I made a human. I delivered him to this world a month ago. I stare at the intricacies of his little knuckles, how already complex. The curves of his nose resemble perfectly that of his father; how strong that DNA comes through. His eyes are grey so I won't know if he will have my color or not for a while. There is an emotional bond I have with him that makes me smile every day.
Oftentimes, we cannot help but come from the thought that with so many unknowns and possibilities for error, defects and disease, randomly and genetically induced, it’s a miracle every time a healthy full-term baby is born. A lot of things need to go right for this to happen! From a speck of cells to a 9-pound newborn, our human instructions for development produce diversity beyond our comprehension. It’s fascinating because two humans can never be the same. Diversity is our roots and the basis of who we are. It’s concerning that any form of life can deny that truth and be prejudice to anyone different from them.
The making of human beings, or anything that’s alive, is so scientifically complex. Some say we are born three months too early, others say twelve months too early. This is because we are not able to fend for ourselves at birth. Most other “higher animals” (that we are in direct ancestry with) are mature when they are born, in comparison to the “lesser animals”, such as rodent’s and cats who aren't. We humans have the need to bond with our parents. The cuddling, snuggling, and smelling of the baby scent that drives all women crazy to have more is an innate need for female humans. I was wondering why my son can’t see more than twelve inches away at birth. My theory is the need to develop the sound and touch senses, which apparently need more time for maturing. Some call this immediate maturing outside of the womb as exterior gestation. Others say it is culture that forces this bonding need, the teaching of what instincts cannot supply. Culture allows for more than just Mom interacting with the newborn, thus development of social skills immediately begins.
Some theorize that our early birth is necessary to accommodate our continually enlarging brains. The need to get out before our heads get too big for a woman’s pelvis is where this thought stems from. Therefore, it can be our brain that is the evolutionary push for us humans to be born too early. There are a lot of women who never go into labor and need to be medically induced. Could it be that they’re the ones that have the pelvic bones that can handle longer pregnancies? But then there is the issue with our placentas not having caught up yet either in evolutionary terms, as they lose functionality substantially after nine months. I could theorize that perhaps some of those women who do not go into labor naturally at nine months not only have larger pelvic muscles but also more matured placentas. If doctors are inducing at forty-two weeks and no longer (due to the placenta functionality slowing down), then will humans ever evolve to where we need to be to accommodate larger brains? Will our heads not get any bigger and our intelligence stalled? I postulate that the placenta is what is holding us back. Placentas need to become more “fit” then perhaps the larger pelvic bones will fall into place after.
On another note, later in life humans tend to have issues with disease, cancer, common colds, allergies, and headaches. Some doctors think these are side effects of humans being born early. Humans, like all life, are still evolving. As we increase our head sizes, the rest of our life needs to adjust and it just hasn't yet. Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory will get us to a point of balance at some point. Until then, it is possible that the price of conscious intellect is to blame.
It is interesting what we do know about human newborns. We know to suck, which is vital for existence providing the ability to eat. We know how to breathe, our lungs just kick right in, also vital. Thankfully, nature knew to get these right first before pushing us out into our environment with not being able to fend for ourselves. After all, our bodies are biological machines with motors that need to run. It’s most spectacular at the molecular level as those cells are the ones that have always been working since conception. Since these cells spend the most time functioning and living, they have evolved the most! There are so many different “species” of bacteria that it should make us proud to come from a lineage that produced such complex organs like mitochondria and DNA. Our biology will adjust, it’s our history.
Food for thought. When the time comes and our placentas and pelvic bones have adjusted, what then would our world be like? Would we have different intelligence because our brains are bigger? What type of skills and talents would we have? How would our goods and evils adjust?
Society needs to evolve just as our DNA does.
Human brains are wired for categorization, thought by many to be an evolutionary advantage and a condition for rational thought. It is no surprise then that humans have classified the history of time on Earth into eras of clearly defined periods marked by some characteristic. Some eras are shorter while others span much longer time frames. A person can have eras of their own, viewing their own personal lifetime in various periods, such as being a teenager or married. Or we can view the categorization of something much larger like the timeline of the origins of our universe. In any case, what happens in the eras of any timescale defines the uniqueness of that time.
