Civilization under threat?

M Saeed Khalid
Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

Masood Kizilbash’s book ‘Human Conflict with Nature’ published by the Pakistan Scientific and Technological Information Centre Islamabad in 2020 carries an intriguing subtitle – ‘Alarm Bell for the Demise of our Modern Civilization’.

After having read it, I could not help asking the author if he really believed in the mind-numbing scenario of the human race getting wiped out by a new ice age, resulting from the destruction of nature caused by humans.

Masood Kizilbash explains that unless the modern civilization’s systematic damage to mother nature is controlled, that was the logical conclusion anticipated by scientific studies. His book, based on comprehensive research, makes several observations. To begin, it reminds us that humans appeared on this planet half a million years ago, after the last ice age. However, archaeologists have gathered evidence of human civilization of only the last 13,000 years, a fraction of the period humans emerged on the earth.

As time passes, the human quest to dominate nature in order to meet their needs, aggravated by excessive greed, takes a heavy toll on the environmental balance preserved by nature.

“The UN-sponsored environmentalists firmly hold the view that human-caused factors threaten the environment and climate, and a cap on the desire to exploit natural resources to its last drop is necessary. This stands in contrast to the view of the US, which believes that technology can solve all problems”, observes Kizilbash.

The author cautions that natural laws maintain a certain balance. When human behaviour or actions cause disequilibrium or disorder for long, natural law is triggered to restore order through variations in heat emissions from the sun, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, tempests, levels of the sea, droughts, etc.

The past civilizations or empires succumbed to their goal of self-glorification. Our civilization, pursuing the same goal to bypass nature, may lead nature’s laws to restore equilibrium by acting from underneath the land or from the sky, which may consign us to another ice age.

History reveals how human desires grew in line with its conquest of nature and ability to produce and possess. As civilization progressed with human beings turning into farmers from hunters and gatherers, given the innate human nature of competition, revenge and greed, money became the driving motive for action.

Fast forward to the age of the corporate system which led Abraham Lincoln to say in 1864: “Corporations have been enthroned and…an era of corruption in high places will follow…until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed”.

That was accomplished when the Supreme Court of the United States conferred the right to corporations in January 2010, to make contributions to election campaigns and thus acquire control over decision-making. No wonder, the US has been reticent about actions to control climate change.

Kizilbash refers to dissenters like Jared Diamond who feel that climate change is being associated with global warming caused by humans. Diamond asserts that climate change over a period occurs “because of changes in natural forces that drive climate and that have nothing to do with humans.”

Niall Ferguson discards the idea that humanity is threatened by a catastrophic change. While agreeing that there has been an unprecedented increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and that has caused an increase in average temperatures, he says that it is less clear “how a continuation of these trends will impact on the earth’s weather.”

‘Human Conflict with Nature’ upholds the view that unabated exploitation of natural resources beyond the coping capacity of nature such as deforestation and habitat destruction, soil deterioration, water depletion, build-up of toxic chemicals, overhunting, overfishing, human population growth, and human-caused climate change will cause serious damage to the earth’s environment and climate.

Unsustainable human activity has already degraded the earth’s ecosystems. Urgent action is needed to arrest and reverse the situation, but the unilateralism of the US is an obstacle.

Francis Fukuyama and Niall Ferguson have argued that modern technology can help resolve problems and augment resources from other heavenly bodies to enrich human life. Can human needs be met by recourse to genetic engineering, cloning and other technological means?

Kizilbash points out how America, in its urge to go alone, has dented the UN’s comprehensive plans to arrest human-created factors that threaten climate and the environment. There is an invisible and wise hand behind the creation of the universe. It comes into self-correcting mode to restore balance as manifested in earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, etc.

The book ends with some stark conclusions. Humans’ acquisitive instinct and greed, if unchecked, can lead to their own demise. Humans owe their existence to natural resources, and human civilization is based on those bounties.

The assumption that technological development can enhance resources is erroneous. Humans are not capable of controlling auto-correcting mode to restore equilibrium in the universe. If unchecked, climate degradation may return us to another ice age.

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