Is the world becoming uninhabitable?

Tuli, the 3 year old beautiful daughter of Kamal Uddin, an office worker of Kaligonj education office, Jhenaidah, died shortly after drinking date-juice which stunned everyone because nobody knew that date-juice can kill. In rural Bangladesh date-juice is a very popular and delicious beverage that was never conceived to be harmful.  

Doctors diagnosed that she contracted Nipah virus caused by flying fox. Since 2001, there had been several cases of Nipah virus infections in Bangladesh in which nearly 200 people were killed.  Flying foxes are fond of sweet juice that carries this special type of virus which is characterized by long genomes and a wide host range.  Like this virus the world is now infected with so many deadly silent killers. Obviously, the question comes thereafter, is this planet going to inhabitable for human life? After independence of Bangladesh, 18 new diseases were detected so far which are mostly deadly. And, almost all cases are diagnosed as insect-borne viruses. Virologists found that people in the world had been infected by one thousand and four hundred microbes.  Certainly, the numbers of unknown diseases are on the rise in each decade. 

Of late, China, the most populous country in the world, is facing the largest catastrophe in its history with the outbreak of coronavirus (nCoV), one of the most contagious viruses ever in history. Meanwhile more than a thousand people have been killed so far with at least fifty thousand people infected. The death toll surpassed the total from SARS that claimed 774 people across the world. No doubt, China, one of the most advanced technology based countries in the world, is now in a dire state. Panic gripped everywhere and the epicenter of the virus Wuhan, one of crowded cities in China, is now an abandoned land. Citizens on lockdown are passing their worst moments, facing a famine-like trauma. No one knows when this danger will end.       

More than twenty-five countries are now under the virus’s grip and gradually the number is increasing. India, N Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Philippine and many other countries with whose China’s trade relationship is directly connected will be affected badly. But, that doesn’t mean that other countries are now safe because the entire world is now became increasingly connected through economic, trade, cultural or social ties. This connectivity is more vibrant than any other time of past. Accordingly, this is now not an issue of China only but a global threat, a threat that may snatch millions of lives away. Before that, some other viruses including Ebola, SARS, MERS, H1N1, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Chikungunya, HIV-1 and H5N1 appeared to be deadly and claimed large number of lives across the world. 

Researchers find that cancer, the most deadly assassin ever in medical history, is caused by some special types of virus. In the history of medical science, it is estimated that every sixth death is caused by cancer and the scale of its prevalence exceeds all other diseases. Since 1918, more than 17 lakh new cases of various cancers are diagnosed where 6 lakh people died in United States alone. WHO says, the number of the global cancer between 2008 and 2030 is projected to increase by 45 per cent. And, the deaths from cancer is estimated to reach over 13 million by 2030.

Environmentalists think that one of important reasons of these deadly viruses is the drastic change of climate. Rising of temperature is the root of all causes that results from unwise human activities. Global temperature is continuing to rise for days to come. It is forecasted that 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit temperature may rise over the next century.

After massive industrialization in Europe and elsewhere people’s activities went abruptly against environment. Development requi­res massive change in nature and nature was thereby intolerably destroyed by the developers to keep its pace.  The chain of development, both economic and industrial, has largely been interconnected with the use of nature i.e. fuel consumption, power generation, gas emission, desertification, etc. As a result, in the last 150 years the world saw a tremendous revolution in human activities. By this time, the environment underwent changes, for example, sea-level rising, frequent earthquakes, fatal heat waves, storms, floods, draughts etc.  All these natural hazards conclusively take a drastic turn that effect human health and also other animals.                   

You have sufficient data that may induce you to deduce a very costly and frustrating hypothesis about this planet that it is quickly running down. You may not disagree with the fact that everything has an end regardless of desire. The universe must have a start and definitely it will doom one day or other. Astrophysics confirms that this big universe came into being in a time between 10 and 20 billion years ago and the earth starts functioning near 4.5 billon years ago.  From the time on, the earth gradually took a convenient shape for life and finally everything became all right for human being to live on. So, this can never be denied that this planet took millions of years to get its favorable atmosphere for human life and this can never be denied either that this favorable condition will ebb out one day. The sun, to which we owe most, is the source of all power. With that, the sun would also be powerless one day but the case is not near at hand. Cosmologists opine that this is not likely to happen in the next 4 million years. However, the most important case is that this planet is rapidly losing its habitability because due to the actions of human beings.  

No doubt, if we want to keep this world inhabitable for long we must reconsider our activities in order to prevent catastrophe. 

Dr Siddhartha Shankar Joarder is Professor, Department of Philosophy, Jagannath University, Dhaka