This is a piece I had published with the American Philosophical Society’s Darwin Tract House here in Philadelphia a couple of months back. It is about the Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov’s plans to control the weather this past Winter. It should also be noted that the Pentagon now has plans to try and harness lightening as a weapon.
Human beings have either reached the pinnacle of our evolutionary track and dominance in the world, or we’re about to commit the very act in our existence that will guarantee our own- and every other species’- inevitable extinction.
I believe that if Charles Darwin were alive today, he’d express grim support for the latter.
The Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, wants to pay the air force to spray chemicals into clouds to prevent it from snowing in his city for a couple of weeks this winter. He already pays for planes to stop it from raining during the two main holidays, Victory Day and City Day. That’s right. He’s actually controlling the weather, making the environment unnaturally favorable for humans (and, unfortunately, parades).
All species are in a fight for survival. A human being may sit at his cubical day after day, answering calls, typing on his computer, following the most mundane of routines, but, consciously unknown to him, he is apart of a global war, a natural one, to simply survive.
Darwin called this the Struggle for Existence. He wrote, “Hence, as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life.”
With finite space and resources available on Earth, there is a constant repetition of life-lost to keep the number of species from overflowing the world. “We do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life,” Darwin explained.
So, how do species fight this natural war?
Imagine a long river, stretching farther than any relative distance can measure. Its crystal surface is like a mirror, reflecting every surrounding it passes. Underneath, its currents are constantly on the move forward, some branching off to the right, some to the left, seemingly chaotic, but the river is completely in control. All things that get caught up in it can be sure to be sucked under, helpless to the river’s constant progression. Some swim along, thriving, while others are mercilessly drowned and crash on rocks, unable to survive the conditions. Given enough time, slowly, but fatefully, even the land the water comes into contact with will become manipulated by its constant push forward. The land will erode, take different shapes, and become only a distant resemblance of what it used to be. This is the power of the river, and all things are affected and changed by its progression.
Thus is evolution, and how species receive the tools necessary to survive and multiply.
Through Natural Selection- the process by which species variate by developing, or shedding injurious, traits that help them to adapt to an environment- we have evolved into more capable beings than our earliest ancestors.
It’s Nature’s perfect design- adapt or become extinct. The environment, over millions of years, is like the hard-nosed coach, who is constantly demanding of his players, pushing them to become better, pushing them to achieve abilities they never thought they could, pushing them to do or die.
Thus is Mayor Luzhkov the cheating player on the team, who fixes the game. He claims his plan to prevent snow will enhance the quality of life. But it won’t. If he- and surely others soon after will follow- continues to pursue and practice this, we will wreak havoc on Nature’s process.
Changing the weather goes beyond air conditioners, space heaters or temperature-controlled buildings. We use our skills as humans to build these things that help us adapt. Changing the weather is modifying the environment itself. We no longer need to adapt to it. We’re forcing the environment to adapt to us. I believe this will eventually spell doom for all life.
It is every species’ utmost goal to procreate, but if one multiplies without restraint, it will overpopulate the world. Earth will simply have no more room for its members.
“Lighten any check, mitigate the destruction ever so little, and the number of the species will almost instantaneously increase to any amount,” Darwin warned, his words seemingly unheard in present day.
The environment is one check forcing species to decline in number, even go extinct, if a certain species cannot adapt to its conditions.
Controlling the weather means relieving this particular check. Maybe it’s self-preservation to think it’s a positive to have our numbers grow and grow until there is nowhere on this planet our species hasn’t tread. But, in the end, an overpopulation of humans won’t be a favorable environment for anyone.
For the sake of Nature, and all species, the precedent that Luzhkov wants to set shouldn’t be allowed to happen. He has controlled the rain, though, so it may already be too late.
If we can dictate the weather, the lives and evolution of every other species will depend on us, wiping out yet another check against the rapid reproduction of the human race. No other species will be able to come close to competing with us. It’s as if we’re producing a present day Creation Story. We will make the statement that this planet was made for human beings, and all other species came after the fact. We will have the power to play eugenics with the environment, picking and choosing what is favorable for us, while ignoring conditions that, while unpleasant for our own species, fit the needs of other organisms. Our place in history will read: Man. He created droughts when it rained too much, while fish fatally breathed air. He made the whole world snow, and reptiles everywhere shuddered to their demise.
If we throw a leash on the environment’s neck and make it our obedient dog, it is no longer a struggle for existence amongst all species. The world would become a slaughter house, and human beings will be the ones holding the blood-stained knives.
The artificial bubble of comfort created by human-controlled weather will eventually burst from overpopulation. How will our species hope to survive when our numbers outgrow that of available food? What happens when no land can hold even one more human toe? Will we be willing to kill off other species to make room? Will we be willing to kill off each other? We must let our species be challenged, and, yes, even let its members die off under the environment’s cold-calculating thumb, if we, as a whole, can have any hope of survival.
On the great map of history and future time, we are only the smallest of fleas which have landed on it, and then quick to fly away. If we are unwilling to play by Nature’s design, there is no room for us in the grander scheme of things. Nature is older, wiser, our mother and father, and she will not tolerate succumbing to us. All organisms are in a natural war for survival, and humans, the trickiest, and most self-centered of all the species, have found a way to change the rules of combat.
Nature help us all.