By DAVID TAUB
Prior to about 15,000 years ago, all humans lived by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants.
Quite by accident, some of these nomadic bands discovered that some of the wild plants they were gathering could be harnessed into domesticity. Thus, began the domestication of plants and animals.
Archaeological, geological, linguistic and botanical research of the past few hundred years allows us to pinpoint its origin of this “Neolithic Revolution.” Authorities are certain that it began in places that now are parts of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.
These “new” farmers started to congregate in villages, tending their crops and later their herds. Soon enough, cities were created; nomadic hunters had exchanged wander lust for a sedentary life.
An unforeseen and certainly unintended consequence of profound importance resulted as burgeoning cities permitted folks to stay put and remain in close contact with each other. Cities became a petri dish for the cultivation of human diseases.
Throughout human history, diseases have by far been the greatest killer of humankind. Period. This scourge remains true today.
Mother Nature is a hard and unforgiving mistress. As a product of evolutionary change, many diseases originated in animals, and as animals were domesticated and wild animals continued to be hunted and eaten, animal germs transferred themselves to humans; we refer to them as zoonotic diseases.
Some zoonotic diseases are VERY deadly to their new and plentiful human hosts; it is estimated that up to 75 percent of all human diseases are zoonotic.
Not only did farmers have a dependable food supply, they produced more than they needed. They learned how to store surplus food for use during lean times.
This phenomenon created yet another unintended consequence, because surplus food allowed humans to multiply. And multiply they did.
It took about 10,000 to 15,000 years after the Neolithic Revolution for human population growth to begin to impact the ecology of spaceship Earth.
Around the time of Jesus, two millennia ago, the world’s population was estimated to be around 300 million, about the size of the United Statets at the beginning of the 20th Century. But by 1999, a staggering six BILLION humans inhabited the globe, which now is a stunning 7.3 billion.
At the current rate, in only 30 more years, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9 BILLION!
That’s nine times a thousand million! That is a gigantic number by any calculation.
Perhaps the deadliest of unintended consequences derived from the exponential growth of humankind relates to space on Planet Earth, lands and seas where all god’s creatures must co-exist.
One reason for the costly nature of land is that it can’t increase — what is is all there is or ever will be.
Besides outgrowing the planet’s space, humans have developed advanced technologies that allow us to dominate the planet. We cut down forests, plow the ground, level mountains to mine minerals, pollute seas and rivers and overfish more than can be replenished, create urban sprawl and asphalt cities to house multiple millions.
We humans have destroyed, or are in the process of rapidly destroying, every native habitat that supports the whole of the planet’s living things.
We have destroyed the world’s biodiverse enclaves that used to limit contagions. Zoonotic diseases have not so much jumped into US as they have steadily spilled into US through vehicles we ourselves have provided.
In a very short time, we have killed off thousands of species, some for food, some for sport, some unintentionally and some just for the hell of it. Sad as that story is, there is a greater consequential unintended sadness.
Our destruction of native habitats throughout the world has forced many animal species to live in closer contact with that most voracious and rapacious critter: US. What does that mean?
Viruses and bacteria are damned smart entities. As we develop vaccines to stop them (but not all of them), they figure out ways (through DNA mutations) to outsmart US. So, if you thought the Black Plague, rabies, the Spanish flu, anthrax, measles, Ebola, Zika, HIV, SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 were bad (and they are!), just wait. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Buckle up for a rough ride to purgatory.
We are the only species that has so profoundly changed Spaceship Earth in so many different ways in such a short span of time. Humans have created the “perfect storm” for our own annihilation, steadily, inexorably.
You see, Pogo (and Malthus) were right after all. Simply and crassly put, there are just too damned many of US. Mother Nature is very angry with US, as well as being pitiless.
We are the Enemy of ourselves. Such a sad eulogy of unintended suicide.
“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers.
David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.