For a long time, we’ve played chicken with that which could easily put us on the endangered species list in a heartbeat. Biological weapons development as well as later H-bomb tests demonstrated our willingness to jeopardize our species to prove our power and hubris.
Now to add to our Holiday cheer, the news from New Scientist raises this issue again in the above article (click on the link for more info). Researchers in th Netherlands have created a strain of the H5N1 “bird flu” that is now transmissible between mammals (which includes us), and just as lethal. Plus, the results have been made public at a conference in Malta this past September; and the head researcher, Ron Fouchier is seeking to have the results published. Bad idea Ron.
In a world where terrorists and crackpots would love to get their hands on the aforementioned strain, such a mutated H5N1 could do some serious damage. Let’s not forget human error which could by accident release the strain. We’re beginning to realize that a global pandemic is not the stuff of fiction like Contagion or I Am Legend, but is a reality we must face and prepare for now. A new strain like the mutated H5N1 noted aforesaid can up the body count as compared to the original bird-person variety. Plus, with crowding cities and rapid air travel, such a strain could put quite a damper on our Holidays for a long time.
We as a species must stop this playing with fire-be it the biochemical or nuclear kind. We are an evolutionary link in a long chain spanning millions upon millions of years; a drop in evolution’s bucket. Who’s to say that humans are immune from the mass extinction ax that claimed past species including the dinosaurs? We need to let go of the hubris that teaches us we have some “divine exception” to the rules on this planet; that we can play with fire and somehow God will keep us from getting burned. If we don’t watch out, God will let us get burned-maybe permanently.
I’m keeping my eye on the news about this new H5N1 strain. Hopefully the folks in the Netherlands will use common sense and keep a lid on this thing.
And we learn to stop playing with fire before we get burned up.