 (timings of those extinctions) years ago, who at the time were expert observers of their ecosystems, couldn’t identify the process of extinction, is just unbelievably arrogant and ethnocentric. The ethnocentrism of the civilized mind when making pronouncements about the superstitious “natives”.

There is an insignificant biological difference, and likely equally insignificant cultural difference, between traditional indigenous peoples 6000 years ago and those today – and today’s indigenous peoples are the best source of just how much damage modern humans are doing to the world.

Here are some other leads to follow up about this issue.

The pseudo-“fact” that humans caused the mass-extinctions of mega-fauna seems to not be one:


“Regardless, the issues surrounding the Pleistocene North American megafaunal extinction are still heavily debated for both biological and social reasons. To say the issue has been addressed and answered is simply untrue.”


People, including many (most?) environmentalists, seem really addicted to this idea that humans have alien DNA and don’t belong here – and even the “well-meaning” (like the environmentalist article author above) propagate this idea.

It’s just another way for modern civilized humans to indulge in their favorite past-time, the feeling of “specialness” – even if it’s “specially effed up”. In the end, separate means superior, that’s an addictive notion. Especially when belonging just sticks you with a lot harder work – grieving and healing.

Photo Credit: Roger Smith via Compfight cc

Written by Willem