Illustration by Jonathan Barker

The birds got to sing and dance. The moose had to grow a huge unwieldy rack and bash heads with it. Maybe once, back in the evolutionary mists, a less elaborate version of that strategy had made some sense. But now he would rather be a bird.

Meanwhile in the realm of humans, mighty nations and comfortable individuals stand on small rises, wishing for bigger antlers. 

They imagine themselves to be the crowning achievements of evolution. And yet no level of magnificence seems to be enough. They are convinced that status depends on becoming ever richer and more powerful, controlling and exploiting more resources, possessing more impressive and intimidating equipment. 

Maybe once, back in the cultural mists, a less elaborate version of that strategy had made some sense. But now it’s mostly disagreeable, inefficient, unfair and incompatible with life on a planet that has declining tolerance for expanding demands.

University of Waterloo professor and the magazine’s long-time editor, Robert Gibson chairs Alternatives’ editorial board and writes our back-page column: What’s the Big Idea. He reads every word of every issue and can be thanked for the best – and the poopiest – article titles. Substitution gets us genetic engineering, nuclear reactors, ocean draggers and unconventional oil. 

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