The impact of human life is visible almost everywhere on Planet Earth, from over-fished oceans to field upon field of cattle. For the species to survive, and for the good of the entire planet, conservationist Chris Darwin argues that something needs to change.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is most famously summarised by Professor Leon Megginson (a popular misquote): “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change.”
His great great grandson, Chris Darwin, has launched a campaign to bring about a new human evolutionary change, with the helping hand of technology.
Darwin’s Unfinished Business, the group behind the technology, said: “We believe that for our civilisation to thrive in the long term, we need to create a little evolutionary change for the benefit of us all.”
Evolution of species
The evolutionary journey of humans has been both physical and behavioural, taking us upright on two legs, giving us the power of language and the skills to create tools. Another behaviour-based adaptation may now be needed, and one that does not have the luxury of six million years to develop.
After ten years of conservation work, Chris Darwin took a step back, and examined his personal impact on the planet. He discovered an unsustainable lifestyle that was taking a toll on nature: “Once I started measuring my footprint, I realised that meat was actually one of the biggest problems we have to solve.”
He said that evidence shows global meat consumption will double in the next thirty-five years: “If that occurs, so much forest will have to be cut down around the world, that we’re going to cause a mass extinction of species within the next hundred years. And we cannot let that happen.”
The digital tool
The Darwin Challenge is the digital tool designed to help the human species adapt. The challenge: commit to at least one meat-free day a week. As the vegetarian days clock up, so too do the digitised results, giving the user a black and white view of their impact on the planet, others, and themselves.
As the meat-free days start to accumulate, so too do the digital rewards. After just one day, 4km2 of forest has been saved, 11m2 of marine reserve created, and one fish lives to swim another day. As the vegetarian streak continues, so too does the impact. The effect on personal health, the world’s hungry, and other species is charted.
Could this gamification be the key to a successful human evolution? Many people are already motivated to follow a meat-free diet for compassionate, health, or environmental reasons. For others, seeing the direct impact of a meat-free diet, and feeling rewarded, could be the kind of focus that puts people on the path to evolution.
The potential for games to influence health changes has been well documented, with fitness measuring apps and ‘exergames’ (exercise games) rewarding people with digital points for physical activity. Digital points and leaderboards, and the satisfaction that comes with achieving goals, could be the secret to another social behaviour change. When the digital rewards accumulate in The Darwin Project, so too does the real-world impact.
Protecting the planet
Vegan cult-classic film Cowspiracy lays out the environmental impact of animal agriculture, claiming that the practice is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction, and that 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock and their byproducts.
Darwin’s Unfinished Business said: “The fishing industry is responsible for the lion’s share of the destruction under the waves. On land, the world’s forests are being felled at the rate of a football pitch per second, mostly to make way for livestock. Both these industries are providing us with meat.”
While this group is setting out to prevent the global mass extinction of species by encouraging people to eat less meat, animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming is working to put an end to factory farming. The rallying cry of their campaign, Stop the Machine, asks the public to take action against the practice, which it says is leading to species being wiped out across the globe.
The group said: “Factory farming is a destructive machine. It churns out vast quantities of cheap meat, milk and eggs, from animals suffering in cruel, caged and crowded systems. In turn, these animals are fed on pesticide and fertiliser-soaked crops, grown on land that was formerly vital habitat for some of the world’s most endangered species.”
In a bid to stamp out factory farming, the charity is encouraging people to send an email to EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, airing their views on the subject.
For the planet as we know it to survive, should meat be taken off the menu? This is a solution that Chris Darwin describes as a silver bullet for environmental problems. For those who are interested in the issue, The Darwin Challenge could provide the focus.