Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Great Toilet Hoax!!

We have had a decade and a half of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) of the Government of India since 1999 to stop the practice of open defecation and increase the use of toilets which were used by only 29 percent of households in the 2001 census and this proportion improved marginally to 33 percent in the 2011 census. In rural areas the proportion is even lower being below 20 percent. Generally, those associated with implementing the TSC, the governments at the centre and the states, international agencies like the World Bank and the United Nations and various international and national NGOs have waxed eloquent about the huge funds spent and the villages covered, including the announcement of thousands of villages as Nirmal Gram or open defecation free and fully toilet provided. However, they have not paused to think that why despite such a huge campaign the proportion of open defecation continues to be so high. Therefore a critique of this programme is in order.
The main thrust of the TSC has been to build pit latrines. Typically the double pit latrine shown below is considered to be a cheap solution to providing toilets being economical both in money terms and in the use of water for flushing. When one pit becomes full it is covered and the other pit is used. The pits are made big enough so that it takes eight months to a year to fill so that by the time one fills up the faeces in the other filled pit decompose into manure and can be emptied into the fields to be used as such.
However, there are various problems with these latrines that have to be taken care of. The first one is that of the stench from the pit and so it is necessary to have a vent pipe that will release the gases generated during anaerobic decomposition of the faeces in the pit above the roof level. Secondly, the superstructure should be well built and spacious enough for people to be able to sit comfortably in the toilets. Thirdly, the latrine has to be at least 50 metres away from a drinking water source or an open water body. This is because the effluent that leaches into the ground from the pit has a high pollutant level with a Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) of 700 mg/litre required for oxidising it and this requires at least 50 metres of soil distance for the bacteria in the soil to oxidise the harmful pathogens. Also these latrines cannot be used in areas where the water table reaches close to the surface during the monsoons because then the effluents will directly leach into the ground water seriously polluting drinking water sources and open water bodies. Finally, there is the problem of the social taboo against cleaning faeces which has condemned a set of people in this country to do this task for generations on end. Taking out the manure from the filled pit is a heavy task and it is considered socially dirty and so it is unlikely that people will do it.
All these problems have come to the fore in the implementation of the TSC. The funds sanctioned for the construction of these latrines were low and became even lower due to the inevitable corruption and so the end user got a toilet with a small superstructure over an equally small single pit without any vent and so in most cases these toilets were never used as the people preferred to go out into the open. Even if some people did use these toilets for some time, once the pit began filling and the stench increased they were forced to desist. In some places, where the toilets have been built properly by some NGOs who have put in more funds in addition to those provided by the government, the problem of cleaning the pits cropped up after some time. Finally nowhere in the literature on TSC is there any discussion of the adverse effects that these pit latrines, when they function, have on the groundwater. If there are a number of such pit latrines in close proximity in a congested village then it can easily be imagined what this concentrated effluent discharge into the ground will do to the quality of the water being accessed from open wells and handpumps nearby. These wells and handpumps are rarely tested for the purity of their water. Thus, in an attempt to solve the problem of sanitation, the problem of the supply of potable drinking water is aggravated, especially during the monsoons when water borne diseases are rampant. There are no studies of the incidence of water borne diseases in localities where a large number of pit latrines are functioning. In fact this is a central problem of our country that household sewage whether from poor families or from the very rich is mostly released untreated into the environment causing a serious problem of water pollution throughout. That there are no studies whatsoever to determine the adverse effect on water quality and public health that these pit latrines are having is in itself an indication of the level of pre-meditated sophistry of those who have pushed these ill designed and even worse constructed pit latrines as viable toilet solutions here in India. The thrust is only on constructing thousands of toilets and not on ensuring that they are of good technical quality and social acceptability for them to be used regularly. Now these pit latrines are being built nineteen to the dozen in high water table areas in Bihar and Bengal and in some cases the effluents are being released directly into the numerous water bodies that are used by the residents for bathing and washing. This great toilet hoax is now going to be multiplied many times with the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Campaign).
