A descendant of Charles Darwin is urging people to think of nature as a priority, in the year that will see the 160th anniversary of On The Origin Of Species, one of the most revolutionary books in the history of science.
Sarah Darwin, great-great granddaughter of the naturalist, said the current standard of living for many people is too high, adding that no politician wanted to admit this to the public.
In response to threats facing the planet, such as climate change, she said people needed to use “our great brains” to find a sustainable way of living.
November 2019 will see 160 years since Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species was published, his theory that says evolution happens by natural selection.
Dr Darwin, a botanist in her own right, said: “We should really be getting to a stage where every decision we make has nature as its priority.
“Whether that’s buying food in a supermarket, buying clothes or travelling to work, these decisions should be made with nature as the priority.
“Next year will be the 160th anniversary of Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species, which clearly talks about how all animals and humans on the planet share a common ancestor.
“It seems surprising to me that 160 years later, humans for some reason think we are special or different when we are part of nature.”
Dr Darwin, 54, expressed concerns about a “generational amnesia” of people’s experience of nature, due to a loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species.
She currently works as a researcher at Berlin’s Museum fur Naturkunde for a project on nightingales in Berlin, asking citizens to reconnect with nature and make recordings of the nightingales in the city and across Germany using an app.
She said: “While the nightingale numbers in Berlin seem to be stable, or even increasing, we are seeing a rapid decline with the UK nightingales with a 90% reduction during my lifetime.
“In parallel to the global biodiversity loss you get an extinction of the human experience with nature. No-one will protect what they do not know.
“(Charles) Darwin at one stage said he wishes he had done more for his fellow creatures, and I think if he were alive today, he would be reminding us all that we need to learn to live with nature, not to dominate it.”
The botanist also expressed concerns about how the outdoors is currently taught in schools and said she would like to see more people learning about nature for themselves.
Dr Darwin applauded a drama about the young Charles Darwin’s expedition on HMS Beagle, currently playing at the Jerwood Gallery at London’s Natural History Museum until February 2019.
The Wider Earth features a cast of seven and 30 hand-puppets representing the wildlife Charles Darwin encountered on his travels.
She said: “It is such a clever way of telling the story. It shows Darwin’s emotional journey and makes it very, very personal.
“I think that learning about his voyage is an important foundation for people to build their knowledge of natural selection and evolution.
“What’s so exciting about this play is that it’s by no means boring, but it brings it alive and in such a personal human way.”