My Friends the Smokers
Once upon a time there was a man, a very successful business man that was well connected with many governments and business leaders. His lifestyle included a multitude of comforts and had many luxurious belongings. He was envied by most people and involved in nearly every sector of industry.
He tried his best to live a healthy life but was a heavy smoker for many years. He often said it was a habit that he enjoyed very much and believed it was helping him to succeed and be more productive. It seemed that everything he became involved in flourished, even his personal life. His success, power, and influence were growing exponentially.
Ironically, many of his friends in governments and other businesses were smokers too, whom also were prospering and enjoying success. Those that didn't smoke soon became jealous and began smoking with hopes of succeeding as well. This network expanded rapidly and people almost everywhere were enjoying the benefits of their progress and new developments for humankind.
All of the smokers began smoking even more and did so almost everywhere they went. Some began using tobacco to make new products that helped industry and civilization become more advanced offering numerous conveniences. It was surely a time of tremendous growth and prosperity which offered many comforts to the masses.
After years of good health, the man became plagued with a deep cough that was intermittent initially but became more frequent with increased intensities. He was told by his contemporaries to seek medical advice and did so reluctantly. His doctor performed some preliminary tests and genuinely tried to assess his overall health.
After a short time, the man met with his doctor again to discuss the findings. The doctor told him he had pulmonary emphysema with some precancerous cells in his lungs and if he doesn't stop smoking he will likely get cancer and die prematurely. The man quickly asked the doctor if there was any good news. The doctor said yes, if you stop smoking, your lung tissues could repair themselves and you may be able to live a longer, healthy life.
This troubling news was very difficult for the man to accept. However, deep down he knew his lifestyle was not sustainable and that one day, something would need to change drastically. He shared the alarming news with his friends that were heavy smokers and they too had trouble believing it. Although they confided in him that they also were experiencing similar respiratory and related health problems.
The man could simply not imagine the thought of quitting his habit. It was such a powerful part of his life and others. He truly believed that without it, his businesses, progress, and success would no longer be possible and everything would collapse. To him, there was really no choice but to find a substitute or somehow mitigate the effects of smoking.
Soon, not just the elite but many ordinary people throughout the world began smoking or using tobacco for their own comfort and benefit. The amount of smoke that was being released into the environment was increasing at unprecedented rates. It was also having profound effects on the health of people that didn't smoke, animals, plants, and almost all other forms of life on earth. In addition, the combustion by-products from all the smoking was polluting the land, air, and seas even where no one was smoking.
The man and many of his smoking friends in government and business decided to meet in Kyoto, Japan to talk about the crisis with hopes of identifying a protocol for change. There they committed to reducing their use of at least seven different brands of tobacco. However, economics, politics and enforcement stifled any change. They later agreed to meet in Paris with laudable intentions of reducing their smoking to 50% of their current consumption by the year 2030.
This elite group of smokers began to have regular meetings around the world to talk about the growing crisis but only promises were made and rates of smoking continued to increase globally. Alternatives such as electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco were proposed but they presented new problems and still had deleterious health effects. All of which only increased the demand for more tobacco worldwide.
Tobacco prices spiraled while the 'Organization of the Tobacco Exporting Countries' (commonly known as OTEC) influenced the global markets and maximized profits. That pressured producers to grow more tobacco whom cleared vast tracts of land for farming the product. This in turn created profound ecological problems by destroying and fragmenting the natural habitats of numerous species of life on earth.
Many traditional farmers switched from growing food to tobacco as it was far more profitable. Tobacco became more coveted than any other commodity and was influencing almost every aspect of humanity. Governments imposed taxes on the sale of tobacco which raised prices further. This growing revenue source deterred any attempts to reduce tobacco consumption by the heavy smokers.
The man's health and outward appearance began to deteriorate. He was losing weight, not sleeping well, and his appetite was diminishing. He made several attempts to reduce his consumption of tobacco but couldn't deal with the changes that resulted. The fear of recession and having to modify his lifestyle overwhelmed his thinking and made him very uncomfortable. All the conveniences and comforts that tobacco offered him were just too enticing for him to give up.
Soon all of the heavy smokers developed more serious health problems and so did others in their vicinity, even if they were not smokers. All the smoke began to change the environment everywhere. New diseases were emerging among humans and almost all other life on earth. Many people became sick from something related to the changing environment. Increased numbers of species of life on earth were becoming extinct or endangered.
