June, July, August
Newsletter of the Greater Wyoming Valley Audubon Society

From the (Soon to be Former) President by Bob Wasilewski, GWVAS President

A Green and Peaceful Planet

    My thoughts in recent months, as I suspect is true for most of us, have been preoccupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, and while abiding by the “stay at home” order, I was particularly intrigued by the striking observation that an organism too tiny to be seen without the aid of a powerful microscope had accomplished in just a few weeks what al-Qaeda, Isis, and other terrorist groups and individuals have been unable to accomplish in twenty or more years of trying, namely, to send us into hiding in fear of the harm that might befall us if we assemble in large numbers or we frequent public places. Perhaps because of the excess of idle time that accompanies staying at home, I have also observed, which I suspect many might find odd, how the classic H.G. Wells tale, The War of the Worlds, seems to have, in a way, come true. For those who might be unfamiliar with the story, it concerns a quite unfriendly visit to Earth by extraterrestrials, Martians to be exact. All of humankind’s mightiest military weapons proved to be no match against the invaders’ much-advanced technology, which the Martians quite effectively employed to destroy our cities and vaporize us at will. In spite of that advanced and much more powerful weaponry, however, the invaders did finally prove to have something of an Achilles heel: microbes -- germs, microscopic pathogens, not unlike the COVID-19 virus, to which the invaders, unlike us Earthlings, had never previously been exposed, and hence, against which they had no defense. Thus was the Earth, with all of its inhabitants, humankind included, saved from the alien scourge.

    The current scourge, COVID-19, arguably might be seen as a remake of the H.G. Wells classic, with humankind in the role of alien invader and COVID-19 the Earth’s defense, since we humans have too often given our once green and peaceful home planet reason to perceive us as alien invaders -- as unfriendly, otherworldly organisms that must be repelled and expelled from her body. Like Wells’s Martian invaders, we humans have wreaked all manner of havoc with our advanced “weaponry.” We have gouged deep craters in the Earth’s skin to extract minerals. We have denuded the landscape of its once vast forests and grasslands. We have “tamed,” or so we think, once wild and mighty rivers with our dams and levees. We have filled in, paved over, and built upon flood-controlling, water-purifying wetlands. We have blown the tops off mountains to scrape coal from their insides. We have pumped poisons into the air and the water, and we have contaminated the soil. We have filled the oceans with garbage, much of it plastic that kills marine animals that ingest it or become entangled in it. We have shattered the bedrock so that we can suck oil and gas from far below the surface, and by our insistence on continuing to burn the fuels that we have extracted, we have created in the atmosphere a heat-trapping layer that has altered Earth’s climate to the point that our existence on this planet has, like no other organism’s existence has done before, threatened countless species’ survival. To defend herself from the human invaders’ onslaught, Mother Earth has employed her own weapons, like increasingly violent storms and raging wildfires, none of which has repelled our continued attacks. Now, however, we have met an adversary, a mere microbe, against which we as yet have no defense.                                                                                            

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