Humans Are A DiseaseMar 11th, 2007
I'm going to be a little technical, but this is just my take on an old analogy.
The analogy of humans as a virus has been around some time, I prefer to think of ourselves as some highly pathogenic bacteria.
The Earth has so many relationships which maintain a balance. Periodically it gets sick, or is attacked, and portions of that body die. Then along comes Homo sapiens sapiens, growing much like a bacterial colony. Initial lag, followed by an exponential or logarithmic growth. We have yet to reach the stationary phase or carrying capacity, which is followed by death.
Bacteria are terribly efficient at consuming resouces. While we aren't nearly as efficient, when we account for the scales of comparison it still works. Some bacteria kill by releasing their own enzymes to break down host tissues and use them for energy, others release toxins.
So I like to think of the enzymes as our industrial prowess. Deforrestation, strip mining, oil extraction, fishing practices, etc. While some of those actually can also be considered toxic to the host [Earth]. The host has a variety of defense mechanisms but in this case there are no antibiotics yet to help the defense mechanisms catch up. The defense mechanisms are to slow to react, while we continue our exponential growth and consumption of resources. We become more efficient as time goes by at utilizing resources.
The Earth as a host even fits standard definitions of a live body, save for one. The Earth has a form of respiration, excretion, irritability and even mutation. The only thing it can't do is reproduce.
Everything we do as a highly pathogenic species has consequences on all these characteristics of the living host.
The only difference between us and say Clostridium botulinum is the fact that we can recognize that without our host, we can't survive. That may be our saving grace.