I’ve heard that said many times but I’ve just recently grasped what that actually means. Humans aren’t an external invader like a virus or pathogen. Rather we are, like cancer, a part of a delicately balanced and constantly evolving ecosystem which has adapted in a way that gives it a survival advantage within its limited ecosystem but at the expense of altering the ecosystem it relies on for survival.
We rapidly mutate new ways of cheating death. Longevity technologies have us living longer and longer to the point where the rate we are increasing the human lifespan by each year has now exceeded one year. It is plausible that there are people alive today who will remain young as long as the planet is able to sustain life. Some cancers do this. HeLa cervical cancer cells harvested from Henrietta Lacks in 1951 remain alive today in labs around the world.
We reproduce at an accelerated rate. Thanks to IVF, other fertility technologies, reduced infant mortality and death’s of mothers during childbirth humans are now able to produce large families rapidly. We also have the ability to transport food large distances to sustain much larger communities. Factors which once controlled our population growth are now failing and our reproduction is uncontrolled. Living organisms use mitosis (cell division) to grow and repair damage, but when the controls of a cell’s mitosis break down, it divides rapidly, forming many identical rapidly dividing cells in tumors which may metastasize to other areas of the body in much the same manner that humans have spread our uncontrolled growth around the world and formed clusters or cities.
We could be benign or malignant tumours. A benign tumor doesn’t need to be treated. It just sits there doing its thing. Right now, it seems we are malignant. We are spewing toxins into the body. We are devouring resources and killing off healthy cells. Maybe we could try to be less malignant, but our malignancy seems hard wired into the type of cancer we are.
So what can we do about this cancer? Is it inoperable? Will radiation help? How about chemo? Or should the Earth just try drinking more green smoothies and enjoy what time it has left?
Human cancer seems too widespread to benefit from surgery. Areas where radiation has been tried do seem to have responded well and mostly don’t have any humans growing in them but the cost to the rest of the body seems excessive. Humans seem to be mostly resistant to chemo treatment as it seems to do more harm to the body than it does to the infection. The most promising treatments seem to be the development of targeted super viruses which can overcome the humans’ medical shell yet do not harm healthy cells.
A relatively new treatment which is being developed to assist in cancer treatments is the use of hyperthermia. By overheating the body doctors can make other cancer treatments more effective. It is a dangerous treatment because it can harm or kill healthy cells but it is an option which can be considered alongside other treatments for extreme cases. Perhaps warming the global climate will aid the other measures already being used to try to remove this human cancer from the planet.
Like cancer, this earth will likely never be “cured” of humans, but it may be possible with time and treatment to extend its life and potentially even enter a state of remission. The threat of humans breaking out again is always something the world will have to live with.