Thursday, July 12, 2007

But, should we cure malaria?

After I posted about the search for a malaria vaccine, it occurred to me that I don't typically hold out much hope for such cures. Oh, I do assume that Sanaria will find a vaccine for malaria betimes, and this will be all for the better in the general scheme of things. Malaria is a disease that shouldn't be killing so many children in the modern world, and it's about time we snuffed it out.

That said, my next thought is: ''It'll just be something else after that, won't it?'' Whether it's a new tropical virus, or hurricanes, tsunamis, or volcanoes- nature always finds a way to kill us. There's something reassuring in that fact: no matter who we are, there's some bullet with our name on it. Nature is red in tooth and claw. What the Live Earth people get wrong is their fear that we ever could destroy the planet, when so far, it's killed far more of us than we've killed of it.

I've said before that environmentalists don't understand that none of us is genuinely glad to think that the planet will outlive us. We retain genetic memories of the fight to escape from the natural world. The vast majority of human history details an extended attempt to break free from the gummy matrix of nature- to fight off the night, as Werner Herzog memorably described the pilot Dieter's struggle. The greatest stories, from the epic of Gilgamesh to Faust detail this attempt to will ourselves out of nature and the ultimate hopelessness of such attempts. But, for such a futile struggle, it gave us the Sistene Chapel and the Brandenberg Concertos.

Therefore, even though the attempt is futile, I think we must keep on making it. I think we have no choice but to fight back the night. Even though wiping out malaria will simply make room for whatever other diseases nature throws at us, I think it's worth doing. There is an act of pure will in defying nature, from disease prevention to birth control, that is fundamental to how we have shaped ourselves as humans, and ultimately what has created western civilization, and perhaps all civilizations. So we should soldier on, even though I assure you we will lose in the end. I'm reminded of the bishop (his name escapes me) who would kill worms with his spade each morning and say defiantly: "Ah, you haven't gotten me yet!" There's such nihilism and misanthropy in surrendering to mother nature, that daemonic she-beast. Let's spit in her face instead!


Holly said...

I always assumed that "saving" the environment was about "owning" it. That thing about how, if you save a life, they now owe you one?

Rufus said...

I think the environmental movement will eventually move to the slogan: "Save the planet, or we're all going to die!"