This article talks about how a very small mutation allowed the H7N9 flu virus to jump from birds to humans, and it disturbs me for two reasons. The first is how minor the change was that allowed this to happen. The second is how long after the fact the science is catching up to this virus. What if the mutation had been something truly devastating, a population culling plague? The human race would have been culled long before the science caught up to this virus.
We tend to look at apocalyptic plagues as things relegated to the primitive past and easily blamed on poor hygiene or lack of sanitation. But how true is this? The Spanish Flu was only a hundred years ago and it infected 500 million worldwide and took out perhaps 50 million people. You apply those rates to today’s population and we have a quarter-billion dead. We could be a simple mutation away from this becoming our modern reality.
And what increases the chances of such a mutation happening? The best way is to have an ever increasing population living closer and closer together. Gee, sounds a whole lot like the world we live in, a giant Petri dish for nasty bugs. And then there’s the wildcard of modern science, opening up the possibility of some nefarious group intentionally engineering something even worse than a Spanish Flu and releasing it into our bloated population.
On top of all this, disease isn’t the only population-culling side effect of our ever-expanding numbers, we can’t forget war and famine. And then there are the harder to quantify consequences of such a ravenous hoard consuming resources to support modern lifestyles. A popular issue to consider is global warming. People discuss things like carbon credits as solutions. In reality, such things are little more than spitting into the wind when the swelling population will quickly overwhelm any good such measures might do.
The root problem is overpopulation. And if we ignore the problem, nature won’t. Sooner or later, Mother Nature will step in and cull the human race, with us as her clueless accomplices. So next time Danny Daddy or Molly Mommy comes up to you with a phone full of photos of their shiny new bouncing baby bundle of doom, smile and give your congratulations. Then smack them on the back of the head and say, “Now knock it off, knucklehead!”