Recently had the opportunity to chat with Lindsey Abrams of Salon.com about Unnatural Selection book. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
Abrams: How much time passed between the time when humans began to have this outsized effect on other organisms, and when we began to really understand the implications of that, or even that it was happening?
That is a great question, which I’d best leave to the evolutionary biologists. If people were mining a thousand years ago or something like that, and putting their mine tailings in the soil next to the mine, they might have been influencing the microbes and the worms that were living there. And I guess somebody could say that when people were hunting they were probably influencing evolution, because there’s evidence with fisheries that if you take the biggest fish, you can influence the growth rate of fish populations. If I had to say when we began, I’d say it’s probably when we started becoming dominant and messing with nature.
That said, my focus has been how our use of industrial-age chemicals has influenced evolution; and that influence probably began whenever humans started using, discarding and producing chemicals, but really took off with the industrial age and the chemical revolution. Ever since we started killing things either intentionally or not with chemicals, turning up the pressure, those species that could evolve rapidly probably did so. (In the case of the moths the soot was a more indirect influence — it wasn’t killing the moths, only making them more visible.) We are just now learning the scope of who can and in many cases cannot evolve rapidly in response to our chemicals.
For more see: Humanity’s ticking time bomb.