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The laws of correlation dictate that events happen in cycles, and that peaks and troughs tend to be ironed out; take for example radio waves, house prices and stock market prices. Evolution and extinctions also happen in cycles as proved by the previous five mass extinctions, the last of which, 65 million years ago, wiped out the dinosaurs.
Inevitably the next mass extinction, the Holocene extinction (the present epoch) – sometimes referred to as the Anthropocene extinction (caused by man) is, in relative terms, just around the corner! Will this be fast forwarded by a couple of million years due to the present crisis – the coronavirus (COVID-19)? This is just one in the cycle of many pandemics, the most infamous being the bubonic plague of 1347, killing an estimated 475 million people worldwide. It took some 200 years for the population to recover to its previous level.
Of course I ask the question in jest and coronavirus will be controlled once testing for antigens and antibodies is in full swing and a vaccine is developed. However, the government has been preparing for this pandemic since the ‘swine flu’ outbreak in 2009 yet we are woefully lacking basic PPEs for essential workers let alone the general public! Shame on them. Early deaths were reported as the patient having ‘underlying complications’; a way of giving a false sense of security to the general public at large and underplaying the seriousness of the problem. The virus is indiscriminate and can also attack the young and healthy.
Side effects are many but, again, this was not made known widely, and advice to self isolate was given too late and its importance under stressed. This was in the belief that exposure to the virus would give immunity to a high proportion of the population; know as ‘herd immunity’. Now under pressure from the public and the press to exit the present lockdown, they, the government appear to be backtracking to this rationale.
The virus is reported to have originated in a Wuhan fish market in China passing to the human population, from bats, via wild animals including pangolins, marmots, birds, rabbits and snakes being traded illegally.
Returning to the original question, the world’s population is now estimated at 7.2 billion and expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, continuing the exponential growth since the industrial revolution. This growth comes mainly from developing continents and countries such as Africa and, until recently, India. The governments of China and Russia, as examples, were until recently, actively encouraging population growth to help support the growing older population, as well as for political reasons, as the tensions between these two super powers ebbed and flowed! The realisation now is that the planet’s resources cannot sustain this growth yet we carry on regardless. Nature, however, has an uncanny way of intervening.
The Anthropocene extinction, number six in the cycle, may have stuttered for now, but if man continues to exploit Earth’s resources, for example destroying vast tracts of forest and wetland as in Brazil, releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then life on Earth as we know it WILL cease!
The crocodile – a relic of the dinosaurs!
2 thoughts on “A planet in crisis: is this the beginning of the end?”
A well written piece! One solution that I have read numerously about is to educate the women and give them birth control (all over the world) and the human population will come under control. I believe this to be one of the many solutions required. It has been proven that societies improve when women are educated. But it will take patriarchal societies to accept this. And sadly that is not likely to happen. And another major crisis the planet is experiencing is the Amazon forest being destroyed for industrial purposed in Brazil. There’s so much to fix and so little time.
China used to have a policy of one child per family (though not sure how this was enforced). I gather this has now been abandoned in order to INCREASE the population to support the ageing population. As you say, better education in the developing countries to increase awareness and advantages of birth control. For example a better standard of living as a result of greater affluence! Try explaining that to a mother in Rwanda who’s aim in life is to have a big enough family to support her in old age!