September 1, 2011

People skill

Humans are the single most successful species on the planet. (Obviously). No, we don't have the hunting abilities of a leopard or a shark. We're not so great at climbing trees and jumping from branch to branch, and we're really bad at moving through water with speed and agility. We can't fly, we don't have fur to keep us warm, and our eyes can't see very well in the dark. We're slow, we have blunt teeth, and our "claws" look best when trimmed and polished.

We lack many of the qualities that make other animals so intimidating, cute, or stealthy. But we've managed to overcome these challenges with our intelligence and ingenuity. 

We've impacted the landscape to build our towns and cities so much that it's easy to forget that we're animals. All of you reading this are lucky enough to be comforted by insulated walls, soft beds, and a big box that keeps your food conveniently chilled. When you're hungry, you go to the store. When you're thirsty, you get a drink of water. When you need to get somewhere, you get in that odd four-wheeled contraption of yours to drive down asphalt roads to your destination.

It's easy to forget what we're capable of.

Most of this week I've been enthralled with the BBC's "Human Planet." It's a sister series of documentaries to "Planet Earth." Each of the episodes feature humans doing crazy things to live in some of the most extreme places. The Grasslands film features bushmen stealing a slain wildebeest from right under lions' noses. The Arctic episode profiles natives of Greenland who not only rock polar bear pants (seriously, you have to watch this) but they can also catch ginormous Greenland sharks while ice fishing. How many of you have caught something that's 12-feet long out of the Lake of the Woods in January? Probably no one.

Seriously, these films are nothing short of enthralling. I particularly enjoyed the Oceans episode, it showed villages that are built over water (many of the residents become "land sick" if the go ashore). Jenn and I passed a few of those villages off the coast of Borneo when we were en route to our tiny dive island. The episode also featured compressor divers in Palawan in the Philippines -- the very island that I spent an entire week.

The compressor divers each grab a rubber tube that is haphazardly connected to a spitting and barely functioning air compressor and use that as their breathing device 40m beneath the surface. On the ship, a big crew continually works to try keep the hoses from tangling up with the 20+ divers swimming under the ship. 

The divers bring down giant fishing nets and work together to garner a catch of one ton or more for their villages. The work is extremely dangerous, many divers suffer from the bends and nearly everyone knows someone who was killed while diving. Not to mention, the job is one of the worst paying ones on the island...

The films are incredible and leave you feeling both empowered and semi-worthless at the same time (I mean, some of the people they feature seem to be superhuman). You should definitely check them out, though. They might make you believe in superheroes.


And on a different note... I talk a lot about connecting and communicating on here, and one of my favorite magazines/news sites ( just launched a month long challenge to connect with people. You know, connecting the "old fashioned way" with our voices, rather  than just sending a text or an email. It's September 1, I'm going to try out this challenge. I dare you to as well.

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