When Evolution becomes Maladaptive

Hamish Lindop
2 min readOct 8, 2023
This image shows how the temperature in New Zealand has changed since the start of the 20th century compared to average (1971–2000). Photo / Metservice / Ed Hawkins / Show Your Stripes

I read the other day that the weight of all land mammals is less than 10% of all humans now; this seems like a very serious imbalance. I have been thinking about the causes of ecological overshoot which is driving nature’s demise, and how humans evolved from nature. In one sense we different from all other species, but in another we are exactly like all other species; we have this ability for intelligence and awareness but we’ve used it to dominate the Earth to the point of the collapse of natural systems. This seems like biological evolution taken to the Nth degree. It is intriguing to think that the evolutionary process can produce a species that’s so successful at dominating that it causes the whole system to collapse. It seems as if this were always going to happen.

What’s frustrating is that many indigenous peoples have developed values systems which place taking care of nature at a high priority, Kaitiakitanga in Tikanga Māori is a good example of this. But if we think of colonization as the final, most destructive phase of biological evolution, whose hallmark seems to be successfulness at domination, it’s no wonder, if rather sad, that European colonizers marginalised and degraded these knowledge systems and peoples in the name of “progress and civilisation”; how ironic (full disclosure: my Tangata Tiriti ancestors were complicit in this and I apologise to Tangata Whenua for the harm we caused).

More and more I’m seeing how although we are conscious, consciousness and unconsciousness aren’t binaries; there are many different degrees of conscious, self-aware, “awakeness” to reality and the current condition of things, and ability to respond accordingly and adaptively; this seems like the necessary shift we need to make, as humans, from biological evolution to social and spiritual evolution. I hope that some day (after the sixth mass extinction, and human-driven environmental and civilizational collapse have run their course, I guess) humans collectively can evolve enough that we can value, maintain, and enhance nature, as we are a part of nature and nature is us.

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Hamish Lindop

Sharing insights from community building and social innovation, and reflections on ways of (well) being