The Future of the World

wild horses chernobyl
Some time ago several people sent me the photo above, of wild horses in an abandoned area near Chornobyl, on the Ukraine/Belarus border. Animals in the area after the nuclear plant explosion 22 years ago died horrible deaths (their thyroids literally disintegrated) but gradually animals that spend only part of their time in the radioactive zone have returned and now flourish. Much of the area has been declared a nature preserve (though the Ukraine proposes to use it as a profitable dump site for nuclear waste for other countries) and the horses above were introduced deliberately — they are not feral animals, but a rare species (Przewalski’s) that has never been domesticated. Animals in the area are still radioactive (and would be toxic to eat) but those born with deformities are apparently being naturally removed from the gene pool.

And now, in our desperation to keep the unsustainable going, just a little longer, we are re-embracing nuclear energy as the great hope for combating global warming. I can only shrug. There is no point arguing with those who cannot and will not hear.

It occurred to me, looking at these magnificent animals in this strange, beautiful, poison place, that this is what the world will look like, in the not too distant future, when the human species is gone (or reduced to marginal, harmless numbers on the downside of the bell curve).

And I recalled John Gray’s words:

We can dream of a world in which a greatly reduced human population lives in a partially restored paradise; in which farming has been abandoned and green deserts given back to the earth; where the remaining humans are settled in cities, emulating the noble idleness of hunter-gatherers, their needs met by new technologies that leave little mark on the Earth; where life is given over to curiosity, pleasure and play. There is nothing technically impossible about such a world…A High-tech Green utopia, in which a few humans live happily in balance with the rest of life, is scientifically feasible; but it is humanly unimaginable. If anything like this ever comes about, it will not be through the will of homo rapiens.

It is not of becoming the planet’s wise stewards that Earth-lovers dream, but of a time when humans have ceased to matter.

Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obviously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone Earth will recover. Long after the last traces of the human animal have disappeared, many of the species it is bent on destroying will still be around, along with others that have yet to spring up. The Earth willforget mankind. The play of life will go on.

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4 Responses to The Future of the World

  1. anonymous says:

    A definition of “love,” in my opinion, from “Fools Crow” by James Welch:

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Wonderful quote and definition, my Prairie friend. Thank you!

  3. Despairing says:

    Can I point you in the direction of Alan Weisman’s wonderful book The World Without Us? It’s a thought experiment on what would happen to the planet, flora and fauna if we disappeared overnight, using what has happened at Chernobyl and other places like the Korean DMZ to illustrate his points.

  4. em says:

    This was good to read. My hope for the planet and all my relations lies in the direction of a future in which we don’t matter. This makes me a drag to converse with at parties. I hardly ever run across anyone who thinks about such things. Thanks.

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