In the movie, The Matrix (1999), the character Agent Smith (a computer programme simulated to look like an human agent) speaks to Morpheus (one of the many captains of the freedom movement) who has been captured in the matrix. This is what he says: “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realised that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague…”
For me as a microbiologist, this makes so much sense! Sure, viruses are mere nucleic acid bits surrounded by protein coats while humans are complex multi-cellular organisms, but we do seem to share that similarity that Agent Smith so succinctly points out.
According to well-researched data, it took anything between 50,000 and 200,000 years for the human population to reach 1 billion. But it took only 200 years to reach 7 billion. Apparently the human race has taken the mythical mandate – “Be fruitful and multiply” – rather too seriously! Like mathematicians gone crazy we have multiplied, gone exponential, spread ourselves across the surface of the earth like butter on bread, and in the process, we have run countless species of beautiful life into the ground never to rise again!
If this is what our humanity has been, we do not deserve redemption! Our obsession with self-preservation has murdered and continues to murder so many different life forms, that this beautiful Earth is fast becoming an empty shell of herself. Some scientists predict the sixth Mass Extinction will soon be upon us, the only difference being that the previous five were due to natural disasters, while this will be due to climatic changes brought about by human activity.
Earth is at the tipping point of a major ecological disaster. No, no…actually it has crossed that tipping point. The quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has shot way past the safe levels of 350ppm (parts per million) and even crossed the final frontier of 400ppm, the point beyond which, even if all industrial and vehicular activity were to stop, we cannot reverse the changes affecting life on this planet. And all this output of carbon dioxide is linked to one single species: the human being.
Simply the burden of 7.5 billion (and still increasing) human beings on this planet releases unbearable quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the rapidly diminishing forests and the swiftly acidifying oceans are incapable of absorbing adequately. And this is only one effect. Our land usage has increased tremendously as aspirational human beings seek more and bigger houses, more commodities, and more food products. Larger areas of land cleared for human activity means decreasing forests and smaller wildlife habitats, leading to species extinctions, and a consequential imbalance in the food web and the cycle of life that Earth nurtured delicately for billions of years. And all this wanton destruction and disharmony is linked to one single species: the human being.
For every single child born today, we are staring at a potential 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide released in its lifetime – that’s 10,000,000 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide from just one individual! When religious leaders and right-wingers deride population control and birth control, they drive nails into the coffin of carbon dioxide surrounding Mother Earth. They ignore the warning signs around us that Earth has endured too many of us and will soon start eliminating us to restore balance.
For those of us who cling to the hope that this life is unimportant and the next life is, they will be uncaring of what happens to Earth. They might even welcome it! But if we believe that this Earth came into being for a purpose, to nurture the fullness of Life in all its beautiful diversity, we have to raise our voices, controversial though our words might be.
This Earth cannot take any more of the human virus – the load is killing it. Speak now to restore the balance and to bring back the glory of Mother Earth.
[This article will shortly be published in Prophetic Voice, the CPCI Bulletin published from Bengaluru.]
(About the Author: Suren Abreu is a microbiologist, feminist, environmentalist, social justice activist and the brain behind the formation of the Green Madcaps.)