Saturday, 22 June 2013

'I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle' or 'Am I My Brother's Keeper?'

Genesis 2: 18-20 says,
 
'And the Lord God  (Hebrew YHWH-Elohim) said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him (NKJV).
 
I love this story taken from the second account of creation given in the Book of Genesis in Chapter 2. God, YHWH-Elohim, has created a garden and has placed the newly created man with in it's boundaries. He then proceeds to instruct man, or Adam (Hebrew word for both man and earth), on which trees to eat from and which trees to avoid, in particular the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After giving him his first lesson in 'bush tucker', YHWH-Elohim starts looking for a suitable partner for man. After parading each animal past Adam, which the man has the privilege of naming, no partner is found. And so the wise decision was made to create woman, a decision praised by heterosexual men ever since and one which has brought emotional balance to the human race.

But I wonder, as the parade of animals went by, whether man and ape ever locked eyes and sensed that deep connection one gets today when we look deep into the eyes of our cousins within the hominid family. I think they did if the naming process outcome is anything to go by. For instance, orang-utan means 'person of the forest' and gorilla disturbingly means 'tribe of hairy women'. 
Besides the equally disturbing fact that we and gorillas share closely related pubic lice, there must have been many times through the eons when our ancestors looked at each other and shared a feeling of kinship. I've no doubt that they would have lived beside each other, lived with each other, adopted each other, and fought against each other, as we still see happening today. I felt such a kinship connection this afternoon when, while visiting the zoo, a gorilla and I locked eyes. While lazing around her enclosure with the others of her troupe, she looked over towards the fence where I was sitting and looked straight into my eyes before going back to what she was doing. And although I was just 'some random' amongst the daily crowd of staring hairless apes wearing funny sacks, I knew that I'd been seen.
I've gazed into the eyes of other great apes before, orang-utans and chimps, and been over whelmed by the eerie sense of the familiar as I was this afternoon. I've watched full grown chimps, with the intelligence of a 5 year old human, interacting and playing together, and been struck by the resemblance to the games I'd seen played out in my own backyard by my 5 year old children, each with the intelligence of a full grown chimp. With over  95% of their DNA in common with ours, the great apes share much of the same clay we were moulded out of and sadly we are leading them to extinction. Through loss of habitat and poaching, our nearest relatives are beginning to go the way of the dodo as our lust for mobile phones and fried foods, fuels the fire of their extinction. One of the metals used in mobile phones is coltan, which is mined within gorilla habitat, and increasingly the rainforest's of the orang-utans are being cleared for the production of palm oil. Simple things we can do to help is to boycott and encourage those companies who use palm oil in there products to source it through ethical channels, or to replace it with an environmentally sound and possibly healthier alternatives. Another is to send your old mobile phones off  to be recycled thus minimising the need to mine more coltan. Simple but effective things that when put into practise by many can really make a difference.
Sadly the lands where these great apes live are often places where human life is cheap, and hominid life is even cheaper. My fear is that if we don't do something soon we may lose our closest relatives, relatives that I believe, we have a God given duty to care for and protect. And once the 'people of the forest', 'the tribe of hairy women' and their chimp brethren are gone, we will be left all alone on this ageing planet, the last of hominid kind, left with the blood of family on our hands and left to reflect sadly on what went wrong.

This Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your kind made a wasteland out of it. Dr Zaius, Orang-utan Scientist: 3978 AD