Chronicling the End, Part 1

The End. Everybody has one. Some are nicer than others. The end is not necessarily a bad thing, just an inevitability. What goes up must come down, but the end of one era can be a new beginning for another. Not all endings are unwelcome.

For instance, while the NRA and the Safari Club view the end of hunting as a bad thing, it would actually spell the beginning of a more agreeable era for wildlife—a time when human beings treat animals with respect and compassion, rather than objectifying and maltreating them.

Just as the end of winter brings the promise of spring, the end of the Anthropocene age will bring hope for new life to flourish.

Now, rumor has it there are those who think I’m too negative when referring to the future of humankind. But although I’m a realist when it comes to the future of our species (or rather, the lack thereof) I don’t secretly hope for the violent demise of humanity. If I hope for anything, it’s that people will learn to accept new ways of living lightly on the planet that include eschewing meat, treading softly rather than stomping out gargantuan carbon footprints everywhere, and of course, voluntarily reducing our population in a big way.

Barring that—and if Homo sapiens continues on the currently charted course—then I’m afraid to say I feel the species’ days are numbered. Call me Malthusian (as detractors call Paul Ehrlich for his theories outlined in The Population Bomb), but I’d have to say Thomas Malthus was far ahead of his time when he published the essay, Principle of Population in 1798, wherein he wrote:

“The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.”

It’s hard to believe that Malthus saw all that as far back as 1798. Even harder to believe is that his predictions have not yet come true. The only two things preventing a “Malthusian catastrophe” are technology and mechanization—neither of which I have much faith in. Now, before you go accusing me of being negative, a pessimist or worse, a misanthropist, at least give me credit for seeing the silver lining in every instance. Why, just today I spotted the following article sharing the uplifting news that “Bird flu brings windfall for businesses”…

BEIJING, April 22 (Xinhua) — A new strain of bird flu that has been spotted across China has brought vegetable dealer Xu Jialiang mixed feelings.

For Xu, who has been selling veggies for 20 years in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei Province, the virus is a cause for concern, but also a commercial opportunity.

“Cabbage that was once left to rot has become a hit,” said Xu, adding that he recently sold more than 50 tonnes of cabbage in a single day, double the amount he was selling just two months ago.

“People have become more reluctant to eat poultry, so vegetables have become much more popular,” he said.

The Wuhan municipal bureau of commodity pricing said vegetable prices have surged since the end of March.

The first human H7N9 infection was reported in late March. A total of 102 cases have been reported to date, resulting in 20 deaths.

The poultry-raising industry, restaurants that sell poultry and even producers of shuttlecocks, which are made using bird feathers, have been impacted by the virus.

Figures from the China Animal Agriculture Association showed that direct economic losses for broiler chicken breeders have exceeded 3.7 billion (593 million U.S. dollars).

However, other sectors have been boosted by the virus’s arrival. In addition to vegetable vendors, sellers of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have also profited.

At the Zhangshu TCM Wholesale Market, a major TCM market in east China’s Jiangxi Province, the purchase price of processed isatis root surged from 13 yuan per kilo to 22 yuan after health experts claimed that the root can prevent infection.

Lei Da, head of the purchase department at Zhangshu Tianqitang TCM Co., Ltd., said processed honeysuckle, which some have claimed can prevent bird flu, sold out after the infections were reported.

Lei said the company is watching the status of the epidemic closely to decide whether it will increase its stores of the two items.

Insurance companies are also using the virus as an opportunity to boost income. Ping An Insurance, one of China’s largest insurance companies, is selling bird flu insurance that offers 20,000 yuan in compensation if an insurant is confirmed to have become infected. Other companies, such as Taikang Life and Sinosafe Insurance, are also offering bird flu insurance.

However, health experts say poultry products are still safe to eat as long as they are purchased through regulated channels and are thoroughly cooked.

Li Lanjuan, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the virus is sensitive to high temperatures, ultraviolet rays and several kinds of sanitizer.

She ate chicken meat in front of reporters last week to dispel public worries.

“The virus will be killed in two minutes after the temperature reaches 100 degrees Celsius or half an hour if the temperature is 60 degrees Celsius,” said Li.

If Mr. Malthus were here today I’m sure he’d agree that the act of eating Chinese chicken (even if purchased through regulated channels) is one of those “vices of mankind” and an active and able minister of depopulation. …

Consider this the first installment of a new series which will chronicle the ways in which humans are instigating their own undoing. I’m considering starting a new blog and/or book “Chronicling the End,” depending on the feedback I receive. If you like the idea, “Like” this page, or leave a comment below…

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

21 thoughts on “Chronicling the End, Part 1

  1. Thanks Jim , It’s nice to see in print what I’ve been thinking for years. Whenever I do say anything I’m told I think too much, I always say yes I do. You should try it sometime the world would be a better place. Looking forward to reading part 2.

      • Jim, no I don’t, but I am intending to buy .I enjoy reading your work very much !
        I sent a email to the NYT I have not heard anything yet either its burried in a thousand emails are they can’t find yours . if I don’t hear soon I’m going to try to call. I’m sure if I send a letter they probably won’t touch it with a ten foot pole they will be afraid it will blow up !

      • Jim, no I don’t, but I am intending to buy .I enjoy reading your work very much !
        I sent a email to the NYT I have not heard anything yet either its burried in a thousand emails are they can’t find yours . if I don’t hear soon I’m going to try to call. I’m sure if I send a letter they probably won’t touch it with a ten foot pole they will be afraid it will blow up !
        I just ordered your book. I read the review, I probably will be crying till I’m finished reading. You’re a great photographer too you have a lot of heart it shows in your work.

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