January 30rd 2020: night of ideas in Ethiopia
A livable Ethiopia
“A livable Ethiopia” was the topic of the 2020 Night of Ideas, an event of the Institut Français. Jean-Renaud Boisserie contributed by presenting a paleontological perspective of life at the Ethio-French Alliance at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia (see summary below), in addition to presentations by Jean-Baptiste Eczet (anthropologist at EHESS, Paris) and by Yonas Beyene (prehistorian, Centre Français des Études Éthiopiennes).
The same topic was discussed the day after at the Lycée franco-éthiopien GebreMaryam by Jean-Renaud Boisserie and Jean-Baptiste Eczet through worshops for high-school students.
Being alive: a view from the dead
Defining the essence of living beings is not an easy task, because organisms assume a huge diversity of shapes whereas important features seemingly typical of life can also be observed in non-living objects.
Fortunately, life appeared on Earth a long time ago and left a substantial fossil record – including in the rocks of Ethiopia – that we can use to explore what “being alive” means. Paleontology and biology tell us that life changed a lot through deep time, dramatically modified the surface and atmosphere of our planet, making it overall more “livable,” yet not without powerful about-turns. Humans and all their attributes emerged as a part of this historical process, with major implications for our present and future.