The chemistry of the atmosphere was changing faster than what life could adapt to. All the smoking lowered its oxygen levels and increased the carbon dioxide content. Not only did this make breathing more difficult but affected the behavior of people. They were becoming more anxious, irritable, and had difficulty concentrating. This caused many social maladies among families, nations, and governments. Territorial disputes were increasing at many levels, resulting in more conflict and wars throughout the world.
The smoke in the air began to block sunlight which affected photosynthesis globally. With plants fixing less carbon, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were increasing even faster. Since more farmers were cultivating tobacco and growing conditions became limited, food supplies began to dwindle as well.
All the emerging diseases pressured Big Pharma to develop more novel therapies quicker than ever before. Many medicines were approved without adequate testing and safety assurances. One vaccine in particular that was administered to most of the human population had questionable effectiveness despite manufacturer claims. After a short time, many of the vaccinated people developed a range of brain disorders from the lipid nanoparticles used in them to trick the immune system. Unfortunately, these nanoparticles also cross the blood-brain barrier where they affect neural activity.
Super antibiotics were introduced to overcome the reduced effectiveness of traditional ones. Drug and medicine use was increasing dramatically. People thought they would mitigate some of the effects of sickness and disease, but actually made the population less healthy. This combined with the toxic environment was seriously compromising people's natural immunity by overburdening its capacity to respond to new diseases.
Sexual orientation and gender identity were also becoming more common within the population. It became difficult to distinguish the sex of some individuals from their physical appearance. Additionally, sex drive and reproduction were diminishing throughout human and many other forms of life. Feminization of numerous species was being caused by all the endocrine disrupting chemicals used in many medicines, plastics, household goods, and personal care products.
New technologies were emerging very quickly throughout this period of great progress. One notable area was in communications. Huge amounts of information was being converted into discrete digits, usually binary and sent very rapidly around the world through cables, fibers, and electromagnetic signals. Vast amounts of knowledge became available to the population throughout a network of electronic devices which were also tracking their activities. People were able to make quick decisions with little thinking and more time was being spent in this virtual reality than in the physical world.
This convenient technology made life easier for the masses and they soon began using it for almost everything. Realizing its powerful influence, some of the heavy smokers started controlling, manipulating, and selling what information was found by users on the network. Additionally, a growing amount of it was not truthful and many people had difficulty knowing what is real and what is not.
This new form of communication was constantly upgrading with new devices which required increased amounts of semiconductors, rare elements, and other raw materials in limited supply. This created tremendous amounts of electronic waste as well. The energy required to maintain this network was also increasing dramatically. Critical thinking and creativity were waning while intelligence was originating from this limited digital source, not a conscious mind.
As the number and intensities of these electromagnetic communication signals increased, their effects on biological systems became more evident. They were altering the way in which all life uses ions, voltages, and fields to communicate. Neural activity was most impaired affecting heart function, brain waves, muscular contractions, vision, and hearing. These effects were more profound in developing fetuses, infants, and younger organisms with increased long-term consequences.
Although some businesses controlled by the heavy smokers were booming, the world economy was struggling. Governments were spending huge amounts of borrowed money that was never paid back. They then borrowed more just to pay the interest. This catalyzed hyperinflation which severely limited buying power of the masses.
Established financial institutions became less secure as more of them closed or defaulted. Government corporations began not insuring many deposits that were historically safe investments. More people had less money while less people had more money. Stock markets were dangerously inflated but continued to flourish as the heavy smokers controlled almost all of their activities.
Other than tobacco, few commodities became attractive investments anymore. Less tangible assets such as securities, cryptocurrencies, and other virtual investments were more desirable. There was a looming fear of not having enough money to live comfortably. This affected both consumer and corporate spending which further worsened the economy.
Unequivocally, capitalism was failing. Its predominance was severely damaging social, political, and environmental matters almost everywhere. The fundamentals of competition, profit, and excess were not sustainable. There was an urgent need for a new system of collaboration, conservation, and common ownership.
The man's wealth was increasing steadily while his health deteriorated exponentially. This affluence comforted him and seemed to offset some of his health concerns, however his physical condition worsened uncontrollably.
He consulted with many medical doctors and renowned scientists from around the world for help with his ailing health. They offered numerous alternatives ranging from other plant-based products to smoke sequestration. However, all of them created new problems and could not stop his rapidly declining health. The experts unanimously agreed that his only hope was change and stop smoking.
Now with severely limited lung capacity, it was difficult for the man to move about and had to breathe purified oxygen from cylinders throughout the day. He remained indoors most of the time with sophisticated filtration systems to clean the air in his environment. He only removed his breathing apparatus to eat, sleep, or smoke.
