Julia Roberts delivers a stone-cold video message from Gaia, courtesy of Conservation International. There is something bracing and powerful in this little film. We moderns surely do need to be reminded that material reality poses stark limitations on our narcissistic desires. We can’t foul our nest, wreck the only known habitable planet and expect it to magically fix itself. Thus far, we’re on board with Julia. Check out the video for yourself!
What is off-putting and ominous about this video is the Julia Robert’s tone and language as she discusses humanity. Speaking with all the haughty disdain we’d associate with the Witch-Queen of Narnia, Roberts scoffs at man as an insignificant and transient biological blip. “I have fed species greater than you,” she warns. “And I have starved species greater than you.”
In what sense could this be true? By what criteria could one judge a species greater than humanity? Yes, most dinosaurs weighed more. Insects and microbes outnumber us. Alligators have been around longer. (Is that what they always seem to be grinning about?) But somehow, body mass, numbers or sheer longevity don’t stack up as measures of greatness.
No single species has had a greater impact, for better or worse, on planet earth than human beings. This has led biologists to name this era the Anthropocene, to mark the massive effects of human efforts on the biosphere. The Conservation International video obscures this empirical reality along with the even more fundamental truth that humans are unique among their fellow animals as creatures made in the image of the Creator.