Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.
It is these undeniable qualities of human love and compassion and self-sacrifice that give me hope for the future. We are, indeed, often cruel and evil. Nobody can deny this. We gang up on each one another, we torture each other, with words as well as deeds, we fight, we kill. But we are also capable of the most noble, generous, and heroic behavior.
It's been proven by quite a few studies that plants are good for our psychological development. If you green an area, the rate of crime goes down. Torture victims begin to recover when they spend time outside in a garden with flowers. So we need them, in some deep psychological sense, which I don't suppose anybody really understands yet.
Language allows us to talk about the past and plan the future. We can teach children about things that are not present. And above all, we can bring people with different backgrounds and different knowledge together to discuss our problems. This actually gives me hope. I still think we are smart enough to not destroy planet Earth, our only home.
We, as humans, have actually developed a sense of social responsibility. We have gone beyond our basic instincts. We can and we do. This is what sets us apart from the chimps. They are extremely brutal and hostile. Your next door neighbor is to be killed unless she is a juicy young female, who hasn't yet had her first baby, in which case you want her.
It has actually been suggested that warfare may have been the principle evolutionary pressure that created the huge gap between the human brain and that of our closest living relatives, the anthropoid apes. Whole groups of hominids with inferior brains could not win wars and were therefore exterminated.
Certainly the first true humans were unique by virtue of their large brains. It was because the human brain is so large when compared with that of a chimpanzee that paleontologists for years hunted for a half-ape, half-human skeleton that would provide a fossil link between the human and the ape.
We started off with physical evolution and got our form. Then we somehow developed language, which meant cultural evolution could race so we could change our behavior really quickly instead of over hundreds and hundreds of years. And then comes moral evolution, which means we're not frightfully far along with people. And maybe we end up with a spiritual evolution, which is this connectedness with the rest of the life forms on the planet.
When I look back over my life it's almost as if there was a plan laid out for me - from the little girl who was so passionate about animals who longed to go to Africa and whose family couldn't afford to put her through college. Everyone laughed at my dreams. I was supposed to be a secretary in Bournemouth.