The first thing that has to be realised is that it is not enough to build a toilet but it is necessary also to ensure that it is designed well and the effluents are properly treated. The technically sound decentralised system is the septic tank plus soakpit combination which is shown below. The wastewater from the toilets coming in at the inlet goes through two chambers which reduce the BOD from 700 mg/litre to about 250 mg/litre at the outlet of the septic tank. This water is then passed through brick crush and sand and leached into the ground by which time its BOD level is about 30 mg/litre which is the permissible level for release into the ground. Here too there is the caveat that there should not be an open well within 10 metres of the soakpit and that the water table should not rise to the level of the sand during the monsoons.

However, this costs three times more than the double pit part of the pit latrine even if it is built to cater to five toilets together. It also requires more space which is often at a premium in congested localities. There are various innovations that can be done to reduce the cost and space demand and increase the treatment efficiency of this system so that the effluent water can be recycled for flushing and irrigating the kitchen garden instead of being soaked into the ground. Even so this will require much more funds than the laughably low amounts that are currently sanctioned for toilets for the poor. Many toilets in this country in fact are serviced by septic tanks and in a majority of cases these tanks are poorly built because of the cost involved. Here too there is the problem of the tanks filling up after sometime and the accumulated sludge having to be removed. Though in one innovation in which air is pumped into the second chamber through a vacuum pump and bubble diffuser combination this last problem can be solved as the process of digestion becomes aerobic instead of anaerobic and so much less sludge is generated and most of it is pulverised by the mechanical stirring of the water by the aeration and goes out with it into the soakpit. This, however, requires some energy to be used for the aeration. If aeration is used then the effluent from the septic tank has a BOD of about 50 mg/litre and this can then be exposed to the sunlight in an open tank for further treatment and then reused for flushing and gardening.
Traditionally people have preferred to go out in the open to defecate because it is cheaper and requires less water and is free of social taboos with regard to cleaning the faeces and in an uncongested rural surrounding may be hygienic also if the defecation is done at a large enough distance from habitations. However, with the increase in population, open spaces have become limited and shrub land has also been brought under cultivation or habitation and so often open defecation takes place in a concentrated location leading to sanitation and health problems. The biggest productivity loss in the country is through sickness due to water borne diseases and this arises from untreated household wastewater and faeces being released into the environment. This problem is not there in rural areas only but throughout the country with the capital city of Delhi being the biggest polluter of open water bodies despite having close to 40 percent of the country's sewage treatment capacity.
So instead of tomtoming the success of the TSC and seeking to replicate its devastating real failure through a much larger Swacch Bhatat Abhiyan it would be better to assess what is needed in technological and social terms to make going to toilets acceptable to people and then investing the resources required for this instead of perpetrating possibly the greatest public investment hoax among the many that have been foisted on this country by its idiotic politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats since independence. People will first have to be shown the results of the tests on their water sources and studies of the incidence of water borne diseases and convinced that they are losing massively due to water borne diseases which can easily be stopped by adoption of proper sanitation and waste treatment practices. Since the multiplier effects of a healthy population are huge, the government has to spend money to make proper toilets for the poor who cannot afford to do it themselves and also to convince people of the need for sanitation instead of just beaming advertisements on television channels. Currently, as mentioned earlier, all toilets in this country, not just the atrociously built pit latrines, are contributing to water pollution because of a lack of application of mind to the problem which is being masked by a penchant for false publicity. And the international agencies are complicit in this black comedy.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

Social Democracy to the Fore

Close on the heels of the victory of the Syriza party in Greece comes the landslide victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi State Elections and there is every possibility of the Podemos in Spain too coming to power in the forthcoming elections there if current opinion polls are to be believed. Does this herald the revival of social democratic politics in mature liberal democracies and the beginning of the end for neo-liberalism which has so devastated the poor and the environment across the world over the past three decades or so? That is what needs to be analysed.
