November 20, 2011
This beautifully written work by Geraldine Brooks is the first of the 2011 ABC Boyer Lectures series. Its been published in the book Boyer Lectures 2011: The Idea of Home. The full lecture series will be broadcast on ABC Radio National, here is the transcript of the first lecture.
“But that Franklin trip changed me, profoundly. As I believe wilderness experience changes. Because it puts us in our place. The human place, which our species inhabited for most of its evolutionary life. The place that shaped our psyches, and made us who we are. The place where nature is big, and we are small. We have reversed this ratio only in the last couple of hundred years. An evolutionary nanosecond. The pace of our headlong rush from a wilderness existence through an agrarian life to urbanization is staggering and exponential. In the USA, in just two hundred years, the percentage of people living in cities has jumped from less than four percent to eighty percent. By 2006, half the world’s population lived in cities. Every week, a million more individuals move to join them. The bodies and the minds we inhabit were designed for a very different world from the one we now occupy. As far as we know, no organism has ever been part of the experiment in evolutionary biology which we as a species are now undertaking, adapted for one life yet living another. We are, in a way, already space travelers. We have left our home behind and ventured into an alien world. And we don’t yet know what effects this sudden hurtle into strangeness will ultimately have on the human body, the human psyche.”