During the past year, hundreds of thousands have perished at the hands of a mother nature run amok. Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and torrential rains have served us notice that for all our brilliant achievements, we are not masters of the earth.
Those who adhere to the prophecies of the past suggest that the cataclysm of world destruction is coming, that the rapture is at hand, the end is near.
Certainly, the recent natural disasters have been extreme, eclipsing anything in living memory, but do they signify a terrible end?
The human race is now enormous, exceeding by a thousand percent the world inhabitants of the not-too-distant past. Communication is instantaneous: a boulder falls on a house and a picture is flashed around the world before the dust settles.
Consider the news in historical context, a far vaster landscape than human memory. And consider that until 100 years ago, news of events traveled slowly, if at all.
The earthquake in Kashmir claimed perhaps 40,000 valuable lives out of a planetary population of 6.4 billion souls. An earthquake in Shaanxi, China in 1556 claimed over 800,000 lives out of a contemporary population of only a few million, most of them totally unaware of the disaster.
The horrors of AIDS and the looming threat of 'flu pandemics may kill a few million of us. In 1347-1350, the Black Death wiped out over a third of Europe's population and it took 400 years to grow back to its former level. There were no news flashes or video coverage, just the word of straggling strangers of the terrors they had seen.
Think of the Ice Ages that have periodically crept across the earth's surface, wiping out hundred of species each time and forever leaving the mark of their ravages on the continents. Envision an enormous meteor crashing into our planet, leaving a killing residue of dust that blotted out the sun's rays for decades, destroying the dinosaurs that had dominated the landscape for 100,000 years of endless summer.
Our spaceship earth is a living, breathing and highly unstable vessel. It explodes, erupts, and trembles on its own timetable, far removed from the brief memories of mankind.
The forces of nature are doing what they have always done. There are just so many more of us to get in the way and so many more to bear witness to the recurring catastrophes.