Marx's prediction of a proletarian revolution taking place in capitalist societies was proved wrong as these societies which were also mature liberal democracies never proved a fertile ground for revolutionary parties but rather gave rise to social democratic ones. However much Marxists may criticise the content of the democracy in liberal democratic States and shout themselves hoarse that these States are controlled by Capitalists through their funding of political parties, the right to vote parties to power through relatively free and fair elections has a greater appeal for the masses than the seizure of power through a violent revolution to create a proletarian State. Especially since the few proletarian States that were in existence for some time did not themselves actualise the Marxist vision of an exploitation and oppression free society in which the common people had a say in the running of those societies.
The right to vote gives the electorate a limited power to control how political parties will act and so puts some rein on the behaviour of the latter. Thus, even while Marx was writing his dire predictions of the eclipse of Capitalism, liberal democracies in the West were evolving into more equitable societies with the development of the rule of law and social welfare nets. Social democratic parties came into being from popular movements which redistributed more and more of the social surplus that was appropriated by the Capitalists by taxing them and subsidising social services with the revenue so garnered instead of just subsidising capital accumulation by ensuring the right to property and developing infrastructure to facilitate such accumulation.
This trend gained tremendously after the global recession of the 1930s when it became clear that laissez faire Capitalism invariably shrinks macro-economic demand by immiserising the masses to the point where they are not able to participate in the markets and also by promoting speculative rather than productive economic activity and this combination brings on economic recession. So social democratic parties came to the fore in all the western liberal democracies and social welfare spending increased considerably and strict laws were put in place to curb speculative activities. These processes were enhanced following the second World War as the Capitalist countries realised that unrestricted rapacity would lead to disaster especially as there was a counter pole of geo-political influence in the socialist countries led by Russia which provided an alternative for the oppressed classes in their own countries and also for the countries newly emerging from the shadow of colonialism. So for four decades from the end of the second World War to the mid 1980s was the golden era of social democracy when it flourished not only in the western world, where even communist parties jettisoned revolutionary politics to participate in parliamentary politics, but also in the developing world where there were stable liberal democracies as in India where too communist parties pursued parliamentary politics except for the Maoists who remained as the only peripheral revolutionary parties.
However, by the early 1980s technological development reached a stage where it became possible to outsource manufacturing to the peripheries of the world and enable real time flows of finances and information. The environmental movement also gained in strength in the developed countries at this time leading to strict environmental laws which acted as a further push factor for outsourcing industries towards the periphery. Earlier in 1971 the USA had terminated the arrangement whereby the US dollar which had been established as the global reserve currency after the second World War could be exchanged for a fixed amount of gold by those countries who held dollar reserves. This made the dollar float freely in the market and gave unlimited power to the USA to print money which would effectively be valid throughout the world regardless of the state of the US economy. Secondly, after the oil price hike of 1973 the huge funds that the oil producing middle eastern countries began to accumulate as surpluses were held in dollars in the US and  European banks thus further expanding the power of financial capital and its ability to transfer production out from the centre towards the periphery where both labour and environmental laws were lax.
Thus, the stage was set for the neo-liberal onslaught of cutting taxes and rolling back the social services as the power of trade unions to stall production was considerably reduced with the new technology which enabled outsourcing from the early 1980s. Matters became easier when the actually existing socialist economies, which were nothing but state capitalist in nature, collapsed or transformed into fully capitalist economies in the late 1980s and neo-liberalism became the dominant ideology globally. India too followed suit and began cutting down on its already meagre social expenditure and further weakening its poor labour and environmental security measures. Thus, worldwide the working and living conditions of the working classes deteriorated and inequality increased phenomenally. The USA during this period substantially increased its military expenditure and funded it through printing money and through the debt that was provided by foreign governments who purchased US bonds. This had a two fold effect of fuelling the US economy and also keeping the global might of the USA intact for supporting the profit making by its corporations.
