There has never been a creature upon the Earth like the modern human. We are the ultimate omnivore. We consume everything living, everything dead and everything that has never lived. We literally eat our planet.

We are driven to consume and multiply. Just like the lowest creatures, we move from one pile of nutrient to another, consuming and multiplying. If we do not eat it, something else will. We delude ourselves that we are special, that we are made in the image of God. We tell ourselves that the world was made for us. Unlike blow flies and house flies, we have learned to kill our competitors. We kill the lions and wolves. We kill the insects and plants. We even kill our fellow humans.

In the not-so-distant past, the Monod equation has been used to forewarn the demise of humanity due to the limitation of available food. The equation is a mathematical model for the growth of microorganisms in sugar solutions. It is named for Jacques Monod, French biochemist and Nobel laureate. The equation predicts an initial exponential growth rate of the population as the birth rate exceeds the death rate. As the nutrient supply diminishes due to consumption, the population growth slows as birth and death rates become nearly equal. As the nutrient further depletes, the death rate exceeds birth rate and the population begins an accelerating descent. In the end, all the microorganisms are dead.

We all know that these dire predictions were not fulfilled. The beat goes on. Since 1950, the world population has tripled. Why? There are many specific reasons, such as improved farming methods and crops. However, the general reason is that we did not recognize the very different ecology of modern humanity. The Earth is a vast resource and we continue to learn how to eat more and more of it. As for bodily food, perhaps one day soon, we will stop burning fossil fuels to power our machine bodies and convert them into food for our organic bodies.

The most important question that confronts modern humanity is what kind of creature do we want to be? We can continue to ignore this question and proceed like flies to eat and multiply until we live in a world so populated with people that we are little different from termites. Do we want to become so dominant that, like ants, we continually wage war with our own kind? Do we want to continue to change our environment from the literal Garden of Eden that it once was into a dreary, tumultuous place with continual natural disasters?

If we wish to preserve a semblance of the garden that Earth once was for us, we must change ourselves. Conservation requires unnatural actions. We cannot continue to follow the natural course of blow flies and house flies. We must not hide reality from our minds because we do not want to face the choices that we must make. We must change from an economy of consumption and destruction. We must limit our population growth. We must learn to love one another and to love our earthly home.

Are you going to be a human or a maggot?

Edwin Eugene “Gene” Ott is a retired environmental engineer, author and nature photographer. He lives near Waterloo in Laurens County.