Pathogen Alert

  • Although the natural background rate of extinctions is estimated to be about one to ten species per year, we are currently losing 1,000 species per year.
  • Since the 1950s, more than 750 million tons of js®' toxic chemical wastes have been dumped into the environment.16
  • By the end of the 1980s, production of humanmade synthetic organic chemicals linked to cancer had exceeded 200 billion pounds per year, a hundred-fold increase in only two generations.17
  • By 1992, in the U.S. alone, over 435 billion pounds of carbon-based synthetic chemicals were being produced.18
  • In 1994, well over a million tons of toxic chemicals were released into the environment. Of these, 177 million pounds were known or suspected car-cinogens.19
  • There are now about 75,000 chemicals in commercial use, and 3,750 to 7,500 are estimated to be cancer-causing to humans.
  • There are 1,231 "priority" Superfund sites, with 40 million people (one in every six Americans) living within four miles of one.20
  • 40% of Americans can expect to contract cancer in their lifetimes.
  • 80% of all cancer is attributed to environmental influences.
  • Breast cancer rates are thirty times higher in the United States than in parts of Africa.
  • Childhood cancers have risen by one third since 1950 and now one in every four hundred Americans can expect to develop cancer before the age of fifteen.
  • The U.S. EPA projects that tens of thousands of additional fatal skin cancers will result from the ozone depletion that has already occurred over North America.21
  • Male fish are being found with female egg sacs, male alligators with shriveled penises, and human male sperm counts are plummeting.
  • The average person can now expect to find at least 250 chemical contaminants in his or her body fat.22
  • Fifty new diseases have emerged since 1950, including Ebola, Lyme's Disease, Hantavirus, and HIV.23
  • Earth's atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have climbed to the highest level in 150,000 years.

enough to inflict illness on a planetary being is nothing more than egotism. Where is there any evidence that a planet can get sick and die? Well, how about Mars?

What did happen to Mars, anyway? Our next door neighbor, the Red Planet, apparently was once covered with flowing rivers. What happened to them? Rivers suggest an atmosphere. Where is it? Was Mars once a vital, thriving planet? If so, why does it now appear dead? Could a lifeform on its surface have proliferated so abundantly and so recklessly that it altered the planet's atmosphere, thereby knocking it off-kilter and destroying it? Is that what's happening to our own planet? Will it be our legacy in this solar system to leave behind another lonely, dead rock to revolve around the sun? Or will we simply destroy ourselves while the Earth, stronger than her Martian brother, overcomes our influence and survives to flourish another billion years — without us?

The answer, if I may wildly speculate, is neither — we will destroy neither the Earth nor ourselves. Instead, we will learn to live in a symbiotic relationship with our planet. To put it simply, the human species has reached a fork in the road of its evolution. We can continue to follow the way of disease-causing pathogens, or we can chart a new course as dependent and respectful inhabitants on this galactic speck of dust we call Earth. The former requires only an egocentric lack of concern for anything but ourselves, living as if there will be no future human generations. The latter, on the other hand, requires an awareness of ourselves as a dependent part of a Greater Being. This may require a hefty dose of humility, which we can either muster up ourselves, or wait until it's meted out to us, however tragically, by the greater world around us. Either way, time is running out.

It is ironic that humans have ignored one waste issue that all of us contribute to each and every day — an environmental problem that has stalked our species from our genesis, and which will accompany us to our extinction. Perhaps one reason we have taken such a head-in-the-sand approach to the recycling of human excrement is because we can't even talk about it. If there is one thing that the human consumer culture refuses to deal with maturely and constructively, it's bodily excretions. This is the taboo topic, the unthinkable issue. It's also the one we are about to dive headlong into. For waste is not found in nature — except in human nature. It's up to us humans to unlock the secret to its elimination. Nature herself provides a key and she has held it out to us for eons.

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