As financial capital gained in clout it succeeded in getting Governments in the capitalist countries to repeal the laws that had been put in place in the 1930s to prevent banks which accepted deposits and advanced loans from participating in trading of securities so as to prevent the kind of massive speculation that can lead to market collapses and recession. Thus, the huge profits being earned through the greater exploitation of labour and natural resources began to be channelised into unbridled speculation leading to periodic financial crises culminating with the financial meltdown of 2008. Consequently as in the 1930s, so also by 2010 a situation had been created where rapacious and unbridled capitalism feeding on the neo-liberal paradigm had created unbearable situations for the common people the world over and protests movements have begun against this and in some places they have even begun coalescing into new political parties espousing a return to the social democratic paradigm of taxation of the rich to provide subsidies to the poor. However, given the much greater technological, financial, military and ideological power of Capitalism now as compared to what it was in the 1930s, it remains to be seen whether this new social democratic upsurge can build up into a more lasting phenomenon. Especially troubling is the control that the Capitalists have on the media and the academia and the extent to which consumerism has spread its tentacles among the masses. The Syriza in Greece for instance started off as a radical left cum anarchist formation in the new millennium but gradually it included the social democrats also and currently it is the latter who have become dominant within the party. So much so that just prior to the recent elections they jettisoned the demands for leaving the Eurozone and of dishonoring the public debt. With the threat from Germany that it would not bear the Greek debt burden if Syriza began rolling back austerity measures there has been further moderation of its radicalism. This goes to show how tight the neo-liberal control of the global economy is.
In the Indian context, the emergence of the AAP can be seen as part of this new global trend of incipient revival of social democracy on the back of a backlash from the immiserised masses against the depredations wrought by neo-liberalism over the past three decades or so. However, Arvind Kejriwal must be credited with being able to channelise this pent up anger into a credible political force that can win elections. India has been the home of many high impact mass movements since the 1980s but none of them were able to make an electoral impact beyond winning a seat or two. The principle problem was that these mass movements could never mobilise the kind of funds required to win elections on a large enough scale. Voters do not like to see their votes go waste and so are disinclined to vote for a party that is clearly not going to win power at the state or national level. This is where Kejriwal made a big difference with his innovative method of crowd sourcing funding and massive volunteer support from across the country and the world in sufficient amount to be able to carry out a mass campaign that could convince people that his party would come to power.
Within the space of a decade he single mindedly pursued the goal of bringing about a change in governance to make it clean and pro-poor. He toured the country assiduously to build up a popular movement for better governance and he did it like a common man as seen in the picture below where he is sleeping on a railway station platform along with his co worker in this mass mobilisation, Manish Sisodia. 

He succeeded as a result in channelising the rising frustrations among the poor and the middle classes to first launch a massive mass movement and then morph it into a political party and finally deliver a landslide victory in the recent elections in Delhi. This was achieved against the heavily funded neo-liberal campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party orchestrated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. The crucial element in this was the dour way in which the party held out over the past year against all attempts by the BJP to buy off its MLAs and form a government as it has done immediately after winning the elections in Jharkhand and is trying to do in Bihar. During this time the party campaigned hard among the masses convincing them that if voted to power for a full term with a clear majority it would bring about a definitive change in governance. The AAP victory is certainly a decisive blow to the neo-liberal consolidation that was taking place with election after election over the past year being won by the BJP.
There is a need to proceed with caution, however, and recognise that this victory of AAP is within the reformist contours of social democracy within a globally dominant neo-liberal capitalist framework which is unlikely to tolerate revolutionary programmes. Especially in the case of the Delhi Government there are severe constraints in terms of financial resources and lack of control of the crucial resources of land and water and the crucial service of the police. While the sight of a Chief Minister sleeping it out in the bitter cold in the high security region of Delhi for all of two nights in a sit in, where normally people can't even enter to protest and if they do are whisked away in a jiffy, as Kejriwal did as shown in the picture below may gladden the hearts of die hard anarchists, but it is not going to make much headway against a neo-liberal state machinery as umpteen grassroots activists can vouch. 

