A Manifesto from the Microbial World

  Avi Lal |     December 21, 2021

At the outset, I want to thank the United Nations of Humans for giving us this opportunity to address all of humankind. I speak on behalf of the quintillion microbes of our planet.

I know that we are speaking to you in a time of great distress. Each of you present here has faced personal tragedies. We convey our deepest condolences.

It is heartbreaking that all of us microbes and viruses are reviled for the COVID problem. Let me remind you that this hatred is unfair.

While this tragedy is caused by one of us, you must remember that not all microbes are against you. We continue to live peacefully alongside and within you, as we have for millions of years. Less than one per cent of us cause you diseases. In fact, a majority of us work dedicatedly in partnership with all of humankind, and the entire animal and plant world too. We are present in nearly every pore of your body, in every morsel of your food, and in every drop of water you drink. We are the engines of evolution and creators of all new lifeforms. We produce, process, breakdown, digest, ferment, reformulate, recycle and synthesise nutrients faster and more efficiently than any of your machines. We also work ceaselessly every second without expecting any rewards or recognition.

It won’t be incorrect to say that you cannot survive even a moment without us. But, despite all our services, you persecute us. Your chemicals, antibiotics, soaps, and disinfectants constantly assault us indiscriminately. Most of you regard us as germs, bugs, critters. A few others see us as mere producers of your vitamins.

You treat us as second-class citizens in the Republic of Life. You want us to live only in ways that you prescribe. That’s how you’ve systematically domesticated us. You cultivate us in your labs, alter our genes (sometimes forever), and put us through the drudgery of industrial processes. We don't mind helping you but your callous enforcement is destroying our habitats, including the ones inside your own bodies.

Each living being is important both as an individual and as species. We want to remind you that removing any single variety from Nature can be disastrous. Take the bees and ants away and most fruits and crops would perish. Eliminate fungi, the undertakers of all things dead, and you’ll have rotting biomass, fewer medicines, and no specialty cheese. To the great microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, bacteria were the cornerstone on which all life rested.

Despite all the great scientific advances, your ignorance is so high-pitched now, more than any other time in history, that the entire humankind wishes all microorganisms to go extinct. But, if you were to actually do this, you’ll be doing so at your own peril. We do not wish to engage in this unending internecine warfare.

The current crisis from our point of view is simply this: you believe that taking things out of Nature without replenishing it is good economics. By taking out more than giving back, you achieve what you call efficiency. You assign an arbitrary value to things based on what other humans would pay and sell them in markets for huge profits. The real cost of your profits is paid through the irreversible extermination of Nature. We microbes simply call this greed. Your factories eject weird things, we’ve never encountered. Your waste is equally a waste for us and is killing us as much as it’s killing you.

The corona is the result of your misdeed. It is something that you’ve inflicted upon yourself. It’s not a retaliation from us, microbes. Each crossover of a pathogen, which makes it a disease, is an indicator of how humans have overstepped their limits with Nature. When you destroy our homes, you compel us to find new ones. We reside in your lungs and guts accidentally and solely for self-preservation.

A newbie coronavirus started from an animal but passed through millions of your bodies. Its destructive journey exposed your frailty and artifice. It has shown the hollowness of your high offices and unsustainability of your consumerism. Each day of a mismanaged crisis has widened the fissures of your economic inequality and weakened the trust between your communities.

We, microbes, watch your world in dismay. We see lockdowns restricting individual freedom and authoritarianism doing away with liberal democracy. We are most sorry for the loss of all things you value. While we hope that you’ll accept our sympathy, we wish that your discussions on environment and ethics don’t dissipate. Let compassion, logic and science guide you.

Humanity arrived on this planet only a few seconds ago in the geological hourglass. I appeal, therefore, to every nation you represent to ponder upon your disrupted relationship with Nature before the consequences of your conduct become fatal and irreparable for everybody, including yourselves.

We can help you fix this mess. Just stop the rampant damming of rivers, obliteration of hills, extraction of minerals, and production of things that’ll persist for a zillion years. Coming from the microbial world, I appeal this august assembly of humans to no longer ignore our warning.

About the Author

He is a student of class IX, Step by Step School, Noida

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