By Olga Kennedy
Anyone who has ever taken a Literature course has come across the literary term “conflict.” We learn that in every literary piece, types of conflict include man versus man, man versus self, and man versus nature.
If we take the last mentioned conflict and view it as it pertains to the world we live in today, it is of this writer’s belief that man ultimately loses.
Of all the living species on Earth, man is the one that has the greatest intellect, has prevailed over all other species, has learned to take over his surroundings to his benefit and build comfort, has conquered disease and given himself the ability to live longer if not healthier lives. He has built great walls, astonishing pyramids, tamed the raging rivers, made livable once uninhabitable jungles and created cities out of deserts.
With all these seemingly amazing advances, it would appear that man would have triumphed over any conflict he may have (had) with his surroundings. So, why then, would this writer belief that when it comes to the world, there is in fact a conflict between man and nature? Why then would this writer believe that in terms of that conflict, man loses?
For man to be where he is today, he had to learn to use his surroundings. He learned to make shelter, using natural resources; he had to eat the vegetation or kill the animals. Every second, 1.5 acres of rainforest are destroyed. Worldwide, an average of 52 million square miles of forest is destroyed—that’s the equivalent of 36 football fields a minute.
With the disappearance of forests comes the destruction of more than just trees, but the life that lives among those areas. The forest themselves serve to produce the much needed oxygen of our planet. They act as a carbon sink by taking in the carbon dioxide that otherwise lingers in the air we breathe. This buildup of CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect.
As heat is trapped in our atmosphere, the temperature of the Earth rises. The weather changes. Agriculture becomes more challenging. Glaciers melt; animals that rely on glaciers to travel, hunt and breed struggle and ultimately perish. Bodies of water rise. Animals become displaced. Low-lying coastal areas become more in danger of flooding, which will lead to the further displacement of people and animals.
We live in a world where there is a chain of life, animal and vegetable. When one aspect of this chain is altered or destroyed, it affects the entirety. It has taken millions of years for life to develop on this Earth and, though extinction does occur its rate has increased dramatically in recent centuries.
The natural background rate of extinction is believed to be from 1-5 species lost a year. Currently, it is believed that the extinction rate has increased from 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than that natural rate. The Center for Biodiversity states that 99% of currently threatened species are at risk due to man’s activities.
Man’s existence in nature is relatively short compared to the life of the Earth and yet he has managed, with all his intellect and ingenuity, to cause a disproportionate amount of destruction. As he continues to live among nature, it’s not just nature that suffers, but he himself as well. The farmer struggles with the climate changes. The animals disappear. The water becomes polluted; the fish die. His food sources are strained. His air quality is reduced. Vital resources are being exploited and depleted.
With every action, there is a reaction. There is a result. Man ought to take a moment, use his intellect and look at life more wholly. Can he continue to live, to grow, to sustain himself when and if the natural world from which he ultimately made his life is no longer available to him