Instead it would be better for the AAP government to use the opportunity that has been gained to improve governance within the current limited framework and leave the mass struggle for full Statehood in Delhi to the mass organisations of the party. Similarly while huge populist promises have been made with regard to the free or cheap provision of various services, it would be more practical to first evaluate the meagre resources that can be mobilised before launching into fulfilling some of those promises as otherwise the AAP will quickly find itself caught between the Devil of the BJP ruling at the centre and in the municipal corporations on the one hand and the deep blue sea of the ire of the disappointed masses who have voted it into power on the other!!!
The need is to sustain this stint in power and use it to further expand the base of the party into other states so as to mount a stronger challenge to neo-liberalism.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Celebrations at the Margin

The tempo is building up to a crescendo for the celebration of Valentine's Day on February 14th. Matters have hotted up with the Sangh Parivar units declaring that they will marry off couples seen together on that day. This has prompted people who would not normally have done anything on the day to announce that they will go out of their way to romance in public to challenge the moral policing of the Sanghis. Either way it is a win win situation for the corporations which have been pushing this celebration of love and coaxing people to consume more in various ways. However, there is no coverage in the media of yet another celebration that is held on this day - One Billion Rising. This is the annual celebration of an ongoing movement that began two years ago to end gender based violence and gets its name from the statistic that every year one billion women are victims of some form of gender based violence or other and this must stop. Despite having a global character this movement has not got much media attention as it is marginalised by the inane programming around Valentine's Day. The contrived romanticism of Valentine's Day in fact masks the harsh reality of gender based violence which severely restricts the freedom of women across the world whether in the rich nations or the poor.
Belatedly, I would like to write about another celebration at the margin which has been going on now for more than two decades, once again without any media publicity. This is the annual celebration of the robust cultural uniqueness of the tribals of Western India on January 14th. Over two lakhs of tribals from the States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra congregate at one place which is selected by turns in each of the four states and enjoy their cultural heritage and also discuss how to keep it alive in the modern world in which there is a continuous onslaught from such consumerist media sponsored events like the Valentine's Day. This congregation takes place under the aegis of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad and is totally funded by the Adivasi members of this organisation spread across the four States of western India.
This year there were many yatras or marches that from various corners of western India that converged on Nanduri village in Nashik district of Maharashtra for the celebration aggregating people on the way. One such began in Ratlam district of Madhya Pradesh and passed through Alirajpur on its way to Nanduri. A public meeting was held on the occasion in Alirajpur followed by a group discussion whose participants are shown below.
    The members of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath also joined the Yatra and proceeded to Nanduri with it holding many meetings on the way. One of the major cultural planks of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad in the context of the Sangh Parivar's orchestrated campaign for "Ghar Wapsi" or reconversion of people of other religions to Hinduism is that the original cultural home of all humanity and especially those in India was the animism of the tribals and therefore logically returning home would actually mean adoption of the traditional animism of the tribals. The Ekta Parishad has an active ongoing campaign to establish the nature friendly animist culture and religion of the tribals as the dominant cultural paradigm. Not surprisingly the mainstream media does not see it fit to give publicity to this long standing cultural movement of the tribals of western India. However, the KMCS having a good presence in Alirajpur, succeeded in getting the event publicised in the local editions of mainstream newspapers, which headlined the main slogan, that the Bhils have a right to preserve and promote their traditional culture as guaranteed in the Constitution of India -
The power and reach of the capitalist media is very great and so it succeeds in getting a considerable number of people to celebrate trivial events like Valentine's Day but that does not mean that the celebrations at the margin are going to die out. This year in fact for the first time the culture of the Bhil tribals of Jhabua district received national recognition when the tableaux prepared by the Madhya Pradesh Government for the Republic Day celebrations on January 26th was had Bhil culture as its theme. The Adivasi Ekta Parishad has created enough critical mass following around the idea of preserving and promoting Adivasi culture to have made the Governments in all four States of western India to sit up and take notice.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Holding the Anarchist Flag Up!!

