LETTERS: Anthropocene - the current epoch we live in when human being is the single most influential species on the planet. It can be defined as the most recent period in Earth's history when human activities started to have significant impact on the planet's climate and ecosystems.
The anthropocentric worldview sees humans as the most significant species. In biology classes we were taught microbes such as bacteria are lower organisms than animals and plants. Homo sapiens are at the apex.
Well, perhaps because of human intelligence, we conquered every corner and studied most elements on Earth. Starting with the Scientific Revolution 500 years ago our achievements so far include splitting atoms and landing rovers onto Mars. We are now inventing artificial intelligence.
At the same time human activities, rather than any natural progress, have accelerated global warming. Agriculture, deforestation, industrialization, pollution and urbanization among others contribute to climate change.
During this period, we witness unprecedented biodiversity loss. World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report 2020 revealed 68 per cent mass decline in size of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish since 1970.
We may think we have out-smarted nature and that other living organisms are inferior. But, from the 4.5 billion years history of Earth, bacteria as the most primitive forms of life have existed for 3.8 billion years. Their own bio-intelligence has ensured their survival in the nature and us.
To think about it, in any human body there are around 30 trillion human cells, but our microbiome is an estimated 39 trillion microbial cells including bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on and in us. They will follow too should we be destined to colonise Mars in the future. Luckily most are harmless and we never bother about them until we fall ill.
So, are we that powerful? There is an infinite world of invisible super-organism of bacteria and for each bacterium, scientists estimate there are at least 10 viruses!
What keep things in balance? Nature's adaptability a.k.a survival through competition or symbiogenesis (living together)? How do we hang on to the precarity of it all? That is the strangeness of nature and it is beyond us.
Maybe it's time to realise our smallness. That we may not have control over the things that happen to us. But come what may, we still have control of how we respond to them. For now - wear face mask, maintain hygiene, stay at home and get vaccinated.
And in these sobering times perhaps we come back down to earth and reflect on what Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (121-180 AD) had written long ago in 'Meditations' - "Accept those things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart".
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times