In the mid-80s, the world felt like living in a war zone. Young men died very quickly. I’d see someone who looked healthy one week, and within a few weeks, the local paper would publish their obituary.

Over the years, I’ve lost track of how many friends have died from AIDS; it’s well into the hundreds. But at every funeral, when reading every obituary, I always thought I’d be next.

Now, we have Covid-19. The script looks the same.

We are now involved in another deadly episode in the historic battle of man versus microbe.

These clashes have shaped the course of human evolution and history. We have seen the face of our enemy, in this case, a little virus. By the end of 2019, the global death toll from HIV was roughly 33 million people. In all, 76 million people have been infected, and scientists estimate another 1.7 million people acquire the virus every year.

Science leaps into the darkness, the very edge of human knowledge. That is where we begin as if deep in a cave, chipping away at a wall of hard stone. You do not know what you will find on the other side. Some people chip away for a lifetime, only to accumulate a pile of flakes. We may be in for a protracted pandemic or get lucky with effective treatments and vaccines.

But we have been here before, facing an unknown viral enemy, and we can lean on lessons we have learned. This is not the first and will not be the last global epidemic.

We’re going to become extinct,” the eminent scientist Frank Fenner said. “Whatever we do now is too late.” Fenner is an authority on extinction. The emeritus professor in microbiology at the Australian National University played a leading role in sending one species into oblivion: the variola virus that causes smallpox. And his work on the myxoma virus suppressed wild rabbit populations on farming land in southeastern Australia in the early 1950s.

His deep understanding of evolution had never diminished his fascination with observing it in the field. That understanding was shaped by studies of every scale, from the molecular level to the ecosystem and planetary levels. … Fenner said the real trouble is the population explosion and “unbridled consumption.”

The number of Homo sapiens is projected to exceed 7.8 billion this year, according to the UN. With delays in firm action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Fenner was pessimistic. “We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island,” he said. “Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we see remarkable changes in the weather already.

“The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years. But the world can’t. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we’ve seen disappear.”

“Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years,” he stated. “A lot of other animals will, too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off. “Mitigation would slow things down a bit, but there are too many people here already.”… “As the population keeps growing to seven, eight or nine billion, there will be a lot more wars over food,” he declared.

“The grandchildren of today’s generations will face a much more difficult world.”

The Dash
by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?