The desperation obscured his thinking so he sought advice from his colleagues. One of his heavy smoker friends suggested taking a vacation to a cleaner, quieter place to rest and contemplate. Without much thought he proceeded to pack suitcases full of money, medicines, and tobacco.
After hiring two assistants he chartered a jet to a small island nation in the middle of the Pacific. From there they traveled by superyacht with abundant supplies to a remote, uninhabited island. Upon arriving, they quickly set up a temporary camp just offshore where they ate and rested. Within a few hours, the man's perspective changed. He began to feel as part of nature.
The next morning brought dark clouds and gusty winds which awakened the man from a deep sleep. While his assistants were still resting, he grabbed some tobacco and crawled to the beach. Along the way, he was shocked by what he saw strewn about. There was trash of all types ranging from plastic bottles and fishing nets to broken electronic devices and cigarette butts.
The man wondered how all this debris could have gotten to this remote place. He immediately thought other people that came to visit left it there. However, that seemed very unlikely. He then suspected it washed ashore from developed countries far away. Nevertheless, it was very disturbing to the man.
With weakened spirit he struggled to the open area where the sea meets the land. There he saw more rubbish being driven by the waves onto this peaceful refuge. At that moment the man dropped his head in shame and wept profusely.
The heavens thundered and the man looked up to see bolts of lightening illuminating the dark skies and littered coastline. It suddenly began to downpour so he strained to roll himself under a nearby palm tree for shelter. There he reached for his tobacco but the severe winds prevented him from igniting it. In frustration, the man surrendered and prayed sorrowfully.
His entire life seemed to flash through his consciousness in rhythm with the forces of nature. All of his business achievements and successes were fully revealed to him in a divine vision. Every technology, convenience, and product that he developed had a dark side which he now could see.
While inventing and creating so many man-made things, he ignored discovery in the natural world. The man desperately looked for just one accomplishment that had some benefit to this place but nothing was found. The realization that he was the author of this sad story devastated his soul.
Even the air was different on this island. It was now the dry season but weather was changing everywhere in the world. Prostrated and out of breath, the man felt close to death. Upon that thought, he realized only then would he change and stop smoking. Paradoxically, that comforted him with a sense of accomplishment. After one more breath, the man gave up the ghost and expired.
Like dominoes, most of the heavy smokers around the world began to perish. Their descendants continued to smoke but consumed dramatically less tobacco. However, that did not slow all of the on-going global devastation. For the first time since modern man's origin, human population was declining and at a rapid rate.
More aggressive types of cancer, infections with increased virulence, and a multitude of immune disorders were taking many lives, predominantly human life. Ecosystems throughout the world were stressed beyond historical boundaries and the delicate nexus between all living systems was progressively collapsing. Combined with lower birth rates, lack of clean water, and insufficient food supplies, humanity was approaching extinction.
Throughout this period, ethics and social perception were also changing. What used to be right was now wrong and that which was wrong seemed to be right. People were more selfish with an overbearing sense of ownership. It seemed as though everything was becoming a business, from government and religion to marriage, relationships, and even science.
Many people were relocating to distant places seeking asylum and healing from their troubled conditions. Some isolated areas were healthier than more developed regions but the unfriendly footprints of humankind were present everywhere. Refugees would either find remnants of things from the world they were escaping or often, bring their own comforts and conveniences.
Passenger travel was increasing dramatically despite the shrinking population. Some of the surviving heavy smokers continued to control this industry while establishing many new regulations and restrictions. Safety was touted as being paramount but accident rates were higher than ever before.
One noteworthy tragedy occurred when a passenger jet crashed somewhere in a remote rainforest of South America. Most of the passengers onboard were en route to Rio de Janeiro for business and pleasure. There was also another group of thirteen handicapped and sick children on-leave from a Children's Hospital in New England. The latter were accompanied by one medical doctor and three nurse aides.
After three days of trying to locate and access the crash site, a search and rescue team found the bodies of all crew members and passengers onboard except the children and one semiretired scientist. Mysteriously, there were no clues to where the missing passengers were located. Several experts suspected they were attacked by wild animals living in the jungle but there were no remains or signs of struggle within several square kilometers of the wreckage.
One investigator found what appeared to be pawprints of a big cat, likely a jaguar, relatively close to the crash site. However, frequent rains in that area probably washed away closer evidence. Three colleagues of the missing scientist continued the search after authorities halted their own efforts. Four days later, communication from the new search team was lost and they too became missing. The bodies of the three along with the thirteen children and one scientist were never found.