This year marks the completion of three decades of my anarchist political activism among and along with the Bhils of Alirajpur. Whatever may have happened in these three decades is not so important as to see what is the current situation in Alirajpur.
The modern Indian political party centric and first past the post election based liberal democratic political system has spread to every nook and cranny of this once remote district and so in each and every village there are active members of both the major political parties in Madhya Pradesh - Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress. So much so that the local government system of Panchayati Raj is nothing more than an adjunct to the higher levels of state and central governments despite provisions in the Constitution to make it an institution of true local self governance. The governments in India at all levels are currently excessively influenced by those who provide the money to run the political parties and to fight the elections and therefore there is very little scope for pursuing pro-people politics and this constraint exists in Alirajpur too.
The modern industrialised market economy too has penetrated to the remotest corners of the district. This penetration has been facilitated by the spread of mobile telephony and direct to home television. A further thrust has come from the increasing reliance of the Bhil household on migratory labour given the fragmentation of land holdings and the reducing productivity of their farms. Thus, the Bhils are now labouring cogs and eager consumers in the centralised market economy. The Indian economy in turn is an insignificant part of the global capitalist economy which is controlled by the financial might of a few corporations. Therefore, similar to the situation in the political sphere, in the economic too there is little scope for pursuing equitable and sustainable development policies.
Culturally, majoritarian Hinduism has made deep inroads into Alirajpur. Even though many of the Bhils still practice their traditional animist religion and its rituals, increasingly the youth are also celebrating the Hindu festivals and taking part in Hindu religious rituals. The distinctive names of the Bhils are vanishing as the new generation is being named with Hindu names. In matters of dress too the traditional apparels are on their way out and the Bhils have taken to wearing global fashions spurred on by what they see on television. Thus, parallel to the erosion of the local in politics and economics, the cultural distinctiveness of the Bhils too is vanishing.
The great thing, however, is that amidst this huge power play by forces that are much stronger than it is, the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has succeeded in maintaining its distinctive presence in opposition to them in all the three spheres of politics, economics and culture. It has done so mainly by utilising the provisions for anarchist practice in tribal areas laid down in various statutes beginning with the Constitution. The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, The Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forestdwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, The Food Security Act, The Right to Education Act, The Control of Usury Act, The new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act and the National Rural Health Mission all make the Gram Sabha very powerful on paper and an organisation that is determined to implement local self governance can put immense pressure on the government and administration to indeed decentralise governance and make the people powerful. The KMCS is doing just that and as a consequence solving many problems that the people normally face in a centralised and corrupt system. The Gram Sabhas in the KMCS villages are very active and have regular meetings to decide various action plans. Of course the militant history of the KMCS over the past three decades during which it has fought tenaciously for the rights and entitlements of the Bhils makes the forces inimical to people's power a little wary of cracking down on the organisation.So even people in Alirajpur who are not members of KMCS know it to be an organisation that stands up for the poor and come to it for help in times of trouble.

To do so, however, the KMCS through its sister organisation Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has to rely on external funding for meeting the expenses of its full time activists and various administrative, legal and travel costs. These amount to about Rs 25 lakhs annually and have to be accessed from institutional, corporate and individual donors. Primarily because the culture of consumerism has taken such deep roots that voluntarism has shrivelled and the ethic of monetary contribution to fund activism has also all but vanished while the costs of activism have increased tremendously. So, the work of the KMCS is not truly anarchist as it is not wholly funded by the Bhil community even though they do contribute substantial amounts in time and food.  If this external funding stops then there will be a considerable weakening of the organisation. External funding comes with its own conditions and so in many senses compromises have to be made to access it. This is the reality of the current compromised political activism that the KMCS and I practice in Alirajpur. Nevertheless, given the dismal state of things nationally and internationally as far as anarchist political practice is concerned it is heartening that at least we are able to maintain a minimal presence and hold the anarchist flag up amidst the capitalist, consumerist and majoritarian thrusts that have swamped humanity.