Last Updated on 2022-07-08 by Joop Beris

In the iconic 1999 film “The Matrix” there is a scene where Agent Smith, while interrogating Morpheus, compares humanity to a virus. Consuming all resources in an area and then moving on to another area and then another again. There is definitely some truth to this analogy. I had a stark reminder of that last night visiting an all-you-can-eat restaurant.

The restaurant, if you can call it that at all, has copious buffets of food, chefs who fry or grill meat or fish while you watch and all this with drinks included in the price. Beer and wine come out of a faucet. People are milling about loading plates with lots of food, then return to their seats to eat their fill. Plenty of them, judging from their obesity, shouldn’t be going back for seconds or thirds but they still do…and more.

As I watched this scene, it reminded me of the Matrix but also of another scene: that of the emperor Nero playing his fiddle as Rome burned in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE. While this event is most likely not historic but a fiction of anti-Nero propaganda, it is still fitting.

The Great Fire of Rome By Hubert Robert
The Great Fire of Rome By Hubert Robert

The world burns

Just days before my visit to this restaurant, news broke that the world may have already crossed several tipping points of climate change, leading to a cascade of unstoppable events threatening our very existence. The world burns and here people were going about their business, indulging in excessive over-consumption as if nothing was wrong. Like a virus, causing a deadly fever in its host, still continuing to spread disease and destruction. Of course the virus is not an intelligent entity so it doesn’t realize that in causing the death of its host, it is also destroying its own chance of survival. There are other hosts for the virus to infect.

We on the other hand, aren’t so lucky. There is no other Earth that we can reach, where we can continue our existence. While some of the shrimp on the grill apparently had a higher IQ in life than some of the guests last night (judging from overheard conversations), I still think that the climate news should alarm them. It should alarm all of us.

We need to change

I’ve expressed my concern about our consumerism here before, but I was more worried about our loss of individuality and our freedom then. Increasingly though, I am becoming more concerned about climate news. Like it or not, we are part of the ecosystem and if we manage to upset its balance too far, it will tip over until a new equilibrium is reached. That new equilibrium might not be very ideal for us.

The great irony for Agent Smith is that he likens humanity to a virus but he ends up becoming a virus in the very system he was programmed to defend, triggering events that cause its ultimate destruction. Agent Smith could not have foreseen those events but we can. We have the science and the tools that allow us to predict what will happen if we don’t change. I am still hoping that knowing about this, will inspire us to change. The events of last night don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

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