Coronavirus may be a solution to the biosphere’s problem of too many people consuming too much. Land, air, water and biodiversity will recover from the stresses man has created, we submit, if population is cut in half. Reductions in consumption would accompany reducing the world’s 7.5 billion people to, say, three billion. Such radical changes are, of course, politically impossible, except perhaps by vesting broad genocidal powers in a Nazi-like world regime, which no one wants.
Mother Nature is not, however, constrained by politics or morals. The current Covid19 pandemic has already killed over 100,000 Americans and it may be with us indefinitely. Whether or not scientists come up with a vaccine or drug that will stop Covid19, there are other pandemic candidates. Our homes, workplaces and playgrounds have millions of different species of viruses, bacteria and algae, all of which mutate. By random chance, mutation will sometimes birth a microorganism which thrives and multiplies in humans, and a small percentage of those hitchhiking microorganisms will cause illness or death.
The number and variety of toxic microorganisms increases with new chemicals. We lack the tools to anticipate human vulnerabilities to chemistry-altered microorganisms, even with tests like those medicines undergo prior to release into commerce. Modern economies being what they are, science will continue creating unfamiliar chemicals, and some will cause mutations in microorganisms that could lead to pandemics .
Another way diseases can spread is by humans eating infected animals. The Covidl19 epidemic may have started by someone in China eating an infected bat. In a crowded world, pressure will likely build to consume more wild animals.
So what are the chances of pandemics killing enough people to reduce man’s pressures on Earth’s land, air and water? There is no answer to how much population must fall before erosions slow and rejuvenation begins, but it is possible to imagine a world reduced to three billion people consuming at current European levels. With such a population and level of consumption, system sustainability might be assured, though we can’t test that estimate. What we can see now is too many people consuming too much, putting stresses on Earth’s land, air and waters that cannot continue indefinitely.
So we watch as Mother Nature tests our species by sending a variety of new pandemics, starting with Covid19. We may learn more this century about how tough and durable Homo sapiens is.