I’m no longer a young man and so I often see things from
more of a historic than immediate perspective. When I was a lad, there were touch
more than a billion people on the planet.
Now, we’re nudging 8 billion and,
unsurprisingly, things are different. But apparently only from my perspective.
While the planet slowly incinerates its land portions and loses 200 species a
day, our human species persists.
Which is chiefly because we control
and abuse so much of what we inhabit. There’s no one there to stop us.
In the ancient times of my youth, there was no Roundup™, genetically modified food or
single-season seeds. In those days Monsanto (inventor of all three) was simply
a sleepy little old chemical company.
The list of ‘not-quite-yets’
included Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, trawler-fishing, industrial
agriculture, the Marshall Plan to reconstruct Europe and Japan, plastics, antibiotics,
jet aircraft, the cruise ship industry, internet, personal computers and
underarm deodorant. People still were crippled by polio.
The other non-human aspects of the planet have a number of
checks and balances. Wolves eat deer. Hawks eat what Monsanto has left of mice.
But mankind doesn’t have wolves or hawks or plagues any more to keep him in
check. Humanity, like Ol Man River, just keeps rollin’ along.
But the laws of nature have not yet been revoked, no matter that
Monsanto, Amazon and Facebook continue to exist.
We humans have been shown an
environmental disruption (that we used to call global warming) and were slow to
respond. Californian and Australian wildfires just pissed us off. Miami and
Venice got their feet wet and it was first a novelty and then an inconvenience.
Floods and drought wrecked a lot of farming, but it mostly showed up as price
increases. What the hell, you could still get asparagus in January.
Mother Earth (for those who still
lovingly call her that) rolled over, thought a bit and figured we weren’t
listening and this whole weather thing was taking too long. By the time
humans got trimmed back, she would have lost all the useful animals like lions
and tigers and bears.
So she rebooted her computer, did a software update and sent
us a plague. That had worked before and
a modified version killed 50 million in the 1918 flu epidemic, so why not?
Black Death? Good marketing,
but the name’s been used. AIDS? That killed nearly 40 million, but took
40 years to do it and never outran population growth. Too slow and, besides, its
sexual overtones are divisive. Bubonic Plague? Hmmm, maybe on to
something, that mowed back 40% of the population in areas of the Near East and
5,000 a day were dying in Istanbul.
All too old-timey, these names and we
need something more modern—a virus that can hop on jet planes, leap tall
buildings and not only pare back the human population, but travel aboard its most
desirable forms of travel. Now for a name. Something memorable.
Corona. One or more circles of light seen around a
Perfect. Has that aspect of the glow
surrounding the sun, St. Elmo’s Fire as well. If I can get these humans chopped
back to a billion or two, they may have a chance and certainly everything they
are destroying will have a chance as well.
Sign me up. The corona-virus.
Has the perfect ring to it (no pun intended).