Monday, June 28, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

I saw a garbage picker this morning. When I went out to throw some last-minute stuff into our spiffy new single-stream recycling bin, I saw a guy with his old station wagon, rubber gloves and little poking stick going through the neighbors' trash picking out anything he thought might have value. I'm all for it - better to have something reused than to have it dumped, burned or even recycled.

Seeing this made me think of genetic variation and evolution. OK, maybe I'll burn in Hell, but I believe in evolution and that the world is quite a bit older than 5770 years. I can't help it. I was forced to take 10th grade biology by those godless secularists that ran the public schools back in the Sixties. A little education is a horrible thing. But I digress. I understand it, any population has a little genetic variation. The vast majority of individuals are adapted perfectly well to life under the current conditions. But every now and then an individual is born that's a little different, either through some genetic mutation or some statistically rare combination of genes from its parents. If this individual is too different, they simply die. If they are a little different, they may survive but not thrive. But, if conditions in the environment suddenly shift, maybe - just maybe - that rare individual will be better suited to survival under the new set of conditions and everyone will struggle or die. That lucky oddball will go on to pass along his/her genes and the population will being to evolve into something new and better suited to their new world.

I saw the garbage picker as that oddball. Today, most of us here in the U.S. have adapted to a life of comfort where we don't have to think much about things like where our next meal will come from and how we will clothe the kids next winter. Everything we really need - things like food, water, clothing, basic shelter - are widely available and cheap. But what if conditions were to change? Let's say the climate really was warming, the oil was really running out and political turmoil was right around the corner. Who would be the fittest then - the pampered pretty boy who spent the last two generations in an air-conditioned cocoon, or the guy who new something about picking through garbage?

I put this here on the Moose Hill Notebook rather than Facebook because I get too much static over there about how boring and gloomy I am. I maintain that while I might be boring, I'm not gloomy. I observe our current state of affairs with much interest and take great pleasure in dreaming about those valleys on the other side of the mountains.

1 comment:

Doug said...

I like your perspective, having done a bit of dumpster diving, collecting returnable cans etc, I was always afraid someone I know might recognize me. Its some consolation that there are some out there who might see the the scavenging as resourceful practice of survival skills.