Humanity’s Fatal Flaw

COVID and Climate Display Our Ability to Deny

Breathe Easy? | Credit: Peter Kuper,

Humanity has a fatal flaw. It’s on display in these numbers: 79.9M, 18.8M, 1.75M, 330K, 1.2C.

As of this writing: 79.9 million people have been infected by COVID-19 worldwide (18.8 million in the U.S., 2.06 million in California). Worldwide, 1.75 million have died from the virus (330,000 in the U.S.; 23,964 in California). The Earth has warmed about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The COVID infection and death rates grow so fast the numbers in this article will be obsolete by the time it’s posted. While they, and what we need to do to reduce them, are endlessly broadcast and published on a daily basis, the numbers continue to grow. Despite Centers for Disease Control warnings and public health experts’ pleas, Americans traveled with abandon both at Thanksgiving and Christmas, want only spreading disease and death. Despite knowing that masking (and social distancing) prevent the spread of COVID, anti maskers persist in believing that masks are ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus and that government “mandates” would be authoritarian and anti-American. Anti-vaxxers are likewise representative of humanity’s fatal flaw. They believe the COVID vaccines, which are lifesaving and have been developed with unprecedented speed, are made up of dangerous chemicals, cause autism, and will cause COVID-19 rather than immunize one from getting it (even though there is no coronavirus in them). What this part of humanity fails to recognize is that wearing a mask and being vaccinated is not just for one’s own protection. It’s for the protection of others.

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Clearly not all of us are in COVID denial. However, given that we are dealing with an opportunistic virus which spreads easily, there are enough deniers to continue the pandemic and thwart medicine’s ability to stop it. Intensive care units in the U.S., and California in particular, are filled with COVID patients. The medical profession cannot keep up with the spread of the illness. Yet, people continue to exhibit the inability to see beyond their self-desire and understand that we are all connected.

This myopia is also true of humanity’s response to climate change — potentially more devastating than COVID. In a past article (“The Day the Earth Stood Still), I pointed out that climate change, bringing humans and animals closer together, caused the COVID coronavirus to jump from bats to humans. This relationship, and the fact that people, including our 45th president, continue to deny global warming and the devastation it is causing while continuing to emit fossil fuels, is the same kind of thing we are experiencing from COVID deniers. There is a lack of understanding about our connection to the environment and one another.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2020 is on track to be one of the three hottest years on record, completing a run of six years that were all hotter than any year measured before. Those of us emitting greenhouse gases are participating in this. As of this writing, the Earth has warmed about 1.2°C above the pre-industrial level. According to the WMO, there is at least a one in five chance of global warming exceeding 1.5°C by 2024. A temperature increase of 1.5°C is considered a tipping point after which the extreme storms, fires, droughts, desertification, human displacements, and the species extinctions we are now experiencing worsen. At a 2°C increase in global temperature, our life-giving ecosystems begin to collapse.

I think it’s too simple to just label this resistance to reality as egotistical or politically motivated. Humanity’s evolution is split. Part of us see the connections. Part of us do not. As I said earlier, if we do not overcome this flaw it can be fatal to our species. With the sanity of the Biden administration can come a change in this anti-social behavior. The “bully pulpit” will revert to explaining how to stop the virus, and arrest climate change. If done correctly, repetitiously, this kind of education can allow all of us to understand that we are inextricably connected to both the environment and one another. Let’s make sure this happens.

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