Mankind has been rapidly, voraciously consuming and laying waste to Planet Earth for at least 250 years, arguably longer. The result has been a fundamental altering and degradation of the delicate biological balance that makes Earth a unique life-sustaining planet.
Balance is the key to the survival and vitality of life on Earth. When things get out of balance, changes occur that have a major impact on the ecosystems that support life. One of the great wonders of the natural world is its ability to maintain the necessary balance.
Human life on Earth is altering the balance, in a big way. So much so that the situation has reached the point where extreme changes in the Earth's natural environment are occurring in a way that is harmful to all life on the planet.
There are 58,320 names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Those deaths occurred over a span of at least a dozen years between 1963 and 1975. Arguably longer, if you take into account US covert operations in the region to support the waning French control of Indochina.
The first US death from the coronavirus/COVD-19 appears at this point to have been on February 6, 2020, in Santa Clara County, California. In roughly 83 days, the death toll from the pandemic will have claimed more American lives than the Vietnam War.
New deaths in the US are still being reported at a rate of more than two thousand per day. While politicians may talk of reopening the economy, if the dying continues at anywhere near the current pace, the economy as we have come to know it cannot function in the way that it has. It should also be noted that the entire concept of reopening the economy as though it were a simplistic, turn-key operation ignores the high probability of a resurgence of coronavirus infections in the fall.
The discussion of man's impact on the Earth's ecological balance in the current context unavoidably becomes a discussion of global warming. It's not exactly mankind causing global warming, it's the fossil-fuel engine of mankind's economy that is the deadly catalyst. In either case, scientists and environmental activists have warned for years that it cannot continue and that, in fact, it does not need to.
There are of course more environmentally sustainable methods available and always have been. The problem is not a lack of better, safer methods, the problem is the desire for short-term profits on the part of entrenched industries. That is the reason mankind has not moved to more sustainable, more efficient technologies.
This coronavirus is now unleashed upon mankind. Nature's methods of maintaining critical, life-sustaining balance are not subtle or even necessarily gradual. When things change, they can change with breathtaking speed. The decline to extinction of the dinosaurs was a process that likely took millions of years, but the defining event happened in the blink of an eye.
What scientists refer to as the Fifth Mass Extinction (The K-T Mass Extinction) resulted from the impact and after-effects of the Chicxulub asteroid some 66 million years ago. The after-effects included both global cooling and global warming, among other things. The net result was, as the name implies, the fifth mass extinction in Earth's history. The coronavirus may not be an asteroid, but it could be a meteoric, even prescient signal of things to come. The question is not if nature will rein in mankind. It's only a question of when.
We have a time out, a moment to reflect, and if we can find the strength, a golden opportunity to chart not a new course but a course back to living a sustainable existence. We may go there voluntarily or we may be pushed there. Who will be prepared?
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