Mother Nature Strikes Back - 10.25.99

I'm sure everyone's noticed by now, but 1999 is shaping up to be one of the most hardcore years ever in terms of natural disasters. Not only did we have Hurricane Floyd here in the United States, but there was a monster earthquake in Turkey that killed about 10,000 people, another one in Tawain that killed several hundred more, as well as other decent-sized ones (meaning more than 5 on the richter scale) in Mexico, Tawain (again), Greece, and several other places (including a 7.1 in California within the past two weeks). Not only that, but India just had a giant typhoon that has killed thousands and Mexico has had horrible flooding over the course of the past couple weeks (due to a storm getting stalled just off the coast and churning away, producing rain at record pace) that had killed hundreds of people (and possibly into the thousands by the time it's all over). Really, all of those above are just the big things that we hear about in the news. In addition, things happen all the time that kill scores of others that barely get a mention stateside.

I think that possibly the most interesting thing about all the statistics above is how they have happened during the year in which the census takers of the world have acknowledged that the population of the world has reached 6 billion people. Not only that, but some have even predicted that it will reach 10 billion already by the year 2015. Now that I've gone ahead and said all of the above, I can finally get to my point.

It was just about 2 months ago that I got into a very excellent conversation with a friend of mine about wondering what was going to happen to the world in the next 10 years of so given the combination of super-fast population growth, the diminishing of natural resources, and the over-abundance of SUV's.

OK, so that wasn't actually the last thing that we cited as a problem, but it is definitely contributes to the overall fact that as humans we're simply puting far too much stress on the earth. Not only do we cut down huge amounts of plant life (plant life that recycles the air we need to live, by the way), but we drive around in vehicles that get horrendous gas mileage (1998, by the way, was the first year in about 15 in which the average miles-per-gallon of automobiles manufactured went down), and do things like adding 35 pounds of a substance in a nuclear reaction instead of 7 (I guess everyone has their bad days, though).

Now, instead of going off on about 10 other rants (which I've kind of managed to do above already), I want offer up one simple point that my friend and I talked about for quite some time on a long road trip. Basically, instead of us continuing to plunder and decimate the earth, we came up with the theory (and it wasn't too much of a scientific one, I admit) that the earth is actually countering our moves against it and fighting back in ways that don't seem to add up to much at first, but looked at over long periods of time could actually be quite devistating.

Really, there are only about three different paths we can go down as a species, and two of them doesn't look too good. On the bad side of things, we can continue about our ways until we blanket the earth, exhausting all resources until we choke ourselves out like a weed that grows in a flowerpot until it's killed all the flowers, then becomes so oversized that the confines of the pot forces it to starve itself off. The second one is that we adapt somehow to the population problems, the grazing problems and the deforestization problems until we reach some nice level ground and the population levels off a bit. The third option is that we just end up blowing ourselves up, but I don't like to think about that one a lot.

Since I've seemed to stray from my point again, I think it's probably a good time to get back to it. What we talked about is that since the human species has basically been ignoring the warning signs from the earth for the past couple decades (and it has given us plenty), the earth is wreaking a bit of havoc on us to give us sort of a wake-up call. If we don't heed that call, then maybe something completely unknown will manifest itself and really trim the population (I'll get to this point again soon, I promise).

I know it's a completely bad scientific theory (please bear with me) and even I can't imagine the plates in the earth getting pissed-off at the pressure above from people above and causing a couple earthquakes, but I can't help but think that just maybe the earth is starting to get a little upset with us humans. Weather patterns are a little more influenced by us over the course of time (due to all the crap we put into and take out of the atmosphere), but it's even hard to believe that torential rain is caused by something we've been doing for the past couple hundred years.

So, again I need to get back to my aforementioned point about what may happen if we don't heed the warning signs. It may not be a complete coincidence that even though medicine and treatments keeps getting better, more and more people around the world are suffering from Asthma and respiritory problems. If you find it hard to believe that nature is fighting back with something on the magnitude (ha-ha, get it?) of earthquakes, maybe it's a little easier to fathom that it's also fighting the good fight on a microscopic level.

Not only is the statement about lung problems true, but there are several different strains of bacteria and diseases that are constantly morphing. Just in the past month, a very deadly virus made itself known in the northeast portion of the United States that may or may not have been something the world has seen before. Not only that, but in the past 5 years, there have been several cases of very-resiliant Tuberculosis pop-up, and I still haven't even mentioned probably the largest, ever-changing of them all--AIDS. I'm not trying to be deliberately pessimistic, but every once in awhile through the ages, something makes itself known and reveals how vulnerable we are as humans (Black Death, anyone?). Even though we're coming up with vaccines and cures at a rapid pace, things are changing even faster than we can imagine at that very-small level.

Really, it just may be me (and the friend I discussed this all with) reading into things, but perhaps we're finally hitting a brink with nature where it's going to start shoving back a little bit harder each time until we get the hint. Dammit, now I sound like one of those crappy sensationalism magazines that stares back at you in the checkout aisle of the grocery store.

Either that, or maybe they're finally onto something.