The Mark of GideonBy Joe Beaudoin
Posted at October 25, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
"World Population Reaches 6 Billion!" is what most headlines stated recently. In fact, it happened to be something that people just shrugged about and said, "So what?". Interestingly enough, people are dismissing it as "another headline, another event". However, I think we're seeing a potential problem brewing. And that problem is already starting to affect us, and has been for quite some time now, in ways that we shrug our shoulders about and give it a resonating "humph" in our throats.
This problem is overpopulation. Simply put, we are re taxing this world's ability to supply us with what we need to survive. We're taxing renewable and un-renewable resources, we're killing off and endangering species every day - to a point where it isn't even hilarious, not that it ever was in the first place - and we're not giving the Earth a breather either. We're harming not only the Earth, but also ourselves in the process.
In The Original Series third-season, which wasn't as bad as some people said it was, the episode "The Mark of Gideon" is pretty much the only episode ever done within the Trek realm that concentrates on the problems of overpopulation. It is the only episode of Star Trek that makes us think of how humanity - or humanoids in this case - are hurting their planet, as well as hurting themselves, by overpopulation. It tells of the Gideons' want for privacy, even if it only lasted for one second, and what extreme measures they will do to get it. One of the best episodes of any Star Trek ever that deals with a subject matter that can be applied today, despite being told nearly three-and-a-half decades ago.
Of course "Mark of Gideon" tells the story of the abduction of Kirk to get a deadly virus that he recently had within his system, and to spread that deadly virus through the nearly immortal population of Gideon. That was how desperate they were... could we, if humanity continues to grow by more than alarming leaps and bounds, end up killing one another just to get some semblance of privacy and to have even a smidgen of space?
We already kill one another over everything from the smallest of problems or just because someone is different. So, yes, it wouldn't be too surprising if we did. Heck, it is already a motive in some murders and killings, and we still have enough space to move around in, ironically enough.
So how are starting to overpopulate the Earth anyway? What is it that humanity has now that we didn't have decades ago?
A. Extended Life Spans
Humanity has more longevity than fifty years ago. As technology in all fields has progressed - from pacemakers to medications to immediate medical services - so has the human life span.
B. Diseases Are Being Curtailed & Older Diseases Are or Becoming "Extinct"
Vaccines. Inhibitors. Medicines. Antibiotics... They're all being used in a war against disease and virus. As medicines become readily available and vaccines prevent diseases like measles and chicken pox, thus curtailing who they affect, and eventually causing these dieseases die out due to immunities - natural or otherwise - less and less viruses and diseases can affect humans in general. Sure, we may have AIDS, hepatitis, and some other nasty viruses and diseases, but how many of those are there? Compare how many viruses and diseases there weres one hundred years ago with how many viruses and diseases we have to live with. Yes, so they may exist, but we have vaccines and medicines now that could prevent or even get rid of them.
Generally, because of programs instituted by public and private organizations (schools, businesses, etc.) about health-related matters - from preventing getting a disease to how to check yourself for certain cancers - awareness has been raised. Awareness also requires knowledge, which is obviously gained from educational programs, leaves the person informed about the dangers of drugs (cocaine, pot, and tobacco, et al.) to the preservation of the human body.
D. Less Infant Deaths
Compared to hundred or so years ago, surviving beyond the ages of one through three were lower than they are today. As we progressed in the act of proper child birth and the medicinal sciences, people now know to not do negative actions to their body or to someone who is pregnant - i.e. beatings, the consumption of alcohol, stressful acts, drugs, etc. - and everything has to be clean. (Back at least two to three hundred years ago, women gave birth on dirty sheets instead of clean ones, increasing the chance for an infection after the birthing process.)
Now that we know most of the major reasons behind the increasing population, what can we do to make sure that we don't get as desperate as the Gideons in "The Mark of Gideon"? Well, here are some suggestions and recommendations:
A. Health Education
Health should be taught at an earlier age than that of 6th graders. Since the minds are still developing and learning at an earlier age and are more prone to listening than they are in the 6th grade, health education should start as early as 4th grade. But the "facts of life" shouldn't be delved into until the 5th grade, as the minds are not yet prepared for the knowledge of "that" yet.
B. "The Facts Of Life" Education
Sorry for the weak title, but I'm trying to keep the article G to PG rated. Frankly, I believe that "The Facts of Life" Education should be taught as early as 5th grade... the 4th grade class prepares them for what is to come in this class, and it is about the time that the change from child to young adolescent begins.
C. Implementation of Abstinence or Contraception Devices
To quote William Shatner on what was a comment on "The Mark of Gideon" in Sci-Fi's Star Trek Special Edition, "We must stop doing something." Or at least we should prevent "colonization" using contraception devices. These things will manage the population a bit as well as prevent some viruses to enter when colonization occurs. However, a word of caution, despite using the devices, colonization can still occur. If you don't want to risk colonizing, then abstinence is the answer.
D. We Need To Go Where No Human Has Lived Before
Obviously, going somewhere else - and I mean off the planet - should be another option. Obviously not now, but perhaps ten to fifteen years in the future. By the time the 2010s or 2020s roll around, we probably will be having colonies on the moon and maybe even Mars. This could even the problems out a bit, in the way of overpopulation.
Those are the only sound options I can think of as I compose this article. However, I'm not done yet. I have one more item to explore.
Now it is said that Mother Nature tries to repair things on its own. Perhaps Mother Nature is fed up with humanity taking land by storm and growing by leaps and bounds.
The question is though: Can Mother Nature - or whatever divine influence exists - try to curtail humanity's massive growth spurts?
Interestingly enough, perhaps it can. It obviously has the ability to "regenerate" per se, rainforests are probably a prime example. Once you cut something down, it seems that Mother Nature recovers, although at a rate which is too slow for its own good.
So, provided that Mother Nature doesn't like humanity's major and unpredictable growth spurts, and provided that it has the capacity to do anything about it, what has Mother Nature done about it?
Storms have curtailed the development of the human race. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and severe storms have damaged cities, devastated towns and have killed humans. There are too many examples to state here, however there is a major flood that is well known.
The biblical story of Noah's Ark.
In this story, Noah was told by God to collect two of everything (animals, creatures and humans) and to build an ark, as God was going to flood the Earth because, as scripture has it, He thought He made a mistake in creating Man because Man was evil.
Of course, depending on your point of view this may or may not be true, but still it covers my point. That Nature has the power to curtail us in the manner of a storm.
Everything has some sort of purpose, whether good or evil. I have a theory about diseases' purpose. The theory goes that diseases are Natures way of trying to contain humanity's growth. Naturally, we either find some sort of agent to fight against it, or we grow an immunity to it. So, Mother Nature must also adapt and find a new virus. Otherwise we would be virtually immortal and we would have a similar "Mark of Gideon" situation on humanity's hands. An equalizer of sorts, on the microscopic level.
Events in history have shown that viruses, bacteria and diseases have had major effects on human life. For instance the plagues that wiped out civilizations and cities during the Middle Ages were deadly and therefore affected the population numbers adversely.
In conclusion, we need to slow down, we need to tread carefully as a society. Otherwise, you can be in "The Mark of Gideon" or it's spin-off - and this time it won't be a Star Trek episode.
Joe Beaudoin is currently Vice President, contributor, and TOS Columnist for the Star Trek Galactic Newsletter. He's also the president of the Star Wars Galactic Newsletter.