The usage of chronology for life makes sense since everything alive is evolving into something different from what it was in a prior state. In looking at the life span of the planet Earth, the home to all who are reading this, it is estimated to be 4.5-billion years old since it was birthed from a nebula of particles from our Sun during the Hadean era. Immediately after was the beginning of the Archean era, 4-billion years ago, when the Earth’s first continents were formed, then shortly after, our oceans. It was this blessing of water that created the first signs of life 3.5-billion years ago. Photosynthetic life eventually developed after falling in love with the energy of the sun and produced oxygen 2-billion years ago during the Paleoproterozoic Era. Water and oxygen together created the atmosphere 1-billion years ago during the Proterozoic era leading to complex multicellular life forming in the Cambrian era 580-million years ago.
As these complex multicellular life forms developed, events with sudden climatic changes such as an ice age, shifted the scale of physical evolution of all species of life existing at that time. Diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared 250-million years ago in the Mesozoic Era spawning the dinosaurs. When the dinosaurs became extinct, birds survived helping to develop the next set of life along with great change in the terrestrial vegetation leading up to the Cenozoic period about 65-million years ago. This time marked the proliferation of insects, and fish joining the birds in this process of proliferation. Periods of global heating and cooling over the next several million years created tectonic shifts in Earth’s continental plates and the development of land animals and their eventual migration around the globe marking the Pliocene Era 5-million years ago. Eventually animal migration allowed for the intermingling of species giving rise to a diverse set of mammals from horses to cats and homo habilis during the Pleistocene Era 2-million years ago. As homo erectus spread throughout the world 150,000 years ago, they contributed to the extinction of the large animals that they hunted. Since then, small scale climate shifts and continued migration evolved homo erectus into the humans we are today, homo sapiens. This gives our current Era of the last 11,700 years the name Holocene, dubbed “The Age of Man” as it plays spectator to most of humanity’s recorded history and the rise and fall of all its civilizations since then.
Anatomically, modern homo sapiens evolved within the last 150,000 years defining only 0.004% of Earth’s whole geographic history. While all organisms influence their environments to some degree, few have ever impacted Earth as much, or as fast, as our species has done during our short 0.004% stay. Modern humans are changing the world, ushering in a new era in geologic time, currently proposed to be called Anthropocene. This concept of a new era has been discussed and debated as the time in history where human influences became so great, that it changed the future of Earth and humanity all together. This is the first time that an era is credited to a particular species, the human.
But is this really something so dramatic? The impetus for leaps of growth in life on Earth usually include destruction then recovery. The changes currently being observed in our ecosystem are parallel with major events of past eras that developed the landscape we see today and the photosynthetic organisms that released oxygen into our atmosphere for us to breathe. The only distinction this time around is how quickly our impact has been and who is doing it. Humans have wandered the Earth for thousands of years but never has our capacity to alter the Earth’s ecosystem at a larger scale been more prominent than it is today.
When the Anthropocene Era began is under debate by scholars in various disciplines. To think about when our impact first began to alter the Earth’s ecosystem forever is surely not an easy feat to do. Geologists have been able to observe differences in rock to tell Earth’s story up to this point, but dissecting current time is harder to do since looking back is what Geologists are experts on, contemplating the present is not their specialty. From a philosophical perspective however, there was a beginning point when we became a driver instead of a passenger along the chronology of time.
Some theories based on atmospheric evidence suggest the era kicked off with the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century due to human population growth and the rise of carbon dioxide. This was a time when humans first began to play with chemical manufacturing, and the building of machines. Others connect the beginnings to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture and the domesticating of animals with the Neolithic Revolution 12,000 years ago. This direct change from hunting and gathering resulted in societies being developed and the continued rise and falls of them since. Further, many believe that the very recent onset of our dependency on technology since the 1950s has fueled exponential growth to the point that some call it the “Great Acceleration.”
