The late author and satirist Kurt Vonnegut was once quoted as saying “I think the Earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us. And it’s high time they did.”
I’m no longer sure how wrong that statement is.
Historically, man and Earth have always been at odds. Diseases that have evolved within human flesh have led to the extinction of dozens of species; with a mere touch we would annihilate animal life around us. Subsequently, Mother Nature would decimate a continent with a plague from the East.
This war between mankind and Mother Nature has existed since man developed enough knowledge to rise above and conquer her kingdom.
It seems, however, that the war has grown in scale.
Before, Mother Nature would encase the population of an Italian island with volcanic ash, and we would kill the Dodo bird. Now, these small, occasional assaults have become larger, more devastating and more frequent.
This last week all of southern California erupted in flames, from below the Mexican border to northern Los Angeles, leaving the entire region “at the mercy of the wind.”
This is the second time in exactly four years that random, multiple and devastating fires have engulfed the region, leaving it out of the hands of salvation and into those of fate. Though few deaths have been reported, the damage (in both cases) to personal property and capital has been outstanding.
This, of course, is only the most recent example of nature’s catastrophic hand brushing over the human populace.
Hurricanes and tropical storms, too numerous to name individually, have repeatedly and at increasing intervals battered and destroyed southeast Asia and the Caribbean, moving memorably as far north as New Orleans a few years ago.
Water supplies have quite literally run dry in the northern half of Africa, causing water-rights wars and subsequent humanitarian disasters such as the Sudanese genocide.
Earthquakes and landslides over the last few years have led to the deaths of thousands of Latin Americans, buried under tons of loose soil.
Not to say that this is a one-sided fight. We’ve been sticking it to Mother Nature pretty well, in our defense.
The slow but exponentially increasing loss of the polar ice caps could cause the extinction of the polar bear.
Our insatiable love for fast food and red meat may well lead to the disappearance of the Amazon and other gigantic natural habitats, not to mention everything within, as farmers clear more grazing land for cattle.
Our seven-plus billion population count and subsequent need to sprawl and develop housing communities and strip malls, is transforming majestic natural formations into Megacities, industrial centers and suburban communities with houses that all look exactly the same.
I don’t know what we have done to turn sporadic attacks into a full-scale war: overpopulation, pollution and global warming, internal pestilence, Hillary’s lead in the primary polls, the Rams’ need to lose so consistently, it could be any of our actions as the human race.
Nor would I be so audacious as to propose how to fix the problem. Opinion regarding potential U.S. policy changes is much easier to formulate and express than advice on how to defeat the very earth on which we stand.
However, to win such a large-scale war we must commit fully. Either mankind must industrialize and populate every corner of the Earth and develop ways to remain self-sufficient without her aid, or we find a compromise and live the way we used to before she hated us so vehemently.
Phil Elder is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.