People often question the timelessness of nonfiction. It’s either contemporary or historical. Very few writings manage to break out of those two categories and wield the same powerful effect, long past their publication date.
On World Environment Day, as I mused over the relationship between humans and nature, I read one such piece. At first glance, the relationship seems an abusive once, with the former, in its greed and avarice disguised as the ultimate philosophy of achieving excellence, inflicting deep and seemingly permanent wounds on the loving and tempest nature, hell bent on destroying it to oblivion. I wondered how would the earth be, if humans somehow disappeared all of a sudden.
This thought is neither new nor novel, but with the fairly recent proliferation of the internet, I expected answers from Quora or Reddit. Instead, I found myself staring at an article from the Discovery Magazine, dated February 2005. Deeply disdainful of old websites, I clicked the link, expecting to browse away in less than 30 seconds.
I was hooked, all 2815 words of it. Weaving science, urbanscapes and narrative, Alan Weisman makes us realize, over the course of his essay, how transient our footprint on earth is. He starts with an example of a land mass in Korea that has been untouched by humans for past 50 years and then interviews scientists using NYC as an example to show our worth in the grand scheme of things. In less than 200 years, i.e less than 0.1% of the time passed since the first humans came into being, the earth would just shrug its wounds off, as if simply cleaning off any bug bites, with its flora and fauna taking over the uninhabited lands. In about 20,000 years, glaciers would devour Manhattan, cleaning out any of our remains. To put it into context, if all the time since the inception of earth was compressed into a day, earth would be back to normal in about 0.38 seconds.
There would be some scars though, such as our nuclear reactors would keep on spewing radioactive waste for a long period of time, and that we would’ve caused irreversible destruction of certain species and their gene pools. But it would be negligible on the scale of things that the earth has faced in its past.
Liberals and Conservatives, are at loggerheads over the impact of human actions on earth’s health. This article clears any doubt that anyone would have on the subject.
It’s not the earth whose survival we need to worry about. It’s ours
For once we are gone, the ozone layer will repair itself, the temperatures will moderate, the soil will regain its salinity and the wolves, the bear, the whales and the fish would thrive again.
But for that to happen, we as a species will go down battling widespread asthma, bronchitis, submerged cities, skin cancer and failed crops brought on by climate change.
May there be Peace, Amen.