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It was a cheap and dirty little death, a dingy way to die. When dawn came, there would be a hundred thousand more souls alive in the world than on the previous day, three quarters of a million more every week. This is the virus theory of mankind. The pretentious virus, never knowing that it is a disease. Imagine the great ship from a far galaxy which inspects a thousand green planets and then comes to ours and, from on high, looks down at all the scabs, the buzzings, the electronic jabberings, the poisoned air and water, the fetid night glow. A little cave-dwelling virus mutated, slew the things which balanced the ecology, and turned the fair planet sick. An overnight disease, racing and explosive compared with geological time. I think they would be concerned. They would be glad to have caught it in time. By the time of their next inspection, a hundred thousand years hence, this scabrous growth might have infected this whole region of an unimportant galaxy. They would push the button. Too bad. This happens every once in a while. Make a note to re-seed it the next time around, after it has cooled down
Recently, I went back and re-read all of John D. MacDonald‘s Travis McGee series. MacDonald wrote the quoted words early in the fifth of the McGee books, A Deadly Shade of Gold. The book was published in 1965. He wrote those words a couple of years after Rachel Carson wrote A Silent Spring but well before the Cuyahoga River caught on fire and the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Since then, the environmental problems he notes have only gotten worse.
Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Fukushima nuclear disaster. Nuclear plants built on geologic fault lines. Leaking pipelines (of course it’s perfectly safe to build a pipeline directly over one of the largest fresh water aquifers in the world – what could go wrong?)
It’s interesting to go back and read someone like MacDonald these days. Here I am, 45 years later, quoting his words from 1965 decrying the state of the environment. The biggest disconnect is when I read him complaining about the world population being overburdened at 4B when we recently passed 7B.
Carl Hiaasen is in many ways (IMNSVHO), the heir to MacDonald in writing about the craziness of Florida. Where MacDonald told tales straight out of pulp noir, Hiaasen takes them on to the absurdist limits. Instead of McGee, we have Skink. Except neither McGee nor Skink will ever be able to truly save the environment before that great UFO in the sky comes along and disinfects this section of the universe.
There are so many looming environmental disasters around the world, it is difficult to think of them all. The Keystone XL pipeline is just one of many. Unfortunately, I doubt that I will live long enough to see humans stop poisoning the air, earth and water. Celestial inspection ships notwithstanding.
The video is because I can.