Sunday, February 04, 2007

It'll Get Us In The End

When the last two dinosaurs died, just as they collapsed to the ground, one turned to the other and said “Just as I expected. A meteorite. Told you so.”

Actually, this never happened. And it won’t happen with people either.

When I was a child it was polio that was going to kill us all. The mere mention of it made us shudder. We had all seen photographs of the scary Iron Lungs that children with polio were put in to help them breathe. The brother of one of my schoolfriends actually caught it but managed to survive though one of his legs was damaged.

The smallpox – terrible killer of previous generations - had nearly gone, as had the typhoid. The horrific influenza epidemic of 1918 had faded from folk-memory: we thought that “flu” was something that could be cured with paracetamol and a couple of days in bed. We were all inoculated against tuberculosis. No, after the polio we stopped worrying for a bit, until AIDS appeared in the eighties and that became the thing that was going to kill us all. “Don’t Die of Ignorance” went the posters. Claire Rayner waved a condom around on television – unthinkable before AIDS.

AIDS is still around, but, because it hasn’t killed vast numbers of heterosexual people, we as a society have stopped worrying about it.

We had a brief flirtation with the idea that we would all die from rabies caused by French foxes crossing the Channel Tunnel, before turning our attentions to SARS. We worried about that for a few months before settling on Bird Flu as the thing that would kill us all.

When we had fretted about it all last winter and we still hadn’t died, we started to worry about Global Warming and the newspapers recently have been full of dire warnings about it.

Then, suddenly, lots of turkeys at Bernard Matthews’ vast – and horrific-sounding - turkey farm died from Bird Flu and the rest are going to be killed with gas, according to The Times. So it’ll be back to Bird Flu Worry again.

So, it could be the Bird Flu that gets us all. But, then again, Global Warming sounds quite a good bet for the destruction of mankind. Although my cousin Colin recently watched a Panorama programme from 1975, suggesting that the next ice age was on its way. – Ah yes, but of course we know more now than we did back then. True, but I bet people have always said that.

While we are fretting about the prospect of impending doom, prepared to do anything at all to stave it off – except make fewer journeys by car or plane, obviously – there could well be something coming to get us. It could be something half-expected – another meteorite, or Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park going off bang and taking half the USA with it – but I rather suspect it won’t be.

I think the two last people on Earth will turn to each other in astonishment and say “No! Never! Who would have thought of th - -?”


Post a Comment

<< Home