Remember Genesis 1:28?
“…God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”
As I write, the remnants of Harvey continue to wreak havoc in southeast Texas. Even as I sympathize, I remember the adage, “There but for chance…”. My own home on a hill won’t flood, and we don’t get hurricanes in Tennessee. But tornados? Hail storms? Fire and lightning? As a certain ex-governor would say, “You betcha!”
Harvey reminds us how wrong-headed we are about nature. Consciously or not, Genesis 1:28 still holds sway in Judeo-Christian and related cultures. But thinking we are in charge of anything is laughable. The lessons just keep coming:
Chinese floods, 1931: 3.7 million to 4 million dead.
Galveston Hurricane, 1900: 6,000-12,000 dead.
Spanish influenza, 1918-1920: 50 to 100 million dead.
Bhola Cyclone, modern Bangladesh, 1970: 500,000 dead.
Indian Ocean tsunami, 2004: 230,000 dead.
Haiti earthquake, 2010: 50,000 to 200,000 dead, depending on sources.
Hurricane Katrina, 2005: $108B damages.
Tōhuko earthquake and tsunami (i.e., Fukushima), 2011: $300B in damages.
Superstorm Sandy, 2012: $75B damages.
Hurricane Harvey, 2017: possibly $190B, per USA Today
And what’s on the horizon? In the U. S. alone, we’ve yet to flood Biloxi or Miami or Charleston. The San Francisco earthquake and the Yellowstone supervolcano are on deck. A few trillion bacteria are happily mutating, not to mention even more unstable viruses: Swine flu, bird flu, horse flu, Spanish flu, pick-a-flu. Drinkable water turns into sewage and industrial waste, the ocean’s fisheries are going into the toilet, and coral reef ecosystems around the world are dying en masse. What’s next? Seven billion potential victims want to know.
Except we don’t, not really. We continue living under the idea that humans are something special, the chosen. We might pay lip service to humility and common sense, but as a species we are driving hellbent towards destruction, anesthetized by technology and religion and economics. But Earth has no sympathy for us, nor any special awareness. One day the light of our species will wink out, our day over. The planet will go on spinning as it has always done, though maybe a bit more lightly.