“the universe is finite. its resources, finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correction” – Thanos
In the end of the famous Marvel series movie, Avengers: Endgame, there’s a scene about the whales coming back to the Hudson River after having 50% of the world population ‘disappeared’ by Thanos. Thanos is the main villain of the series that is trying to ‘save his world’ by taking the lives away which, he believes, are over-exploiting the natural resources.
During the global pandemic, people’s hope created rumors about the whales and dolphins coming back to ports, and the elephants coming down to local farms and sleeping after getting drunk from eating fruits and alcohol. Later, it was confirmed that those news weren’t real.
However, not everything about the ‘positive impact of the pandemic’ was fake news. Waterways in Venice, Italy, has cleared up due to lack of water transportation. The air quality in China and India is clearer than ever. Air quality in the northern Italy has significantly improved. Wild animals are coming down to the area where people live now – almost like they’re reclaiming their territories – in Spain, California, Chile and other places.
The name Thanos came from a Greek word Athanasios, a Greek name meaning ‘immortal’. It is composed of ‘a’, a negative Greek prefix, and Thanatos, which means ‘death’. In the movie, he tries to destroy half of the lives in the universe, because he believes that destroying half of the lives can save the rest of the population from the danger of extinction such as lack of resources.
On October 2018, Professor Jeremy Jackson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography visited Stony Brook University to deliver a lecture on global environmental crisis. It was about how climate change is currently affecting everyone in a global scale. When the lecture was over, one of the students asked him a question ‘how many people do you think should die to achieve sustainability on this planet?’. A lot of students were shocked by the question. It is true, the global population is only increasing, and people are not living longer than ever. It is a valid question, but not the ideal way to look at the issue. but really, what would cost to achieve sustainability? Should we go back to the time when the scientists were talking about the ‘carrying capacity’ of the planet?
The world is experiencing something that they’ve never experienced before. Similar events has happened before. But we somehow found ways to overcome those events – World Wars, the Spanish Flu…etc. But this time, no one really knows how to stop it from happening.
In the movie, with the finger snap of Thanos, half of the the world population turns into dust. (eventually, the movies has different ending, but just in case you haven’t seen the movie, we won’t talk about it here) The traffic went down, and the ‘owners’ of the planet – wildlife- came back to where human species claimed as theirs. And it is happening during the current pandemic as well.
The entire world is sheltering in in their own spaces, and the most populated and busiest areas in the worlds are all completely empty now. People who never even spend time in their local parks are appreciating ray of sunshine, fresh air, and just the greenery appearing from the distance. The world is ‘healing’ but what are we going to do when the COVID-19 situation is over?
This has costed a lot already. Millions of lives of our loved ones, sacrifice of healthcare workers, essential workers who are still out there to make sure that out cities and neighborhood runs smoothly during this time. But this also showed us what we can do to save our lives. We achieved little bit by sacrificing operation of our factories, avoiding unnecessary travels and others. But we should do more. It was to save ‘our’ lives. We are not practicing social distancing for the planet. It was to save people’s lives. We lost millions of lives to learn this lesson.
Change the word ‘corona virus’ to climate change from our news and media. It is scary how the news sound almost exactly same as those news we’ve been hearing about climate change. – yes, it is real. Yes, it is a global crisis. Yes, we need to trust scientists and professionals on this issue. and Yes, we all need to participate not only to save your life, but for the others.
We are still in the transition process of changing our ‘business as usual’ to something completely different. We know that we can make differences now. But let’s not waste more lives of our loved ones, or our time. Just like the corona virus, we don’t know when it’s going to be over. But the scientists in the world created measures to see if we ARE actually contributing to the problem or the solutions. We will just have to try until it’s over.
Humans are great, not because we can be on the top of the world to claim our superiority over others, but because we can learn to be on the top of the world in harmony with others. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this year, on April 22nd, let’s prove Thanos wrong. We’ll see how far we can go for the common good of the planet and humanities. We are all in this together. HJ
Hogyeum Evan Joo, Stony Brook University Class of 2019