Alive and Ticking

There has been enough speculation behind the next human extinction ranging from the third world war, to the acute water crisis, to an asteroid hitting the earth surface or even a  drastic climate shift. However, one of the most critical dangers that the human race faces right now is that of ever-evolving pathogens and diseases, many of which have neither a cure nor vaccine. Add a military warhead in this equation and we have a missile ready and loaded with a deadly Ebola strain, ready to infect a country or state within hours, without a cure or a hope for respite.

Source: Vault

Behind all the talks, debates and convention of nuclear warfare, there lies an ever dwelling threat of biological warfare amongst us which has not yet been solved. Even though there are various international treaties to check this form of warfare, there is still a lot ‘black biology’ which goes behind the shadows, and with the increasing availability of technology at hand, the whole affair becomes a whole lot deadlier.

Horrors of the History

Bioterrorism or biological warfare has a disturbing past, starting with the Mongols in 1300 who besieged the Crimean City of Kaffa by hurling plague-infected bodies over the city walls. Some researches regarding this have speculated that this act would have been the starting point of the spread of plague in Europe, eventually killing 25 million Europeans. This warfare has evolved and grown in the following years and has now reached new heights.

How likely is a bioterrorism attack today? Source: Medical News Today

The Messengers of Destruction

The modern-day scientists are preferring Cholera, Tularemia and Yersinia Pestis as the carrier for biological warfare.

Yersinia Pestis is the virus which causes plague and its availability throughout the world makes it easier for mass production and weaponization of the plague and further disseminate it in the form of an aerosol. This can cause a high fatality rate with a potential for rapid secondary spread.

Moving to Cholera, it can be easily spread through contamination of major water sources and there already has been an attempt by the United States, Japan, South Africa, Iran, and others to weaponize the bacteria Vibrio cholera.

Lastly, Tularemia causes fever, ulcerations swelling of lymph glands and sometimes even pneumonia and needs merely ten infectious organisms to enter the body and wreak havoc on an individual.

All these developments shed light on the fact that a biological warfare could lead to the next human extinction. However, one cannot deny the fact that such a war has not yet broken out signifies the fact that governments around the world are taking some measures to curb this threat with treaties like Biological Weapons Conventions (BWC) signed in 1975.

Out and Beyond

Predicted extinction rates from climate change by region and group. Source: The Carbon Brief

If an alternative was given to the human race to choose an option for extinction, the best probable bet without any (further) human intervention would be that of climate change. According to the World Wildlife Organisation, half of plant and animal species are already on the brink of extinction. All the credit can go out to the rising temperatures of the Earth’s surface which have changed seasonal patterns across all continents giving rise to prolonged droughts, extensive floods, massive forest fires, typhoons, tsunamis etc. In South Africa, 90% of the amphibians are facing extinction while Amazon is at a risk of losing 69% of its wildlife species and continents like Australia are not far behind in the race as well. At the current rate of extinction of life, it can be estimated that the same fate will fall upon our race as well and that too sooner than expected. Various movies based on such phenomena simply do not stem from a disillusioned imagination of a few people, but as Leonardo Di Caprio said in his speech at the UN “Climate change is real, and it’s happening right now”. Every sector of the economy and every sect of the society must now come together with various innovative solutions to curb this climate change, from producing carbon neutral products to cleaning the oceans, to curbing excess animal grazing, everyone must try to contribute to this cause, as united we stand a chance but divided, we will certainly fall.

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3 Responses to “Alive and Ticking”

  1. Prashant Solanki says:

    Hey Matthew
    I hope we conform to the treaties for bioweaponry and we never get to the point of biowarfare of any manner. Otherwise, the effects can surely be devastating.

  2. Gaurav says:

    Reading this brings me the chills.

  3. Matthew Graham says:

    Having studied Immunology a little, stuff like this both interests me and terrifies me. The worst thing is, as our technologies continue to develop, more and more potentially devastating bio weapons could be created. If any sort of large scale war erupts in the future in which bio weapons are used, I can’t see many people escaping unscathed 🙁