Coincidentally, several similar accidents occurred in other remote areas of the world where few, if any people are known to live. In each case, some of the victims were never found. Various rumors emerged including alien abduction, attack by deadly animals, and cannibalism by native savages.
Humans were changing the earth so profoundly during this time that it was named the Anthropocene, from Ancient Greek meaning 'human' and 'new' or 'recent'. So much so that is was eventually accepted as a new epoch in the geological time scale. It began around the middle of the twentieth century AD with what was known as the Great Acceleration. It ended rather abruptly less than 100 years later which was termed the Anthropocene Implosion. This entire epoch was the shortest one ever recorded in the history of the planet.
During the Anthropocene Implosion, extinction of species and population declines were occurring more frequently and in greater numbers than ever before in the history of life on earth. The most dramatic losses were among the human population in urban areas. However, there were some species that thrived in the wild. They ranged from simple bacteria and viruses to higher forms of life. These exceptions were either highly adaptive or could easily develop symbiotic relationships with other organisms and their environment.
The vast majority of the remaining human population believed these were the 'End Times' and lived in fear with little hope. Some found comfort in the possibility of a new world where humans transcended intellectual thinking and received divine guidance. A few courageous groups took action and sought to find a place for doing such. A place where technology did not influence biology.
One group in particular ventured deep into the jungles of Brazil determined to find somewhere that was not tainted by modern human activity. This elite team of three men and two women were all well trained in survival techniques. However, after several encounters with very dangerous animals living in the region their resolve began to weaken.
One of the men was stung by many Bullet ants while inadvertently disturbing their nest. The pain was so severe that he went into shock and lost consciousness. His unresponsive state seemed to attract other predators to the location so the team remained stationary with heightened vigilance. There was an increasing sense of tension in the jungle and every sound seemed to be magnified.
Suddenly, three savage men appeared from nowhere and everything froze. After an extended period of dead silence and motionlessness, one of the savage men slowly approached the unconscious man. With all eyes upon him, he placed his hands on the incapacitated man's chest for a few moments, then slowly moved them to his shoulders and neck.
With one hand he reached into a pouch on his waistband and took something out of it. After rubbing his hands together for quite some time, he placed his hands upon the unconscious man's head. The jungle again became silent and still. Suddenly, the unconscious man awoke and broke the silence with a loud cry.
The entire group gathered around the revived man and tried to comfort him. One of the indigenous men quickly gathered some dirt from the area near the Bullet ant nest. Another native brought some water which they mixed with the dirt to make a mud. After the two women removed the injured man's shirt, the natives applied the mud to his chest, shoulders, and neck where he was apparently stung.
The lead native then placed some leaves from another pouch on his waistband into the injured man's mouth while he grimaced with pain. As everyone watched anxiously, the man slowly calmed and began chewing the leaves. Although no words were spoken, the thinking within the group then changed dramatically. Their fear and uncertainty shifted to trust and cooperation. Perhaps that shift in consciousness was exactly what the explorers were searching for.
After a few more minutes, the injured man began to move and tried to get up but the indigenous men signaled him to lie steady. The man's condition continued to improve so the group remained patient and rested there for quite some time. As dusk was approaching, the natives cleared the mud from the man's body and helped him to stand upright. The lead indigenous man pointed to the area where they were first seen by the explorers and they all walked in that direction into the jungle.
After struggling through the thick rainforest for fifteen minutes or more, the savages stopped at a somewhat cleared area with several large trees bearing unusual looking fruits. One of the savages picked a number of them and offered some to the explorers. They all relaxed a couple of minutes there and enjoyed the juicy but slightly bitter tasting fruits.
Less parched and refreshed, the group continued on their journey together. After a short period of time, one of the women explorers asked her colleagues if they had felt any different. They all agreed and seemed to have an enhanced perception of everything. The colors, smells, and sounds of the jungle became more vivid, almost enchanted. The other woman said she felt like she was dreaming and wondered if there was some kind of mind-altering phytochemical in those fruits they just consumed.
Captivated by every leaf, branch, insect, reptile, bird, and living creature, they continued walking for what seemed to be hours. Even the earth, stones, groundwater, and air seemed to be alive. Their sense of time was also altered as it was still twilight when they finally arrived at a small village with thatched abodes and outdoor cooking areas.
Upon entering this commune, the explorers saw a number of other indigenous-looking people, mostly women wearing native garments. Around the back of one of the huts, they were baffled to find a group of Caucasian children playing with several small monkeys. As the team looked at each other in amazement, four older Caucasian men came out of the hut and one said "welcome comrades" with an American accent. ...to be continued!