Line drawing in black ink on white background of three gooseneck barnacles with spiralling eyes.

Snails, sages and aliens

Today I almost stepped on a snail. If my foot had coincided with its path it would have died squashed. By chance it survived. And perhaps we’ll survive by chance too, or perhaps not.

Sometimes I think the fact that we call ourselves Homo sapiens shows how stupid we can be. A wise being doesn’t destroy the planet on which it lives, nor make it dirty in the way we are doing.

When we see somebody throw a piece of paper on the ground we think, at best, that they are ignorant. But then, as a species, we fill the seas with plastic, the earth with pesticides, and the air with pollution that makes us ill. And we are daft enough to call it wisdom. Or progress and development, which is more or less the same.

Homo sillyens, Homo ignorans, Homo filthiens, I can think of many names that are more descriptive of what we really are. The name Homo sapiens, seeing how we behave, is utopian.

Luckily I believe in utopias. I think we can become wise human beings, that we can use the label that we have given ourselves as an inspiration instead of as a description. I believe that most of us want to live in a clean environment, we want to respect ourselves, and the nature that surrounds us. We like doing things well for the pleasure of things being well done. Not just for fear of the climate apocalypse.

It is time to show these characteristics. If not, the aliens that find our dead planet by chance one day will have to explain to their children that it was destroyed by a species that called itself wise. Then the children will rightly roll around laughing. And our planet could become an educational visit in the alien school curriculum. I believe that, even if we never reach wisdom as a species, we can aspire to more.