04 May There is no Human vs Nature
Humans have considered themselves to be the most advanced species on Earth and without doubt have made exemplary achievements. But they have become what they are, through the forces of nature. There are invisible laws governing nature applicable to humans as well. Our evolution into an upright biped with opposable thumbs was the result of thousands of years of evolution through natural selection based on survival of the fittest. We can easily see why our ancestors with opposable thumbs were more successful than their chimp cousins; they could make and use tools. We see nature at work every single day of our lives. The sun rises, the flowers blossom, the clouds bring showers, and night falls. All with a precision and timing of its own synchronized to the minute. We humans are part of this entire system irrespective of what we want to believe and we need to abide by its rules. And maybe change it in due process but not without sacrifices.
That’s what we humans always tend to forget. Every action has a reaction. Everything has a price.
Changing Nature at our peril
When we start making changes to nature, it adapts itself and in the process forces us to adapt. We are not just the sum of our actions, but the sum of the story of survival played out in this world. We have earned the right to live on this world like every other species by sacrifice, sweat and blood. Literally! We have sacrificed ourselves to diseases, to gain immunity from the myriad species of microorganisms that live alongside us. Every species plays a game of cat and mouse with its environment until it reaches a balance where it can live with its neighbors with minimal hostility. We humans have also been doing the same. The plague, the small pox, and the Spanish Flu wiped out millions but have been more or less controlled by human ingenuity. But others like Malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/ AIDs still lurk around causing millions of deaths worldwide in spite of being treatable. But we have gained immunity against some, devised treatments against some (development of vaccines, discovery of antibiotics), and learnt to adapt our behaviors to avoid same. All this at a species level means we have thrived and in thriving we forgot the rules by which we abided to thrive: Respect Nature, Always!
We are making changes to our environment at an unprecedented rate. We ourselves don’t fully understand the consequences fully either. To err on the side of caution is not a common human trait so we soldier own in our own ignorance.
Covid-19 Pandemic, a wake-up Call.
The Covid -19 Pandemic has proved to be a break to our break neck speed of development.
Living in a developing country I am aware that economic development also means millions are lifted out of poverty, many more children will have a chance to live a better life, improved healthcare and decent livelihoods. But sometimes I wonder if destroying nature as we know it is the only way to develop? Cannot we live with what we need? Does greed have to drive our economy to keep growing without having any real impact on the life of the poor?
Let’s take the example of the current pandemic. Currently there are many more questions than answers. It has been discovered that the Covid-19 virus passed on to humans from bats. A commonly held belief is that it originated in one of the wet markets in China where bats are sold alongside other live animals for human consumption. There are many problems with this entire scenario. The fact that we are keeping domesticated animals alongside wild animals is in itself a case of concern. One might ask what is the problem? Let’s again go back to how nature works. Animals that have been domesticated for humans’ consumption have been living alongside humans for centuries. We have lived with each other, developed immunity to each other (there might have been deaths along the way even here!) and basically thrived alongside each other. So when we consume these animals we have already paid the price as a species and sometimes in rare cases still do. But with wild animals such as bats that is not the case.
Similarly, there is another war that is going on. From the time antibiotics were discovered, we have done wonderful things with it. We have enhanced human longevity and improved quality of life for those with infections. On the other hand, we have been over- prescribing them for everything. Humans went on rampage where antibiotics were concerned. Self-medication, over prescription, wrong dosing, you name it and we’ve done it. The result is that the microbes (here they are bacteria and fungi. Antibiotics are useless against viruses.) are coming back stronger and resistant. Our fault has again led to their gain. Multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections by bacteria (tuberculosis in particular) are making a comeback and researchers are looking at more stronger antibiotics and even other courses for treating such cases. But we are winning some and losing some.
Every time a forest is destroyed, coral reefs get bleached, or a species goes extinct due to human activities, there is a vital piece of our sustenance that gets destroyed. As more and more wild habitats are getting destroyed, humans are coming in contact with the wild animals, we are heightening the struggle at a species level.
We should be ready to pay the price. That’s nature! Survival of the fittest at it’s core.
Covid-19 is not a one off event. We should be ready for more because we are after all working against ourselves in a way. We forget that we are creating a new ecosystem for ourselves, the rules of which are unknown. We are introducing more and more variables into nature. We are not destroying nature but creating more struggles for human species as a whole. And the day of reckoning is already here!
Anu Liza Thomas