Thursday, November 04, 2010

the ants of gaia


Video - Time lapse ant farm in gel.

JoeBageant | As a small boy, I once transferred most of an anthill population from its natural digs in our front yard to a gallon jar of fresh dirt, sprinkled it with a little sugar (in the cartoons, ants are always freaks for sugar, right?) and then left the ants on their own. Of course the day came when all I had was a jar full of dry earth, ant shit and the desolation of their parched little carcasses. I'd guess that it was the lack of water that finally got 'em.

But the most interesting thing in retrospect -- if a jar of dead bugs can be called interesting -- is this: Up until the very end they seemed to be happily and obliviously busy. They constructed an ant society with all of its ant facilities, made more baby ants and did all those things ants do that the proverbial grasshopper is famous for not doing. Obviously Christian predestinationists to the last ant, they met the grasshopper's grim fate by another route, and did not look at all surprised in death.

Now you'd think that the lesson of the ants would be obvious as hell to any non-intoxicated individual with a grade school education. Never mind that many people since Malthus, as my sainted daddy would have put it, "Done drove the point in the ground and broke it clean off." Never mind that Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb was a best seller and remains a classic. Never mind that James Lovelock, the nerdish forward thinking Englishman who 99% of Americans never heard of, delivered unto us yet one more time the worst truth in human history, the Gaia Hypothesis. Which is a fancy way of saying we cannot continue to devour our planet forever because it amounts to self-cannibalism.

Lovelock also convincingly argued that, due to the side effects of this species expiration, now acknowledged as global warming, the equator will look like Mars at some point relatively soon, with the surviving 20% of humans now alive, or perhaps in the next generation, living near the North and South Poles.

As to be expected, the few very comfortable elite folks on this earth said of Lovelock: "This guy is full of shit, a nutcase being adored by a bunch of naked tattooed pagans and gloomy intellectual types," both of which number among my favorite kinds of people.

Those pagans who allowed themselves to feel and not just intellectualize about the earth's condition, and those scientists who did not require computer modeling to do simple subtraction, recognized that these are the most challenging of times in human history, "challenging" being a polite term for the fact that that humanity is gonna die off big time, if not sooner, then later. Call it the secular version of The End Times.

But not much later, in light of the brief span Homo sapiens hath shat, frolicked, killed and exceeded their MasterCard limits upon the earth, which is less than a second in geological time. Already we are on the way out because we did not have the common sense of lizards, which lasted tens of millions of years longer without so much as a calculator, much less computerized eco models.