On this article we will discuss which element has been more relevant to develop our skills.
Our debt to trees is absolute, however sex has also been a trigger for the development of our mind. Modern theories of evolution indicate that our mental capacity – our art, our inventions, and other cunning – is largely due to sex. At least seen from an objective point of view and somewhat basic. It is true to say that our ancestors had to be ingenious to attract one or several couples and in this way be able to reproduce, fulfilling a basic evolutionary need that allows populations to continue on this planet. After all, if a species stops reproducing, it disappears. Thus, one must be resourceful in courtship to ensure that both females and males choose to breed with the mate that has the best characteristics for survival. Under these raw foundations our ingenuity was created. But what about elephants, dolphins and pigs? We can also affirm that they need to attract a partner. However, we don”t see a pig doing a piano concert, artistic paintings, or creating buildings. No, the reason is that there is an ingredient missing. One suggested by conservation biologists a long time ago …
Our brains and skills developed together; they are an exercise of coevolution. Pigs are smart, but instead of hands they have hooves. And there is certainly no way to express your dreams and ideas. In contrast we can translate our ideas into action. We can say that our instruments are ideas in space, because before they were conceived, they were created in our minds.
The brain is an expensive organ (it requires an immense amount of energy). So, unless they generate immediate profit, natural selection would choose against its development. But since we have hands (at the end of long, strong and extremely mobile arms) the brain produces benefits that are manifested in thousands of tools of great utility for our survival. Thus, the hands provided the stimulus and selective pressure for our brains to develop more and more, consequently encouraging more skills. Certainly, the only reason we have such dexterous hands and spinning arms is because our ancestors spent approximately 80 million years in the trees. During that time, they developed skills and very good hand-eye coordination. The squirrels almost became intellectuals, but they got stuck in their way. The monkeys and other primates came closer, but they stayed in the trees, where they are forced to waste their fabulous abilities just to move between the branches and get food. Our ancestors, somewhere in Africa, hit the ground when the weather dried up and the trees retreated. They learned to walk on two legs (which no other primate, nor any other mammal of any kind has convincingly learned to do), consequently they released their versatile arms and hands and began to use them for other purposes. If not for those traits and coincidences, we would be as intellectually frustrated as elephants and dolphins sometimes seem to be. Archaeologists speak of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age and the Steam Age, and now we have the age of the internal combustion engine, nuclear power, space, and technology. But for us each age has been the Wood Age, it was in the past; and perhaps, it will continue to be for decades to come. Wood has been useful even at an architectural level because great architecture demands wood. The ruins that survive from classical times are all stone, but that is only because the wood rots. Stone and brick architecture evolved from wooden architecture, and it needed tools with a wooden handle and wooden scaffolding for his construction, wooden roofs and beams.
Wood was also the first serious fuel, and humans clearly learned the use of fire thousands of years ago, long before our brains were as big as we are now. No fuel – no cast iron, no Bronze Age or Iron Age or modern machines. There is no wood: there are no boats. There are no boats: there are no ocean voyages. No trips by the ocean: there are no empires: there is no modern politics. We could say that without wood: there is no civilization. However, trees are not just wood. Trees are the source of drugs, ointments, incense, and poisons to shoot arrows, stun fish, and kill pests; of resins, varnishes and industrial oils, glues and dyes and paints; of gums of many types, including chewing gum. And of course, it should not be forgotten that trees also produce paper. All that, plus a thousand (at least) types of fruits and nuts. In short, without trees, our species would not have even existed in the first instance.
Trees are life and in Corcovado is full of life. In this beautiful natural park, the trees stand proud for meters by meters. Each of them is a world unto itself. Each tree can house hundreds of species of animals and plants.
We invite you to visit this beautiful natural park in Costa Rica and enjoy the forests that have the highest biological intensity on the planet. Our tours are designed to relate these and other fascinating facts about the natural world.
In addition to Corcovado, hidden among the thick jungles of the Talamanca mountains, there is an oak that is approximately two thousand years old.
David Villanueva, naturalist guide in Costa Rica