Sapiens, the Anthropocene, Humanity: there is darkness within us.
comfortable Californian childhood, I learned about distant injustices and
atrocities. It felt unfair that I would grow up so softly in such a harsh
world. So, after university, I dove in: I traveled the world by backpack,
seeking humanity’s shadow. For comfort, my mother gave me a yellowing photo of
my father – bearded and sweaty, sitting at the Taj Mahal 30 years prior – on
his own mysterious quest.
photo anchored me as I sought darkness. I traveled through quiet villages on
the outskirts of tragedies and genocides, both old and new. Through mountains,
where wild species – gorillas, insects, weeds – struggled against extinction
from poaching, pesticides, diseases. Through cities, where luxury cars cruised past
gaunt people in shanty towns, almost bored with the permanence of their poverty.
finally arrived at the Taj Mahal. As I reproduced my father’s photo – my own tangled
beard and sweaty shirt replacing his in the frame – I felt an incredible
relief. In an instant, I merged completely with everything that came before –
with my father, with all the darkness I had seen. And I emerged from it, free
from its burden. I realized every moment from that point on was my own, my
future fresh and unknown. I was done chasing our shadow, and I was ready to find
a wild species: we hold the potential for incredible creation, or destruction. Through
humility, vision, and collaboration, we can build a better balance within our societies
and our ecosystem. With my one fragile and wondrous life, I will fight for our