"Dante's Inferno created a world of pain and suffering beyond all previous human imagination, and his writing quite literally defined our modern visions of hell." Langdon paused. "And believe me, the Catholic Church has much to thank Dante for. His Inferno terrified the faithful for centuries, and no doubt tripled church attendance among the fearful."
"Consider this. It took the earth's population thousands of years-from the early dawn of man all the way to the early 1800s-to reach one billion people. Then, astoundingly, it took only about a hundred years to double the population to two billion in the 1920s. After that, it took a mere fifty years for the population to double again to four billion in the 1970s. As you can imagine, we're well on track to reach eight billion very soon. Just today, the human race added another quarter-million people to planet Earth. A quarter million. And this happens every day-rain or shine. Currently, every year, we're adding the equivalent of the entire country of Germany."
... and it always brought an eerie sense of inevitability.
"Any environmental biologist or statistician will tell you that humankind's best chance of long-term survival occurs with a global population of around four billion."
"Four billion?" Elizabeth fired back. "We're at seven billion now, so it's a little late for that."
The tall man's green eyes flashed fire. "Is it?"
"Cerca trova doesn't ring any bells for you?"
Langdon smiled inwardly. Finally, something Sienna doesn't know.
A cool March breeze blew steadily up the river, ruffling Vayentha's short spiked hair, reminding her that Langdon knew what she looked like. She paused at the stall of one of the bridge's many vendors and bought an AMO FIRENZE baseball cap, pulling it low over her face.
He entered the combination on the padlock and unlocked the grate, pulling it to one side. After stepping through, he followed protocol and relocked the grate behind him.
"... Madness is an ostrich who sticks her head in the sand while a pack of hyenas closes in around her."
"Here is the pack of hyenas currently circling humankind... and they are closing in fast."
The list included, among others:
Demand for clean water, global surface temperatures, ozone depletion, consumption of ocean resources, species extinction, CO2 concentration, deforestation, and global sea levels.
All of these negative indicators had been on the rise over the last century. Now, however, they were all accelerating at tertifying rates.
At many times in her life, Elizabeth Sinskey had been haunted by her inability to conceive a child. Yet, when she saw this graph, she almost felt relieved she had not brought a child into the world.
This is the future I would be giving my child?
"You know damned well this graph depicts the simplest of relationships - a function based on a single variable! every single line on this graph climbs in direct proportion to one value - the value that everyone is afraid to discuss. Global population!"
Even though Langdon and Sienna were only halfway across the Arno River, he had no doubt they had long since passed the point of no return.
Mankind, if unchecked, functions like a plague, a cancer... our numbers intensifying wiht each successive generation until the earthly comforts that once nourished our virtue and brotherhood have dwindled to nothing... unveiling the monsters within us... fighting to death to feed our young.
No trip to the piazza was complete without sipping an espresso at Caffe Rivoire, followed by a visit to the Medici lions in the Loggia dei Lanzi - the piazza's open-air sculpture gallery.
"You're quite an actress," he wispered.
"I've had to be," she said relexively, her voice strangely distant.
Once again, Langdon sesed there was more heartache in this young woman's past than he knew, and he felt a deepening sense of remorse for having entangled her in his dangerous predicament. He reminded himself that there was nothing to be done now, except to see it through.
Keep swimming through the tunnel... and pray for light.
The custodian glanced up, looking startled. "Signori?!" He held out this arms for Langdon and Sienna to stop.
Langdon gave the man a pained smile - more of a wince - and motioned apologetically toward the symbols near the door. "Toilette," he declared, his voice pinched. It was not a question.
The custodian hesitated a moment, looking ready to deny their request, and then finally, watching Langdon shift uncomfortably before him, he gave a sympathetic nod and waved them through.
When they reached the door, Langdon gave Sienna a quick wink. "Compassion is a universal language."
Bewildered, Sienna watched Langdon hurry across the room to a small glass door, which he tried to open. It was locked. He put his face to the glass, cupping his hands around his eyes and peering inside.
The darkest place in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Dante Alighieri -
Langdon stared at ther in shock. The hair on his neck bristled as, once again, the image of the plague mask flashed through his mind.
For Bertrand Zobrist to desrcibe the Black Death as the best thing ever to happen to Europe was certainly appalling, and yet Langdon knew that many historians had chronicled the long-term socioeconomic benefits of the mass extinction that had occured in Europe in the 1300s. Prior to the plague, overpopulation, famine, and economic hardship had defined the Dark Ages. The sudden arrival of the Black Death, while horrific, had effectively "thinned the human herd," creating an abundance of food and opportunity, which, according to many historians, had been a primary catalyst for bringing about the Renaissance.
Down in the Piazza della Signoria, the crowds had parted to make way for a long line of police cars that were arriving without sirens, led by two black vans, whichh now skidded to a stop outside the palace doors.
... but now she realized the chances of this were close to zero.
The air inside the void smelled musty and ancient, as if centuries of plaster dust had now become so fine and light that it refused to settle and instead hung suspended in the atmosphere.
...he raised his flashlight, letting the beam pierce the darkness.
... he was surprised by how much the truss architecture resembled that of an old New England barn - traditional king post -and-strut assembly with "Jupiter's arrow point" connections.
She turned groggily to the soldier accompanying her. He was gripping her forearm and holding up a syringe. “Just be still.”
The sharp stab of a needle pierced her flesh. The soldier completed the injection. “Now go back to sleep.”
“Robert, speaking from a purely scientific standpoint—all logic, no heart—I can tell you without a doubt that without some kind of drastic change, the end of our species is coming. And it’s coming fast. It won’t be fire, brimstone, apocalypse, or nuclear war … it will be total collapse due to the number of people on the planet. The mathematics is indisputable.”
“I’ve studied a fair amount of biology,” she said, “and it’s quite normal for a species to go extinct simply as a result of overpopulating its environment. Picture a colony of surface algae living in a tiny pond in the forest, enjoying the pond’s perfect balance of nutrients. Unchecked, they reproduce so wildly that they quickly cover the pond’s entire surface, blotting out the sun and thereby preventing the growth of the nutrients in the pond. Having sapped everything possible from their environment, the algae quickly die and disappear without a trace.” She gave a heavy sigh. “A similar fate could easily await mankind. Far sooner and faster than any of us imagine.”
Langdon felt deeply unsettled. “But … that seems impossible.”
“I’ve read that in the U.S. some sixty percent of health care costs go to support patients during the last six months of their lives.”
“True, and while our brains say, ‘This is insane,’ our hearts say, ‘Keep Grandma alive as long as we can.’ ”
Langdon nodded. “It’s the conflict between Apollo and Dionysus—a famous dilemma in mythology. It’s the age-old battle between mind and heart, which seldom want the same thing.”
The mythological reference, Langdon had heard, was now being used in AA meetings to describe the alcoholic who stares at a glass of alcohol, his brain knowing it will harm him, but his heart craving the comfort it will provide. The message apparently was: Don’t feel alone— even the gods were conflicted.
Known as the Church of Dante, the sanctuary of Chiesa di Santa Margherita dei Cerchi is more of a chapel than a church. The tiny, one- room house of worship is a popular destination for devotees of Dante who revere it as the sacred ground on which transpired two pivotal moments in the great poet’s life.
According to lore, it was here at this church, at the age of nine, that Dante first laid eyes on Beatrice Portinari—the woman with whom he fell in love at first sight, and for whom his heart ached his entire life.