October 29, 2001
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According to President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the president made the decision to bomb Afghanistan on September 17, 2001, less than one full week after the catastrophe that took place on 9/11. Twenty days later, on October 7, US and British forces launched their initial strikes against carefully chosen targets in the impoverished Central Asian country. What is so remarkable is not that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could say, "We are ready," thus inherently confirming what has since transpired -- that is, plans to intervene militarily in Central Asia had long been drawn, hence the rapidity with which the logistics fell into place and the military operations started. No, what's so remarkable is that the very same day, September 17, a short dépêche from NASA Science News, totally ignored by the media, reported that "Our planet's Antarctic ozone hole is opening once again as Spring approaches in the southern hemisphere -- and scientists say it's a big one." The full story can be read at http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast17sep_1.htm?list145768. Paul Newman, an atmospheric physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center says that the ozone hole "will certainly exceed 25 million square kilometers in size." To grasp the extent of this hole, picture the entire North American continent, whose size is about 21.5 million square kilometers.
You may wonder what the relationship is between the ozone layer and the suicidal attacks of 9/11. Please, bear with me.
Do you remember the words, published in The Chicago Tribune on September 25, of Mrs. Amber Amundson, the wife of the late Craig Scott Amundson, an enlisted specialist in the Army who perished in the attack against the Pentagon? They are worth repeating. She wrote:
"I call on our national leaders to find the courage to respond to this incomprehensible tragedy by breaking the cycle of violence. I call on them to marshal this great nation's skills and resources to lead a worldwide dialogue on freedom from terror and hate."
She added, "I do not know how to begin making a better world: I do believe it must be done, and I believe it is our leaders' responsibility to find a way. I urge them to take up this challenge and respond to our nation's and my personal tragedy with a new beginning that gives us hope for a peaceful global community."
For the past month I have been thinking long and hard about Mrs. Amundson's words, her decency, her dignity, her wisdom and her message of hope. Hope is a profoundly positive attitude when directed toward creative endeavors, that for instance of taking up this trying challenge to move forward, toward a "peaceful global community."
The more I thought of her words the more I thought of the ozone hole. Time and again they made me focus on the ozone layer and its year-in and year-out ever-widening hole. The president decided to bomb Afghanistan on September the 17th with obvious global consequences (some intended and expected; others certainly unintended and unforeseen). The entire world is being affected by that fateful decision. The ozone hole has global consequences too, albeit we can't really fathom them and they do not have a sense of immediacy. However, the fact remains that on the very same day two very different realities took place and both have global effects in the short and long terms. This is undeniable.
There are other realities or actualities that are undeniable and that have global consequences. Let's list a few of them.
Mounting empirical, statistical and scientific evidence shows that worldwide oil production will peak within a decade and will start decreasing soon thereafter. Even the petroleum industry acknowledges these studies. Some scientists, using various methodologies, have predicted that conventional oil production will peak as soon as 2005. The date in itself is immaterial. Whether in 2005 or 2012 as the International Energy Agency estimated in 1998, or even in 2030 for that matter, what is relevant here is that the trends are formal and recognized. (For more on this subject, please refer to Jay Hanson's Energy Synopsis.)
The industrialized economies -- and to a lesser extent the entire world -- are based on energy derived from fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal, etc.). There is a direct correlation between the use of fossil fuels and environmental pollution (and its impact on the ozone layer).
We have not found a replacement to fossil fuels. Again, our economies are totally dependent upon energy.
Right there, at this point, one should be able to imagine the consequences for the future and understand what is driving -- and has driven for decades -- our international policies. But let's carry on with a few facts.
1.2 billion people live with less than $1.00 a day. That's 1,200,000,000 people.
About half of the world population lives with less than $2.00 a day. That's over 3,000,000,000 folks (including the 1.2 billion above).
The United States, with 4 percent of the world population, consumes between 25 and 45 percent of all natural resources. The industrialized nations as a whole (including the USA) -- that is, 22 percent of the world population -- consume 80 percent of all natural resources. For oil itself, in 1998 the US consumed 18.92 million barrels/day, or over 25 percent calculated on a Btu basis, compared to 73.6 million barrels/day for the entire world.
About 16% of the world's population accounted for 80 percent of the money spent on private consumption in 1997.
1.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.9 billion have inadequate access to sanitation.
New estimates of water scarcity calculated by the World Resources Institute in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire show that some 41 percent of the world's population, or 2.3 billion people, live in river basins under "water stress" (subject to frequent water shortages).
I'll stop here. Note that when we talk about millions or billions our minds tend to switch off. We simply cannot fathom. You can find statistical data on many sites, from EarthTrends, the World Resources Institute, the Worldwatch Institute, the United Nations, to US Governments sites such as USGS-Energy Information or USGS-Mineral Resources, or again universities, for instance Raw Material Demand Trends, Developed vs. Developing Nations at The College of Natural Resources, The University of Minnesota.