Then the Internet came, which revolutionized society like no other civilizations of the past. By building an interconnected framework around the globe, using satellites and computers to share data, we are moving energy in a coordinated manner around the Earth like never before, building our collective intelligence that can easily resemble a brain. Several trillion synapses are available in our brain for neuron communication, allowing for the processing of an enormous amount of information every minute. Our global system of communication is too processing data in amounts that are difficult to comprehend. For example, every minute email users send over 200 million messages. In the last 30 years, almost half of the world’s population used the internet connecting 2.5 billion people instantly like never before. This electronic infrastructure allows for the fundamental mathematical laws that nature follows to produce exponential growth. Perhaps we are living with the right conditions set up to allow for another boom of diversification.
Although I agree that today’s technology revolution has provided the catalyst to propel us into the next form of rapid growth and development of our species, I prefer to connect the beginning of the Anthropocene Era with the time homo sapiens’ consciousness expanded into a different form. It can be easily argued that all living things are conscious in some aspect, but many would agree that advanced consciousness like our own is unique. We broke through into a new level of consciousness that hadn’t existed before. This too has arguments about its beginnings, but my general feelings lead me to believe that consciousness began in the 6th century BC with the co-evolution of language and larger brain capacity that allowed humans to discover they had minds.
So when did the proper neuronal connections in our brains happen to allow us to become differently intelligent than other living things? From observing my own children I find that true advanced consciousness begins when a toddler realizes they are separate and distinct from their parents. Toddlers realize that their wants are not the same as their parents, and rebellion begins–leading to the term “terrible twos.” If you extend this idea to humanity, when did we rebel? When were we not happy with what the Earth provided for us to such an extent that we decided to take the wheel and drive? When did we become rational enough to have insights? When did humanity as a whole hit its toddler years?
Prior to our consciousness becoming so advanced we were a lowly species, dwelling on Earth in small proportions. Our lives were simple, our impact to our environment was slim. We weren’t burning fossil fuels or driving cars which made our air dirty. We weren’t polluting the oceans or dropping nuclear bombs. We certainly weren’t socially connected around the globe like we now are. The ability for us to destroy our own habitat was not possible, it was left up to the forces larger than us; the solar winds and the rock particles floating past us in the sky.
Relative to the age of Earth, in a very short period of time we have managed to push the extinction of species like the Zanzibar Leopard and West African Black Rhinoceros, culminating in large losses of tropical rain forests, and dramatic depletion of our ozone layer. To keep pace with our current lifestyle, we need places to bury garbage, chop down trees for paper, use water for new purposes such as doing laundry, breathe pollution from our cars, and destroy land and wildlife as our population increases. People are dying from not having food or water, and being killed over greed. Our love affair with plastic has damaged coral reefs disrupting the oceans’ own ecosystem. It’s estimated that we have affected about 80% of Earth’s surface all by our own doing. This number had recently doubled since the 1960s.
I believe that the Anthropocene Era encompasses more than humans impacting Earth; it’s also about us as humans affecting ourselves. Chemicals we use every day are altering what’s primal to us, leading to cancer becoming more prevalent. Parts of our genome simply cannot survive a situation where the environment suffers from the full overload of toxins we currently live in. Through cancer and disease our bodies are working out new genomic defects experimenting to see what survives. Unfortunately, we cannot evolve as fast as what we are exposing ourselves to via chemicals in the foods we eat and in the air we breathe. Evolution of living organisms takes thousands to millions of years to happen. We simply haven’t given our bodies enough time to adjust to the exponential changes we are introducing to our environment. Further, it is possible we are blocking any type of evolutionary progress we are making. With the rise of medication and prescription drugs, it’s possible that we are sustaining life and the passage of genes that are diseased, allowing nature to keep reproducing that which it is not supposed to.
The correlation between human society and environmental impact has a long history within our short human footprint. The rise and fall of so many civilizations proves that humans have yet gained the ability to evolve into a society that is sustainable. Many upon many have risen and fallen and the phoenix will continue to rise once again until we get it right. From a more current societal perspective, there is a revolution of sorts going on fueled by the new interconnection of the world and its embracement by the younger Millennial and Z generations. The gap between the ideals of past generations and these newer ones is very large. If the governments and societies of developed nations do not adapt to the change that the Millennials and Z’s require, it will collapse as a whole, just as pieces of it have already.
