The Successful Extinction

pollution and clean energy concept. businessman watching windmil
Image used for representation only.

It was 2120. All evidence showed that this planet must have had a life-form that could alter the planet and some of its natural cycles faster than nature itself.

There was no sign of the life-form itself. There were several artefacts they had collected in effort to understand what must have happened to this life form. 

The yellow pages with spots of brown that had survived despite weathering stared back. They appeared chronicle the events they had seen.

The title said the “The Pandemic Diary”. The handwritten blue ink was no longer the blue it may once have been. It was fading yet legible enough for those who cared to read.

The Pandemic Diary, December 30th, 2020

With no end in sight for the 2020 pandemic, everyone is in a hurry to get back to their race to success. Everyone want 2021 to be the year of achievement and success.

No, there is no time to think that the faster you went, the slower it would be. Thinking would be such a waste of time, like having to learn something to do it. No, how can it be practical to learn from the story of the turtle and the hare when it was only a tale for children? No, you can’t be serious asking me about success either. But there it was, the question that I would rather not want to think about. 

“What is success?”

If this question were not from my favorite 4-year-old, I may have been dismissive just as I usually am with the others. I would probably say that success was to be experienced not thought about. Those who were successful seemed to have everything. Money. Wealth. People on call. Power. They were achievers.

“Being able to do more.” I couldn’t have foreseen the trouble I was getting myself into. It might be easier to scotch to the Scots. Or oil to the Arabs. But thinking is not my strength.

“You mean like make more things, make more food, make more activities?”

I was taken aback. I had never thought about it this way. Her insight had eluded me completely. We had been making more and more stuff. Why were we still left wanting for more, I wondered? We had been producing more and more food. Yet I knew that there were many who went hungry. We were busy in more and more activities for longer and longer hours for more days every week yet we seemed to have done little. 

I nodded, hoping that would be the end of what promised to be difficult conversation.

“Wouldn’t that mean we would leave less for everyone else? Is that why we have so much waste everywhere? How is that success?”

I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable. Her words were like the bitter medicine the doctors gave every time I fell sick. Of course, there would be less and less for others if I consumed more and more. And there would be less and less for our children and their children’s children if we all consumed more. She had noticed the waste our consumption of more and more things and food caused that I, like everyone else, would rather look away from. I had refused to think of it as a problem of my consuming more and more than I ever need. I thought it was a problem of the obsolete technology used by the municipal authorities to remove and treat waste. I never thought it had anything to do with my idea of success.

“When you have more, you are strong and powerful”, I knew I was burying my head like the ostrich. Or worse. Sinking in the quicksand like the one who tries to struggle to get out.

“Can I have more if I wish? Then I will be strong and powerful!” she exclaimed.

But we can’t have more unless we work with others to produce more. We must work with others. That’s what my friend had explained to me as a production system. I remember this friend I blamed for thinking all the time had said it was an exploitative system if it did not share its gains fairly with everyone in the system. “What power do you seek”, he had asked me. “over those in your system, those without whom you will not have the things you want?” 

His questions had made me extremely uncomfortable. My friend had explained at a 8 percent growth per anum, we would double the resources we use up every 9 years and double the pollution every 4 years.

He had also said something about the loss of mountains, forests, rivers, and oceans that supported species that made the planet habitable. He had explained something about nature’s biological and geological cycles that required varied species to coexist. “Success is your ability to find harmony.” He had asserted “Only the species that live in harmony with each other and the natural cycles of the planet will survive.”

“But we can’t make more till the pandemic ends.” I tried to end the questioning.

“But how will we be powerful and strong if we do not make more?” she insisted.

If everyone thought like this 4 year old, we would not have anything left to make more goods or more food as we would have exploited every resource. Like her, everyone seemed to be in a hurry to make more. In 2021 we must make more to make up for the less we did in 2020 they all seemed to say. How can we want to make more, I wanted to say? 

The newspapers reported plans for spreading cities into the hinterlands occupied by mountains, forests, rivers, and farms. They announced roadways and fast speed transportation networks to move more and more for more activities than ever before.

They announced the production of more and more, the extraction of more and more from the planet to make it into things that could be exchanged for power and thrown away as waste once the power was consumed. How could so many powerful people be wrong?

“Yes, we must make more so we become powerful and strong” I heard myself saying.


This entry marked out the choices this species had made.

That they had chosen power over the future of their children and their children’s children. They had defined success as the power they wield over others and nature.

It certainly explained the artefacts that showed the existence of a species with a defiance and exerting power over the planet and its natural cycles.

And a species that could not be found anywhere on the planet.


#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals or institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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