Monday, January 07, 2019

In just a few years, when humanity is done destroying itself and its habitat, the disgusting shall inherit the earth

Bet your money on the future of cockroaches. 
Not that you’ll be around to collect.
Okay, let’s deal with it. When it comes to climate change and the horrors that climate is about to wreck on the human race, humanity's collective response is one enormous, crawling, filthy mass of Donald Trump-like yawns.

Yeah sure, many of us, maybe even most of us talk a good line. But like the Trumpster, our attention span is too short, our adoration of bright shiny toys like zippy automobiles is too great, the threat of extinction seems too remote for our feeble imaginations.

So let me be the six-zillionth person to lay it out for you again. Briefly:
  • Your islands and many of your cities will be underwater. If you try living in them, you’ll drown. Shanghai, Bangladesh, most of the peninsula that is Florida, even big chunks of New York City are goners. What’s that you say? You think you’re safe because you have an apartment on a high floor of a skyscraper? So what! The wires that deliver power to your apartment and to the elevator will be shorted out and corroded away in salt water. You may be able to use your window ledge as a diving board and take a nice refreshing swim, but then you’ll have no way to get back into your apartment, which because of the flood waters will have no electricity, no air conditioning, no heat, no refrigeration.
  • And don’t tell me you can always go fishing. Clobbered by a quadruple threat of warming waters that kill off marine life, overfishing, chemical pollution and garbage pollution, the oceans of the world are becoming to edible protein what the Sahara Desert is to forests. Already, blooms of toxic algae fed by pollution and high water temperatures, are not only killing off fish population, but also making it unsafe to swim.
  • If you think refugee immigration is a problem now, wait until most of Latin America and Africa become uninhabitable.  The deserts will spread from the equator out. As people who once scratched a living in equatorial places discover they can no longer live there, guess where they’ll flee to. "Caravans?" You ain't seen nothing yet.
  • You may die of suffocation. Scientists aren’t talking about this yet, so far as I know, but I suspect that as the “earth’s lungs” — the Amazon jungle and other rain forests — give way, and carbon dioxide levels mount, you’re going to have trouble breathing. Or even staying awake to observe yourself slowly smothering to death, since CO2 also makes you sleepy.
See, no matter how you look at it, humanity is a pest species. We destroy environments. We directly or inadvertently murder other species. We foul the air and the water. We are to the rest of life as cockroaches are to us —  repulsive, filthy, annoying, lethal pests, spreading death and destruction to other species in the short term self-interest of our own. 

And now that our population has expanded to nearly the breaking point, the irony is that the one species likeliest to adapt to, survive, and thrive in the mess of waste and filth we have created is the species that we consider pests — the cockroach family.

Cockroaches have been around for about 140 million years. Moreover, antecedent cockroach-like bugs were  crawling and creeping around 300 million years years ago. That’ s one hell of a lot longer than, say, dinosaurs. The oldest of those lizards dates back a piffling 50 million years.

For a while you may be able to survive by eating cockroaches. Yes, they’re infested with dangerous bacteria. Yes, they also carry fatal viruses. But they’re also full of crunchy protein and minerals, plus a little bit of water, and if you’re hungry enough and they’re the only meal option, trust me, you’ll be holding Thankscockroach Day feasts at Grandma's house. 

But in the end, they’ll eat us. The little buggers keep evolving. There are thousands of species today. Some crawl. Some hiss. Some fly. In the suburbs of Houston they call ‘em “Palmetto Bugs,” perhaps because now and then they have the habit of dropping out of palmetto trees into passing baby carriages. There are said to be thousands of species, in part because they keep evolving to adapt to whatever nature, or human vermin, throws at them. 

Below there’s a palmetto bug porn video. (The palmetto bug is evidently also known as the Florida woods cockroach.) Don’t get too excited. All the photographs are stills. And this isn’t a portrayal of bug sex. It’s just of ugly repulsiveness. Or is it repulsive ugliness? Or is it bugly repulsiveness? Anyway, it’s cockroaches.

Sooner or later, we will become their primary food source. The cockroaches will grow bigger, more intelligent, with bigger brains. Perhaps they will even develop a language that goes beyond hissing, as Madagascar cockroaches already do. But you won’t be around to hear it. You will be dead — either of suffocation, or of starvation, or of drowning, or of poisoning, or of dehydration, or of disease. Meanwhile, the intelligent cockroach of the future, with a head as big as a bowling ball and evolved manual dexterity, will be sharing recipes for your roast eyeballs. Count on it.
Bon apétit Monsieur Cafard!


Steve M. said...

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman says the cockroaches won't survive -- they need the warmth that our buildings provide.

But you may be right -- they'll probably adapt, and we won't.

The New York Crank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The New York Crank said...

Sorry, the removed letter above was crawling — not pun intended — was crawling with typos that I hope will be eliminated this time around.

Cockroaches were here long before there were any buildings, Steve. Even with the power turned off, they'll get warmth from the warming oceans, and from the hot winds blowing in from the expanding desserts. I do not fear for cockroaches, even if they do turn out to be the last thing left to eat before humanity goes extinct.

Yours Crankily,
The New York Crank

Buttermilk Sky said...

Kurt Vonnegut had a theory that the earth perceives humans to be a disease and is deploying its immune system to destroy us. Sounds right to me.

Thomas Ten Bears said...

Planet lice.

I have a copy of The World Without Us here on my desk. It is without a doubt one of the most fascinating books I've read in twenty years, and I read a lot. Which isn't to gainsay, I've seen Steve's quote, but as you say the roaches have been around longer than we have. I think it's one of the best books that can be read to actually get a handle on the harm we have done.

I used to call us fleas, agitating the hide of a far greater organism. No more.

Planet lice.