THE WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS TODAY
A Contemporary Essay
By Rick Doble
Dr. Michio Kaku has written that we live in an especially dangerous time. By time he does not mean the last couple of years or even the next fifty, but rather the hundreds of years it may take for us to progress from a planet of special interests to a planetary culture.
Right now we are in the infancy of technological development with crude energy sources and chemical processes that have the potential to destroy the environment either as by products of our civilization or with their deliberate destructive use in another world war.
Energy systems could be created that would cause virtually no pollution. Furthermore world wide economic development can proceed without harming the environment. Decentralized systems such as solar panels can bring electricity and non-polluting development to many corners of the world.
Yet the destructive technology that we continue to use will have consequences for many years to come. In fact, we will feel the effects long after we have stopped using this technology and switched to a more environmentally friendly one.
Global warming will affect just about everyone, even though it is primarily a small number of nations that are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. The same holds true for radiation pollution, as we saw in the Chernobyl disaster. Radiation crossed national borders and ended up all across the world.
Even over-population will affect us all, because a severe strain on the ecosystem in one part of the globe will create stress on other parts.
This crisis is very real. If the global temperature increases and the sea level rises, there will be massive changes in the weather which will cause migrations across the world as well as wide spread flooding. In this kind of environment, new and rapidly spreading diseases could wipe out large numbers of people and the food supply could be threatened. These kinds of disruptions could also lead to wars.
The problem is that any solution is a long term solution. As Hans Blicks, the United Nations weapons inspector before the second American-Iraq war, has pointed out, these environmental questions are much more dangerous than weapons of mass destruction. Yet since politicians do not often think beyond their four or eight year terms, they feel no urgency to risk their political future to forge a fifty or hundred year policy that may be required.