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     We are in a new kind of crisis.   This is not a crisis of
national security, but rather of planetary security.  We are all
in one little lifeboat, and a hole, or rather several holes, in
both ends and the middle of the boat, need fixing, or else the
entire boat will go under.
     The continuity of history, of evolution and of life itself
is threatened.  We may be taking part in the murder of the
future, and of the Biosphere itself.  All this cannot be
overstated, and it is all right to become emotional about it.
     Ecology teaches us what some suspected all along, that we
are all together in this, that our planet is one single totally
interconnected system, that no one really gets away with
anything, that Nature is both just and absolutely relentless. 
Nature cannot be lied to or lied about.  What goes up must come
down, what goes around comes around, we reap what we sow.  None
of this is exactly new, it's just that it wasn't science before. 
Now it is.
     What we need now, to go along with this scientific evidence,
is a new common sense and we'd better get emotional about it.  We
do not need more experts; we do not need more studies; we need a
new will and determination.
     Not long ago everyone became rather seriously lathered up
about the fact that the world's computers might not be able to
handle the roll-over from 1999 to 2000.  It turns out they did
handle it quite well, albeit at considerable expense, all of
which may or may not have been absolutely necessary.
     While that suspense was building several groups of concerned
persons, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, tried to
sound the alarm about this other problem, which is much more
serious, and which will not go away simply by adjusting the
calendars on the world's computers.  They tried to dramatize it,
and appeal to media persons, who love gimmicky and cutesy
phrases.  They called it "Y6B."  "Year Six Billion."  In 1999,
sometime in October they figured, the total human population on
Planet Earth passed six billion.  Many of us still living can
remember when it was half that.
     The gimmick hasn't caught on yet.  Popes and machos
generally laugh off any talk of danger to humanity, but the
doubling every few years of the total number of humans trying to
live good lives on this planet constitutes a very serious threat
to the Biosphere itself, and to any prospects for the happiness
and well-being of humanity.  Ecology insists that we are all in
this mess together.  It is clear that we'll have to work together
to deal with this crisis in a human and rational manner, or
Nature will deal with it some other way.  
     Nature in the past has used famine, pestilence and war on a
small and limited scale, so far, but the numbers don't lie and
future die-offs will occur and will be serious.  Africa seems to
be the area where the phrase "die-off" is not much of an
exaggeration.  Genocide on a scale we can hardly imagine took
place there recently -- it was really a "kill-off."  AIDS infects
half of the population in several areas.  So far, the rest of the
world seems ready to regard Africa as expendable, too far away,
too dark in color maybe, to matter enough to merit any massive
and serious effort.  The government of the wealthiest country in
the world stands back and watches while noble volunteers break
their hearts trying to stem the tide.  
     Nature will solve this problem of over-population,
relentlessly and unpleasantly, if left alone.  But this time, if
intelligent "human nature" is too slow to adapt to these facts,
then human nature itself will be sacrificed along with almost
everything else, if not literally every other living thing.
     The division of humanity into hostile groups constitutes the
second largest threat to the Biosphere.  Military activity is the
single greatest force destroying "the environment."  Nuclear
weapons and their production, deployment and disposal constitute
a long-range ecological problem -- the material is lethal to life
forms for 250,000 years.  The notion that it is "worth it" for
one portion of humanity to do this to the planet itself, with the
pretense that one portion of humanity needs to defend itself
against some other portion, is the height of folly.  So far the
failure to begin to think in planetary terms makes for a dim
prospect for a happy outcome from the factors now in place.  The
lifeboat desperately requires immediate attention, or the whole
thing will sink.
                            *   *   *
Copyright © 2001 Harry Willson

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