Overpopulation has been a recurring theme lately; and even though I am still in denial over it, it’s something I can’t really ignore. So here I am, writing out my thoughts on the most horrifying thing since ISIS to see if I can shed any more light on it. If nothing you read so far makes any sense, journey on and hopefully all will be a little clearer, if not more disturbing.
Let’s start with Bertrand Zobrist – a fictional character, and quite a central one at that, in Dan Brown’s Inferno. This book has been on my to-read list since its release in 2013 and last month I finally got round to picking up a copy. I’ve been a Dan Brown fan ever since my brother, a fellow bookworm, recommended The Da Vinci Code; and I’ve since read all his work. His books always leave me breathless and this most recent one of his did not disappoint. Inferno, inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th century Divine Comedy, is another in the Robert Langdon series. This time the plucky art professor and symbolist is racing against time to stop what he believes to be a deadly plague, created by Bertrand Zobrist himself. A genius geneticist, biochemist and transhumanist, Zobrist is quite the eccentric pioneer. The premise of the novel revolves around his belief that the Earth will purge herself whenever she nears a point where she can no longer sustain life; a point that humanity is fast approaching, according to Zobrist and his many, devout followers. He gives the example of the Black Death, which wiped out half of Europe between the years 1343-56, as one of the past cleansing; one which was crucial in paving way for the Renaissance.
I’m not going to give away too much of the book but (spoiler alert) the bottom line of it is that Zobrist managed to design a highly contagious, air-borne virus that will infect the whole world and, in turn, cut down the Earth’s population by a third – he once said that the ideal number is four billions. I spent 90% of the book convinced that Zobrist is a monster; but by the end of it I’m starting to have mixed feelings, especially when it’s finally revealed exactly what his virus does: it renders a third of the human population infertile with no side effects. Now I’m not saying that that’s not just as immoral and wrong as when I originally thought it was a lethal, biological weapon; but it’s hard to argue with this graph, and even harder to think clearly with chilling fear instilled into your mind.
Coincidentally, one week prior to reading Inferno, I was out with a guy who suggested we try the 4D IMAX experience. We decided on Jupiter Ascending because Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum equal something for both of us. I’m still undecided whether or not I’d ever go for the 4D thing again but the movie was quite interesting; and the periodic jolting of the seat, wind and water sprays in my face did not distract me from picking up the subtle, underlying theme of the movie: overpopulation. This particular Sci-Fi thriller introduces our heroine, Jupiter Jones, oblivious to the fact that she is the queen bee of planet Earth. Again I won’t go into the details of how or why (this article is long enough) but the main plot of this movie is that Earth is just one of many planets in the universe functioning as a ‘farm’, owned by a superior race of alien royalties who have perfected (or so it seemed) the process of immortality and eternal youth. So what do they harvest in these farms you ask? Why, humans of course. You and me and billion others not realising that we’re nothing more than pigs, raised for slaughter. Paints a pretty picture doesn’t it?
But wait, what does all this have to do with overpopulation? Well, in the movie, a planet is considered ripe for ‘harvesting’ when said planet is no longer sustainable for the humans to live in i.e. when the number of humans exceeds the number of available resources. The House of Abrasax, the most powerful of the alien dynasties, then harvests said planet and turns the inhabitants into these crystalline liquid that serves as the elixir of life. Titus, one of the heirs to the House of Abrasax, pointed out that one hexagonal canister of youth serum requires the lives of a hundred human beings, a fact Jupiter was repulsed by – who wouldn’t be? While Balem, another of the Abrasax siblings, mentioned that Earth was next in line to be harvested. Now even though the topic of overpopulation is weaker, just touched on, in Jupiter Ascending compared to in Dan Brown’s Inferno, it’s still there – just prominent enough to plant the seed of terror in your head.
So let’s come back to the real world for a minute. Even though both Inferno and Jupiter Ascending are very much fiction, you have to ask yourself “Is anyone doing anything about this imminent issue? Is anyone researching a way out from this daunting problem?” Sure, China has that one-child policy, although there has since been a significant leniency on it; but in Singapore the opposite is in effect, their government is paying married couples to procreate in what they call the Baby Bonus Scheme. What about the rest of the world?
Sometimes when faced with this kind of mega important future of the Earth stuff, I like to think ‘well, I probably won’t really feel the effect of all this in my lifetime, we’re talking at least 100 years into the future right? I’ll be dead by then.’ I realise how selfish that is; what kind of world are we leaving for our children and grandchildren? We hear about the melting of the polar ice caps and rapid climate change all the time; suggestions on how to reduce our carbon footprints are almost ubiquitous. But what if there’s a much bigger problem that’s almost taboo to speak of because the most humane solution might just be Zobrist’s fictitious, sterility virus? What if global warming is not public enemy No. 1? What if WE are?
I have no answers to any of those questions, I hope someone does.