11 de março de 2015

Greed is the Ultimate Plague

What makes us humans? Thinking, some might say. Curiosity, ingenuity, consciousness. The ability to laugh and cry at a variety of situations. We are amazing beings, with impressive, god-like features. Nevertheless, we are the most vicious, threatening plague this planet has ever faced. Why is that?

There's something in our nature that can be the least "civilized" feature of all, yet it is the core of human civilization: greed. Because of greed, we are never curious enough, our creations will never meet all of our needs, our conscience will never be totally pleased, we will always be after more reasons to laugh and less reasons to cry. Some might say that this is why we are in constant evolution. But at what price?

Because of greed, there has never been a time when men were in total harmony with each other and their home. But unfortunately, because greed feeds itself, there has never been a time when men were in greater disharmony with each other and their environment than nowadays.

We have polluted the water we drink and we haven't promoted a safe disposal of our waste, which kills over 12 million people each year. Air pollution kills nearly 3 million more. Heavy metals and other contaminants also cause widespread health problems. The supply of freshwater is finite, but demand is soaring as population grows and use per capita rises. By 2025, when world population is projected to be 8 billion, 48 countries containing 3 billion people will face shortages. What about the ecosystems who depend on that water to survive? Those numbers mention just human losses.

We have eaten unwisely, and because of that, there won't be enough food to go around. In 64 of 105 developing countries studied by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the population has been growing faster than food supplies. Population pressures have degraded some 2 billion hectares of arable land — an area the size of Canada and the U.S. Half of all coastal ecosystems are pressured by high population densities and urban development. A tide of pollution is rising in the world’s seas. Ocean fisheries are being over-exploited, and fish catches are down.

Nearly half of the world’s original forest cover has been lost, and each year another 16 million hectares are cut, bulldozed, or burned. Forests provide over US$400 billion to the world economy annually and are vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Yet, current demand for forest products may exceed the limit of sustainable consumption.

The earth’s biological diversity is crucial to the continued vitality of agriculture and medicine — and perhaps even to life on Earth itself. Yet human activities are pushing many thousands of plant and animal species into extinction. Two of every three species is estimated to be in decline.

As a body who's struggling for survival, the planet has tried her best to get rid of this human disease. Chills, fever and shaking are just some of her defenses. But the plague has multiplied. The speed of devastation is increasing. The only solution is mutating. If the plague is tamed, there will be a place for life, a place for future.

Growing human numbers, urban expansion, and resource exploitation do not bode well for the future. Without practicing sustainable development, humanity faces a deteriorating environment and may even invite ecological disaster.

Many steps toward sustainability can be taken today. These include: stabilizing population, using energy more efficiently, managing cities better, phasing out subsidies that encourage waste, and more importantly holding back greed.

While population growth has slowed, the absolute number of people continues to increase — by about 1 billion every 13 years. Slowing population growth would help improve living standards and would buy time to protect natural resources. In the long run, to sustain higher living standards, world population size must stabilize.

But even if it does, there must be some changes in how mankind sees progress and success, how they cope with happiness and pain, how they use up their curiosity, ingenuity and consciousness to promote the well-fare of all beings. Men must understand that there's no reason to change their car or cellphone every year; there's no reason to buy or rent property (because there's no reason for property), there's no reason to work your ass off in a job you hate just because society imposes needs nobody actually has. 

When we've learned to control this consuming greed, we'll be ready to lead a simple life, to love one another and understand our home is a living being just like us. We won't be a plague anymore, because we'll see ourselves as part of this giant being called Earth.

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