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Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Horizon and Darwin Day Lecture

The species that changed everything

In just a few years the planet will have 10 billion people. Will we be able to provide space and goods for all of us, as well as building a sustainable future? Hear NTNU professor Hans Stenøien in this Horizon and Darwin Day Lecture.

New York crowd
Photo:
Mike Careh, Unsplash

At 16:15, before the main lecture, Professor Bjarte Hannisdal will introduce iEarth, one of UiB's Centres of Excellence in Education.

The lecture:

Human history is inextricably linked to how we have shaped nature to meet our needs.

The success of our species is to a large extent based on our ability to exploit our surroundings. While textbooks describe evolution as the process of adaptation by natural selection to the conditions of the environment, we became the species that adapted the environment to our needs. This has come so far that it now many places all over the world is hard to tell what is natural and what is man-made.

While some may think that our impact on Earth’s biosphere and climate is very recent, it started with eradication of large animals over the last tens of thousands of years. Currently we see it in the environmental crisis of our time. But while our ability to change nature has grown with time, so has also our understanding of our role.

Furthermore, during this evolution, our species also changed. We have evolved remarkable abilities for cooperation far beyond any other life form. This is a basis for hope: As opposed to prehistoric humans, we know how to build a sustainable future. And as opposed to any other species, evolution has changed us into being able to set goals for the common good.

Hans K. Stenøien:

Hans K. Stenøien is professor and head of NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology. He works on questions related to evolution of biological diversity in space and time, where he uses genetic tools to study the evolutionary history of plants and animals. With Reidar Andersen he wrote the book “Arten som forandret alt. Historien om menneskets erobring av naturen” [The Species that Changed Everything. The History of Mankind’s Conquer of Nature] in 2018. This book will be for sale at the meeting.