We are at the point of having a changed relationship with our home planet. It’s the beginning of what can be a short or very long “Age of Man.” Depending on how we approach this continued exponential period of growth, it will either be one of decline or one of growth into something fitter. Where will our newfound global awareness and intelligence take us? Research data clearly shows that the exponential growth is not letting up. If we continue to cut down forests, emit more pollution, push species to extinction, and pollute our oceans, something major is going to happen, if it hasn’t begun already. The Earth has survived many eras in the past through the regeneration of its surface as necessary. Humans on the other hand have not held billions of years of precedent like that.
Current aboriginal culture thriving today may be the ones that survive any future cataclysmic changes when they come, as they are the ones most closely living in alignment with the needs of the Earth, away from these perils of modernization. From whichever angle you look at our current situation, it’s hard to deny the culmination of ripe circumstances for change. It is perhaps time for the Anthropocene Era to begin the branching out of its diversification phase, or maybe extinction so that more fit life forms can thrive. When it comes to society and human consciousness, Darwinism still exists in its primal message. Only the fittest will survive; yet there is always life somewhere else to start as the catalyst for the new.
At our basis we are elements from the cosmos. When you bash together many different forms of molecules in any state, new forms develop as the current environment evolves. This theme of constant change is innate, sitting within the molecular dust that has made us into the physical beings we are today. Conditions always have to be just right for changes to begin.
This piece is one of 25 others in Thought Notebook Journal: Parallelism Of Cyclicality. Read the issue to learn more about our observations while studying the cyclical nature of our world.
As I look into my garden, scorching in the summer weather, I see growth and life. What amazes me about my garden, and what makes me pursue one every year, is the beauty of its life cycle. Albeit life in a different form from what we typically know it as human beings, but nonetheless life. Or is it really that different? Water, sun and soil are all the seed needs. Very little human intervention is needed. In fact, some plants grow yearly without any of our help, purely natural. Are seeds considered dead then when they sit untouched by soil, water, and light? When does life begin with a seed? Some seeds never get the chance to have its life-cycle initiated. The diversity of life with seeds fascinates. Not only are there at least 10 different kinds of tomato seeds available, but depending on its environment they can grow so differently from one another. Life that springs from seeds also can undergo disease and genetic mutations, producing an extra limb off a carrot flesh, or an abnormal looking onion.
I had a conversation many years ago with a consultant that I worked on a project with that told me that plants are intelligent as well. They know to bend towards the light to grow, and climb to produce strength, to flower in specific spots and to begin germination when water is present. So I watch my garden year after year, and bask in its diversity, its intelligence, its natural yet flawed process, and reflect on how similar I am to that cucumber. Even the genetic material of humans is of the same process and components of plants. Life on two very different mediums, sharing the same building blocks of life. In fact, Iowa State University states that humans share 50% of the same DNA with bananas.
Unfortunately, like in human life, weeds are a part of this beautiful garden of mine. As they annoy me and the surrounding plants, I tend to think about the human weeds in this world. Whoever made the decision to put the Boston Bomber on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine is a weed, infecting the world around him/her. But like all weeds, even after they are chopped down, they come back, naturally. The nature of annoyance, or evil if you may, is ingrained in our lives, and we have to deal with it, just like the plants that grow stronger to deal with the presence of weeds in their soil. There will be another weed in the future that will try to celebrify evil, and some will be consumed, yet others will be happy to cut them down, only for another to come shortly after.
Yes, I did just create a new word...Celebrify: the process of turning something into celebrity status, and in affect, gaining the perks that come with it.
“Together, we’ll work toward a world where everything you buy could have a new kind of
‘Made In …’ tag.” - www.slaveryfootprint.org
I never really thought too much about how the things I buy are manufactured. I have went on living life worrying about other things, that getting to the molecular level of my purchases was an afterthought. I am very encouraged however to find that someone was thinking about the supply chains of what we consume and had planted the seed into what is now the Made In The Free World organization.
