Reality isn’t always a pretty, flowery dream come true. There exists a problem, one that must be addressed.
We have, as a part of a species, placed ourselves on a very high throne and have assumed the title of the most powerful species on this planet. We have, sadly, just presumed that we are rulers of the world, and have spent every minute of our existence on this planet exploiting the resources that Mother Nature had bestowed on us. So, while in the beginning there was lots to use and plenty to consume, we have reached a point in our stay here where we seem to be in a ‘200 to 10 fight’— if there are 10 of us on earth, there are only 2 trees left for all of us combined.
It was a horrifying image when thousands of fish turned up dead on the bay of Aptos, California. The locals were to quick discover that their beloved beach had become the deathbed of thousands of fish because of the toxic content of the water there. The fish hadn’t been able to breathe in the water due to the large amounts of algae on the surface and had washed up on the shore. This tragedy isn’t some simple disaster of nature. It is, in fact, one in thousands of examples as to how we manage to, through our selfish and survival centered ways, pollute the natural resources that we rely on. Most people attribute these issues to the overgrowth of our population. It took the human race thousands of years from the early dawn of man all the way to the early 1800s to reach one billion people. Shockingly, it took only about a hundred years to double the population to two billion in the 1920s. After that, it took a mere fifty years for the population to double again to four billion in the 1970s. As of today, i.e. 2017, our population has reached about 7.5 Billion.
So, we’re well on track to reach eight billion very soon. The birth rate in the world is so high that just today; the human race has added another quarter-billion people to planet Earth. A quarter billion people who need food, water, energy. Every year we’re introducing the equivalent of the entire country of Germany, about 83 million people, to the world.
The problem is that in today’s “progressive society”, it is considered politically incorrect for liberals and environmentalists to talk about the gravity of this issue. It is regarded as anti-capitalist and undemocratic for most conservatives when they say that we need to control the growth of our species. It is considered morally offensive to the religious communities for we have been created by a Supreme Being and this creation must not be questioned.
We need to look for an alternative solution to Go-Green Campaigns because campaigns cannot succeed in repairing the damage we have caused. A UN report suggests that as of 2015, we had managed to establish the most number of environmental goals and objectives ever in the history of mankind. However, the rate of ecosystem decline is still increasing, climate change is speeding, soil and ocean degradation continues, air and water pollution is growing, rubbish and waste accumulation is growing.
According to the UNEP, we now have something our leaders like to call a treaty congestion. This means that while world leaders have signed up to 500 internationally recognized agreements in the past 50 years,
•Only 40 goals had shown any signs of progress while in 24 of them, zero progress was seen in the matters of climate change, fish stocks, and desertification and drought.
• In fact, a further deterioration was seen in the matters covered by eight goals including the state of the world’s coral reefs.
• In 14 of these, there was no data available, no further research was done beyond the talking and promising.
To understand the problem, imagine a glass with a hole at the bottom. If we put it under a tap, it will continue to fill the glass, but the glass will never fill beyond the hole, as it will continue to leak. Similarly, Mother Earth may try to keep supplying us with the natural resources essential to our survival, but if we do not stop the exploitation, we will not be able to stop the leak because there are far too many people and not enough water in the glass.
To explain the consequences of our acts, consider the Earth is the human body and the human race is a virus. Now, the virus, i.e. mankind has entered the body, i.e. Earth. Now, the virus has found conditions key for its survival, so it has multiplied in the host body, i.e. reproduction and growth of the human race. Now that the host body has been infected by the virus, it has to activate an internal defence mechanism to eliminate this virus. However, there are two outcomes. If the virus is too strong for our Immune cells, they will kill the cells and infect the body further. However, once this happens, the body releases T cells to act as a second defence. While doing so, the body raises its temperature to delay the spread of the virus.
So, in our case, now that the human race has already infected the planet and survived the “immune cells” of floods, earthquakes and other natural calamities, we have now reached a point where there can be only two outcomes. Either, the virus kills the host body and we destroy the Earth or the host raises its temperature to kill the virus and the Earth raises its core temperature leading to our extinction as the extreme heat makes it impossible to survive.
But, in both of these, the final result will be the complete extinction of our species.
As of now, it’s more accurate to say that the Earth’s defense mechanisms seem to be working. While the optimum temperature of survival is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature around the early 1950s showed a tremendous spike and around the 2000s climbed to 58 degrees which is well above the normal temperature. Now, the problem is as of 2020 the average temperature will continue to increase by a degree. The human race can’t survive beyond temperatures of 95 degrees, which means that in the next few decades, Earth could be approaching a very dangerous temperature, which will ultimately cause the extinction of every living being on Earth. The increasing temperatures will shrink the polar ice caps, making large areas of the Middle East and North Africa unbearable to live in and accelerate Earth’s sixth mass extinction of animal species.
The solution has to come from the human nature. We seem to react and change only when we face something horrific; a tragedy that will act as a wake-up call, after which we finally understand where the problem lies.
The human race has seen this happen in the past. History has proven it with the Black Death– one of the most devastating pandemics in human history that resulted in the deaths of almost 200 million people in Eurasia. It had started out as a minute bacterium, but ended up reducing the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century. This mass pandemic forced the world to quickly recover. But, soon, we saw another pandemic in the London Plague which killed another 100,000 people. Only after this did the world decide to spend billions on research and development of cures for many diseases that hadn’t even been recognized until the start of the 17th century. In both these cases, a small strain of bacterium had caused the death of millions.
With modern medicine having reached great heights, scientists have found a new strain of H5N1 virus. The virus has a 60% mortality rate which means that it will be the most effective killer. It doesn’t require large amounts of investments into research and production as its immediate source comes from birds like chicken. There has already been a significant outbreak of the virus in countries of Asia. A mutation of this virus could kill a billion people.
Several thinkers had proposed nuclear attacks to achieve the same but the devastation nuclear weapons can cause is almost unimaginable, killing nearly 80% of the population from blasts, hunger and disease. Of course, this is not aspirational. But, as of today, the situation is such that in the next few centuries, we could end up destroying the entire planet and billions of lives with it. This leaves us in an ethical dilemma: Is it not better to cull about a quarter of the current population, and thus save the remaining ¾ of the population by which the ratio of resources to people will be far better balanced? Would it be better to kill 1 billion rather than kill 10 billion with a virus already available and easily curable? A devastation of this scale, will it force us to mend the way we live and consume? Would it help us rebuild as a smarter species that is more conscious of its environment and can take campaigns and measures seriously?
There are no correct answers to these questions. However, a consideration of these questions helps us weigh the problem for what it is: an overarching threat to human existence. These questions must be addressed pragmatically and a solution must be devised.
-Contributed by Dylan
Picture Credits: wordpress.com