The sources are endless, the complexities gargantuan.
Again, I am thinking of Mrs. Amundson's words. This is not a time for rhetoric.
Actually, I for one am sick and tired of rhetoric that keeps pointing fingers at one side or another, the us vs. them mentality, the good guys against the bad guys, the evil-doers and the peace loving people, the freedom and democracy camp and all the others with the appellation du jour. I've heard it all in the past four decades. It's marxism, stupid! It's capitalism, stupid! It's socialism, stupid! It's the Muslims, the Slavs, the Jews -- for all I have heard in my life, the Jews have always been accused of everything under the sky, from communism to capitalism, you name it. With the exception of Hitler and the Holocaust, there is always a Jewish conspiracy somewhere, sometime, somehow. So, it must be a Jewish conspiracy, stupid! Or is it that we are after Russia, China, India, Africa and they in turn are about getting us?
Please, stop it. Please...
It's the ozone layer, smarty! Is it that hard to understand? No Islam there; no Jewish conspiracy there; no Marxist, Communist, Capitalist, and all the "ists" in the world, there. No us vs. them, there. No you against me, there. Just a big, huge hole with no prophet and no leader, no blue, white and red.
Just a great big hole!
This is what we are confronting -- we being the entire life system on this planet; plus an ever growing and quickening depletion of raw materials and natural resources. Fossil fuels are the basic energy supporting our economic paradigm. Fossil fuels are being depleted at an increasing rate. Look around your house and your garage, folks, and check out what you own or possess that is not made in part with fossil fuels, from the monitor you are using to read these lines (or the paper, if you printed this article) to the wooden or plastic desk upon which your monitor stands, from your TV to your automobile, to the walls of your house, the shingles on your roof, etc., etc., etc. Here again, the list is endless. Raw materials use in the United States has multiplied 17 times between 1900 and 1989. During that same period the U.S. population has multiplied three times... (http://clinton2.nara.gov/PCSD/Publications/TF_Reports/pop-chap-2.html)
It's not only about natural resources. We are also confronting an ever growing, quickening and sickening pauperization, "immiserization" of humanity. Scarce resources lead to competition, to the eat-or-be-eaten mentality that has become so prevalent in the cultures of the industrialized world. We are preying, rapacious scavengers on a grand scale.
If 22 percent of the world's population consumes 80 percent of the world's natural resources, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the remaining 78 percent are left with 20 percent of the natural resources.
Neither do we need a rocket scientist to figure out why poverty is so rampant. Again, half of the population of the world lives with $2.00 or less a day. Again, again, please check your stats.
We have entered a global age, at least from a communications perspective. If we can know how the 80 percent of the world live, the 80 percent can know how the privileged 20 percent live too. Internet, folks; CNN, Al Jareeza, short wave radios, and the like.
I said the "privileged" 22 percent because we are privileged. Period. By the luck of the draw. Yes, we work hard at it and we may wish to think that "they" do not. But "they" do as much as we do; and even if I were incorrect, even if "they" did not work as hard as we do, even if "they" finally understood the light and finally worked as hard as we do, according to our definition of working hard, "they" still, being 78 percent, would have to work hard with 20 percent of what "we" leave "them" to play with.
Do you get it?
I repeat, do you get it?
A good friend asked me, "Do the capitalistic nations have to become as poor as the third world? Do we have to go backward and give up science, medicine, commerce, industry, defense, education and religion?" I do not know the answer, though I suspect that it is not an either-or kind of proposition. But I do know -- and so do you if you stay away from the rhetoric and think about the predicament -- that we must address these issues with creativity and urgency. Again, as Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
This brings me back to Mrs. Amundson's exhortations, pleading that our leaders find the courage to respond to the 9-11 tragedy with creativity. The dilemma here is that she is actually "using the same kind of thinking" that created the problem in the first place.
Our leaders have been at the helm for decades and the predicament has deepened. Not that they are "bad" or "good" people. They simply are people who keep repeating policies that have not worked. Will bombing Afghanistan and smoking out dead or alive a few extreme nihilists solve our real predicament?
This is not an age for leaders and prophets. It's an era when we, the people, must lead and our leaders follow. We need to tell our leaders what we want them to do, not the opposite. They are our representatives, not the other way around. The solution is with us, not with them.
We, individually, must make choices, take decisions and tell our representatives to help implement them. We ARE the leaders. From the most gifted in the sciences and industries to the firefighters, the bakers, the plumbers et al., we can put our minds to work and devise solutions. Let us all lead, like for instance Helen Mader, and "they," whoever our leaders are, will follow.
If I could somehow reach Mrs. Amundson, I would tell her that then, finally, her husband would not have died in vain.
[In Swans' next rendition, I will present a few thoughts about what could be done.]
Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted. All rights reserved.
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