In taking the organization’s Slavery Footprint exercise, I learned more about the term Modern Day Slavery and was presented statistics I never seen before of the slavery that goes on in the manufacturing of things I loved. The fact that there are people who are attempting to escape 20 hour days from hard work and sexual assaults to make the things that I eat and enjoy, really hit my heart. I thought about how these types of issues are not on the news and that the concept of awareness here is tremendous. I wanted part in spreading this awareness, as the results of my Slavery Footprint exercise found that it’s estimated that 88 slaves work for me! Next time I see a “Made In…” tag I will think very differently.
I wanted to learn more, as I was very intrigued by what can be done to rid this issue of supply chain slavery. Do we consumers have a demand issue; do we want and need too much? Or should we point the finger at businesses? These were immediate thoughts as I looked at the map of my slaves and learned more about them. I had the pleasant opportunity to discuss this with Ashley Sholer who is a Grassroots Marketing Associate at the Made In A Free World organization. Ashley helps manages social media campaigns and projects, helps create and maintain partnerships, coordinate events and runs the Campus Chapter program.
I learned from the organization’s website that there are 27 million people enslaved around the world. How is slavery defined in the sense of modern-day supply chain slavery?
The terms most commonly used to represent modern-day supply chain slavery is forced labor or slave labor (interchangeable). A victim of forced labor is; anyone who is forced to work without pay, being economically exploited, and who is unable to walk away.
What type of items do we consume where the slavery is most prevalent?
Unfortunately, the use of forced labor is prevalent in most industries at any point in the supply chain. However, research indicates slavery most commonly happens at the raw materials level. Meaning, in the mining, farming, aquafarming industries. Those raw materials, such as tantalum, cotton, and produce then go into our technology, clothes, and food.
The mission of Made In a Free World is to empower individuals, groups and businesses with innovative solutions as a means to end slavery. What type of innovative solutions have been found?
Good question, which has a long answer. Our most well known innovation is Slavery Footprint, this is an interactive platform we created with the U.S. State Department to help people answer the question; “How many slaves work for me?” In addition to Slavery Footprint, people can visit our Action Center or download the Free World app and send letters for businesses asking them to become ‘Made In A Free World’. We also have on the ground projects aimed to free slaves from different industries, our first of which was freeing 6 kids from the fishing industry on the shores of Lake Volta, Ghana. We are in the midst of our #IChooseFreedom campaign and are planning another awareness campaign scheduled to launch before the end of this year. Also, this is our very first year having Made In A Free World Campus Chapters. These are a way for students from all over the nation to work with their schools to spread awareness and introduce slave free products.
Your organization believes in changing the systems in which slavery thrives. What can be done to eradicate the conditions that are being found in the slavery? What are some sustainable changes businesses are making?
Slavery is perpetuated in places where consumers and companies have little or no visibility. Companies can implement a supplier code of conduct (many of which are available to the public on the company’s website), they can achieve 3rd party certification for fair labor practices, and they can partner with industry organizations or NGOs to implement better supply chain transparency.
There has been an overwhelming response to the cause and the number of supporters continues to grow every day. What type of influence does this demand for freedom have in the overall current economic market?
Over the last 10 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in consumers’ desires for ethically sourced products. Looking ahead, we expect to see this desire expand from ethically sourced products, to products sourced from ethical companies. In other words, it is no longer sufficient for companies to provide one product that is ethically sourced while using exploitative practices in the rest of their operation. Whereas in the past companies could have a ‘green’ product but mistreat their workers or treat their workers well but destroy the environment, we now see consumer pressure for a holistic approach to business and an emphasis on the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profits).
What types of tools are given to businesses to understand their supply chains and implement changes?
The primary hindrance to transparency in supply chains is cost. If a company buys a component for their product at the right price and with consistent quality, they do not have a strong incentive to dig deeper. Consumers can provide this incentive. Once a company has the desire to better understand their supply chain and where their products are sourced, there are many tools available to them. The most commonly used is a supplier code of conduct, whereby a company sets minimum operating standards as a condition for winning/retaining their business. The company can then conduct internal reviews (audits) of their suppliers to ensure that these companies are upholding their commitment to operate in compliance with the code of conduct. This practice typically ladders up to third party auditing such as Fair Trade, or SA 8000 whereby a company pays an external party to visit the facility, farm, etc., and verify first hand that workers and/or the environment are being respected. As a matter of efficiency, many companies join trade organizations such as BIFMA or create their own industry organizations such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to develop standards and share best practices.
