That is not to say that the attack on the World Trade Center was not traumatic, or to ignore three thousand awful deaths of traders from around the world. But the truth is that we have expended vast amounts of energy, lives and money in pursuit of al Qaeda and/or access to petroleum reserves, with very little result. We could have purchased a lifetime of oil supplies for the money spent on trying to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan. The oppressive regimes of the Middle East still control the oil, and some still fund the Madrassas whose extreme version of the Koran indoctrinates malleable children to become suicide bombers.
It is important that we face the fact that we can no longer afford this extended attempt to dominate the world. We have exhausted our troops, our equipment, our treasure and our international political capital. We must get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, and do what we can to repair the dreadful damage our wars have done in the region.
The great threat to the United States and to civilization is climate change. For about two and a half centuries we have enjoyed an ever-expanding source of energy from fossil fuels. This has made possible a growth of the human population and its material security never known on Earth before. With an almost endless supply of heat and energy we have been able to transform the landscape, develop and accelerate all forms of transportation and communication, entertain and feed ourselves to the point of obesity. Luxuries unknown to all but wealthiest courts of empires past are now the common expectations of people in the developed world.
Melting polar ice caps are causing the oceans to rise. Port cities, low islands and luxuriant delta agricultural areas are experiencing the rising waters. We are told that even if we completely stopped discharging carbon into the atmosphere immediately, these effects would continue through this century. Meanwhile, most of the world is continuing business as usual. In northern Canada developers are clearing an area of the Boreal forest the size of Florida to access the oil sands. The oil is of poor quality and two barrels of toxic waste is produced for every barrel of not very good oil.
In other words, we are destroying the carbon sink of the forest in order to access more carbon fuel. The same thing is happening in Indonesia, where the tropical forests are being cut and burned in order to plant palm oil plants to produce biofuels and food additives. And in the Amazon, the forests are being destroyed to grow soybeans, which are largely used to feed cattle.
Considering the essential nature of carbon fuels in our society and the brief time of popular awareness of climate change, it is understandable that we are slow to develop effective responses. We humans tend to wait until the last moment to deal with unusual problems -- especially when they are caused by our everyday, mundane activities. Yet, now we know about global warming. And scientists tell us that the cost of not dealing with it now will be many times greater than the cost of coping with the- challenge as quickly as possible.
Think about it. As oceans rise thousands of people will be displaced, their low-lying fields under ocean water. Where will they go? Will their higher neighbors accept the hungry refugees? Or consider the people displaced by drought and expanding deserts, already seen in Sub-Sahara Africa? Drought, devastating storms and floods are already driving up the price of food grains worldwide. A UN report in April 2009 found world food prices high and food emergencies in 32 countries.
Scientists tell us that we are approaching the limits of what can be done to increase food production. As oil becomes more expensive, oil-based fertilizers, irrigation pumps and farm tractors will cost more to manufacture and to operate. People in poor and undeveloped countries will suffer the most. Will the U.S.--a major exporter of food grains--be able to help? Maybe not. A new variety of wheat stem rust from Uganda, called Ug99, is spreading across Africa and will inevitably affect most of the world's wheat production in the next few years. Crop scientists estimate that it will take more than a- decade to develop varieties of wheat that can resist the devastation of- Ug99. USAID, responsible for most of our nation's foreign agricultural, health, economic and humanitarian assistance programs, has increased its budget for 2010 to two tenths of one percent of the military budget!
The biosphere itself, all of the living organisms and their environment, is in serious decline. Scientists reveal that we are in the process of losing half of the Earth's species at the rate of some 30,000 a year. The main U.S. agency concerned is the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA requested budget for 2010 is 10.5 billion, most of which goes for science and enforcement for clean air and water. The amount for Healthy Communities and Ecosystems is 1,738 million, or .0026 of the military budget. While this is a significant amount, which is often matched by state funds, it can only protect a handful of the thousands of species actually threatened.
The food supply and species losses mentioned here are some indicators of the condition of the biosphere. Many areas of the ocean, for example, are now without life, where once they were roiled by vast schools of fish and other sea creatures. We have been slow to notice the devastation we have made, and slower still to end the destructive practices that have wiped out the abundance of the Creation.
We do not know what additional losses will be caused by global warming, food shortages or the loss of species as they interact with chemicals, radiation and other forces in the years to come. It is because we do not know that we should be doing everything possible to reverse these downward trends as quickly as possible.
What To Do
The greatest threat is the one least talked about: there are too many people for the resources and recuperative powers of the biosphere. While we are discussing drastically cutting our carbon output by the year 2050, the population is estimated to increase from the current 6.7 billion people to 8.9 billion by the same year. With the acreage under cultivation declining and attacked by drought, storms and flooding, how are we going to feed 2.2 billion additional human beings? The possible human tragedy of starvation and masses of half-starved refugees roaming in search of something to eat will disrupt efforts to preserve order and the normal production of food and other commodities. Chaos could result.
We can either ignore this threatening scenario and continue with business as usual, or we can have an intense, worldwide program of information and persuasion that will work to reduce the size of families to one or two children over the next forty years. The more we reduce the world population, the more reliable our food sources will be, and the better we can care for pregnant women and their children. Fewer people need less energy, produce less CO2 and speed the return of the Earth to more moderate, livable climates.
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