Despite all the dire warnings of eco Cassandras, Planet Earth – which has been around for 4.54 billion years and is a good bit tougher and more resilient than we give it credit for – is not in mortal danger. It’s we, homo not-so-sapiens, who are in peril of death, be it from the so-called swine flu, or anything else.
Science and nature commentator Oliver Morton in a thought-provoking book ‘What is your dangerous idea?’ has cogently argued that climate change – which, unlike George Bush, he in no way denies – is not threatening the existence of the planet.
“A planet that made it through the massive biogeochemical unpleasantness of the late Permian (a geological period about 290 to 240 million years ago) is in little danger from a doubling (or even quintupling) of the very low carbon dioxide level that preceded the Industrial Revolution, or from the loss of a lot of forests and reefs, or from the demise of half its species, or from the thinning of its ozone layer”, he asserts.
But while the planet is pretty safe, we are far from being so. Morton acknowledges that many hundreds of millions of people – particularly those in poorer, agrarian countries – might die as polar ice melts, seas rise and inundate coastal areas and a cycle of floods and droughts is set into motion, pushing humanity as a whole to the verge of extinction.
So how did this literally Earth-size misconception arise that it is the planet which is in danger? Morton suggests a combination of factors: attention-grabbing sensationalism on the part of eco activists, media hype, lack of grass-roots scientific knowledge, and not least, the human ego itself (Wow! Look at us. We’ve endangered not just our own miserable species but a whole planet! The first – and obviously last – creatures in the history of the world to be able to do so. Is that something, or is that something?).
Jug Suraiya from the Times of India.