What is the biggest challenge when discussing supply chain slavery with businesses?
The word slavery carries very heavy connotations and because of that businesses actively try to avoid being associated with that word entirely. No company wants to be the first mover and publically admit that there may (we know there is) slavery in their supply chain. One of Made In A Free World’s primary objectives is to create a circle of trust whereby companies feel comfortable opening a conversation about slavery in the first place. This is not yet the case, which is why we are working to inform consumers through Slavery Footprint that each and every one of us has a connection to slavery and can do something to help end it.
The organization believes that the only way to change the world is to “work together,” a term found often on the website. Tell us more about this guiding principle?
Slavery isn’t merely a government or business issue. Nor is it an “us vs. them” issue. It’s an “all of us” issue. Its individuals, nonprofits, academics, governments, community groups and businesses working together. It will take a global movement to end this global and ancient injustice.
Made In A Free World is a place where all of us can leverage our unique strengths and global influence. We make it possible to work together in order to achieve more than we possibly can do alone. We’ve brought together millions of committed consumers from all corners of the world ready to support businesses who demonstrate their shared value of freedom.
What types of activities are non-profits, academics, governments, community groups, and businesses working together and doing to contribute to freedom?
This answer is similar to the one about our innovative solutions. We have people from every single one of these groups working together by learning their Slavery Footprint, taking action in our Action Center, supporting our campaigns and on the ground projects, as well as hosting awareness or fundraising events. In addition to participating in those efforts, people have shown our film ‘Call+Response’ to their companies, community groups, academic institutions and non-profits. In the near future, there will be many other ways these groups will overlap and work together to bring about a time when everyone and everything is ‘Made In A Free World.’
What can we consumers do? Describe what a ‘modern day freedom chooser’ is?
As consumers, you can discover your Slavery Footprint and take action by sending letters for businesses tell them you want products without slave labor and ask them to become Made In A Free World. In addition, keep the conversation going. Let people know that slavery exists and there is something each and every one of us can do to end this injustice. That is exactly what a freedom chooser is. It is someone who uses their freedom of choice to say “I choose freedom for everyone” and then acts upon their declaration.
In Ghana, the organization rescued 6 kids in the fishing industry. How are slaves being rescued and how are the local governments responding?
Unfortunately, for the security of our partner organization, Challenging Heights, we cannot provide details of the rescuing process. However, our project did put 6 kids on a path to freedom. The includes the rescue process, provides one year of schooling and medical treatment, as well as counseling and micro business training for the child and his or her family.
You have a campaign called #ichoosefreedom where people pledge to be a part of the movement. What is the main message of the pledge? What kind of response have you had in this regard?
The main message of #IChooseFreedom is: Whether or not we realize it, the majority, if not all of us, indirectly benefit from slave labor. We all have a responsibility to take action and use our freedom of choice to create freedom for all. We have gotten a positive response from supporters all over the world.
Freedom is one of many Universal Rights that apply to human beings. What other Universal Rights does the organization feel is important to humanity?
Freedom is honestly the most essential, universal right. Without freedom, no one has access to any other universal right. Freedom over oneself cannot be taken lightly, it includes way more than we may realize. Many people who are trapped in slavery are stripped of everything, including their name.
What do you think is the root cause of forcing fellow humans to live and thrive in slavery conditions?
This is a very complicated question, and I do not think there is one right answer. Many people who are guilty of enslaving others do not think of it as a human rights violation. It is a business decision to increase profits and decrease overhead. Also, as consumers we inadvertently allow businesses to continue using slave labor. Does that make slavery any less contemptible? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Does framing it that way put into a solvable solution? We believe so. Actually, we built an entire organization around the belief that slavery can and will end in our lifetime. When people know about the issue and will not stand for it any longer, businesses will not be able to get away with using slave labor and will provide livable wages and safe work environments.
Consider a donation to Made In A Free World at www.madeinafreeworld.com/support_us