Humans: The Hyperkeystone Species and the Potential for Change

Humans: The Hyperkeystone Species and the Potential for Change


A keystone species has a disproportionately large effect on its surrounding environment, ultimately defining its ecosystem. This may sound like an opportune position to be in but it is one that comes with great responsibility. A keystone species has the ability to radically change an ecosystem allowing for new and possibly invasive species to populate, as an example. 


Humans go beyond this idea and have been deemed a hyperkeystone species. Trust me, the name is not as glorious as it sounds. The term was coined as a play on hyperparasites, which are organisms that parasitize other parasites. For example body-snatching wasps lay eggs in the bodies of other insects, and other wasps lay eggs in the eggs of those first ones—the latter are hyperparasites. It’s tragic to think that this definition reflects the behaviour of human beings. 


Our impact on other keystone species through direct activities such as hunting or fishing, or more often directly, through pollution, deforestation, climate change, the list goes on and on. The catastrophic effect that humans have had, and will continue to have on other keystone species will have irreversible ripple effects that we cannot even begin to comprehend... What we can do is recognize the all-powerful ways that Western, industrialized, capitalist ideals have been imposed onto the world, and change course, before it's too late. 


We are all too often a self-important species, not thinking of the ways that our actions will affect the rest of the beings who inhabit this earth along with us. We fail to recognize the role that we play in a much larger landscape of interdependent ecosystems. Somewhere along the line we separated ourselves from the rest of the natural world, misguidedly believing the notion that we exist separate from nature, when the truth is we are one and the same. Continuing to think we are the most powerful and important beings of this land, rather than an integral part of a system, will ultimately be to our own detriment. 


There needs to be a collective shift, from dominance to collective care, from exploitation to regeneration. While it should be the governments who are leading this charge, putting in place more strict regulations, they are often very slow to move. As such, businesses are often left to their own devices. Consumers have the power to hold corporations accountable, by choosing to support businesses with good social and environmental practices. 


While this is not always possible or easy, it holds great potential. It is clear to see that many companies are responding to these desires, offering eco-friendly options, giving back to their communities or environmental initiatives. This is just the beginning, businesses should always be concerned with values beyond profit, and we as consumers have the power to demand better from the governments and businesses who serve us. We must never forget our agency.

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