We Should Prepare for the Apocalypse by Studying Rats and Rabbits
One unintended side effect of focusing on endangered species is that we ignore the ones that are surviving and thriving in the Age of Man. These animals will inherit the Earth after we leave. This is the premise that Dougal Dixon takes in his beautifully illustrated masterpiece After Man: A Zoology of the Future. 50 million years from now, when Man no longer exists, tenacious animals like rabbits and rats will have evolved into a multitude of species dominating the planet. For example, rabbits will replace deer and horses as the newly enlarged rabbucks. Likewise, rats will evolve into the large wolf-like Falanx, serving as the primary predator for the rabbucks.
All of this speculation led me to think, then, that our preparations for the apocalypse are all wrong. The most common survivalist ideas are to stock up on bicycles, ammo, and canned foods. Instead, we should look to the animals that have already survived their version of the apocalypse, the one brought on by Man. If rats are thriving today, then dumpster diving would train our digestive systems for a world that is filled with trash. Or if rabbits are abundant now, that points to the enduring importance of breeding. It’s better to be part of an orgiastic subculture if you want to outlast the more timid breeders.
After Man was a hard book to find, and I had to special order it from a third-party on Amazon, but since then, I’ve become hooked on speculative evolution. It’s even more fun than astrobiology, which is the speculative study of animals on other planets. Speculative evolutionists even have a wiki, which serves as a kind of futurist taxonomy. I’ve come to agree with famed zoologist, Desmond Morris, who wrote in the introduction to After Man, “Some of you may reach the point where you suddenly feel saddened by the thought that the animals meticulously depicted in it do not exist now.” That may be, but the ultimate payoff in understanding evolution is in figuring out what comes next. As a result, by speculating on the future evolution of other animals, we can further instruct and guide our own.