World on Edge of Crisis

I was just at Michael Crichton's official website. Lets some of my standard stuff on the environment:

Subject for Crichton's next novel? How about Hoyle's prediction?

"It has often been said that, if the human species fails to make a go of it here on Earth, some other species will take over the running. In the sense of developing high intelligence this is not correct. We have, or soon will have, exhausted the necessary physical prerequisites so far as this planet is concerned. With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology. This is a one-shot affair. If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned. The same will be true of other planetary systems. On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only.

- Hoyle, 1964; emphasis added

Hoyle neglects to add that after about 25 million years the world will have produced more oil. But what will civilization have become in the meantime? *smile*

I agree with Crichton that global warming is probably exaggerated as a concern, but since it is a possible danger that may affect the globe, it's important that scientists at least keep an eye on things and what we can do in case such a danger exists. What concerns me more, however, is the way that the failure of "global warmers" to impress everyone else with their fears is being used as an excuse to turn a blind ear to many other environmental concerns unrelated to global warming.

Far more alarming are the facts of big fish being fished out, dead zones in the oceans and seas from fertilizer run offs, apes going extinct, amphibians going extinct, bird species diminishing, coral reefs dying, rain forests being cut down, levels of mercury in nature and other pollutants seeping into the ground water (even toxins in discarded electronic devices seeping into the ground water, and leaky Super Fund sites that will cost billions to clean up), none of which is in dispute.

Last of all, I can't help noticing that America spends a billion dollars a day making things that go boom, more than all other nation's military budgets combined, and the Pentagon lost track of a trillion dollars as it admited at its last major audit in 2000. This spending is also being done during a time when we need a new Mahattan project to boost the alternative energy biz, because companies are seeking short term profits, squeezing the last dime out of oil, but future oil discoveries may have reached Hubbert's Peak, especially since consumption and demand for more petroleum--for plastics, synthetic fibers, computer parts, fuel, to run generators, automobiles, even to manufacture lots of drugs and pesticides--keeps increasing, especially in China and India. So less new oil discoveries are occuring but the demand keeps increasing. Yet we and other nations, keep spending money on things that go boom.

Hoyle once mused that perhaps after the petroleum is used up, if a civilization doesn't have alternative means of energy firmly in place, then we may have to revert to a Medieval type of lifestyle akin to the Amish. There's a novel for Crichton to write about!


"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21. The United States, the most Christian nation on earth, has placed its treasure in destruction and death. As Associated Press' Dan Morgan reports (June 12 2004, Tallahassee Democrat), the Pentagon "plans to spend well over $1 trillion in the next decade on an arsenal of futuristic planes, ships and weapons with little direct connection to the Iraq war or the global war on terrorism." The 2005 defense budget - the word "defense" has become a joke in the post Cold War world - will reach $500 billion (counting the CIA), $50 billion higher than 2004. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next ten years, the armada of aircraft, ships and killer toys will cost upwards of $770 billion more than Bush's estimate for long-term defense. Morgan reports that Bush wants "$68 billion for research and development-20 percent above the peak levels of President Reagan's historic defense buildup.Tens of billions more out of a proposed $76 billion hardware account will go for big-ticket weapons systems to combat some as-yet-unknown adversary comparable to the former Soviet Union." The mantra heard in Congress, "we can't show weakness in the face of terrorism," fails to take into account the fact that when the 9/11 hijackers struck, the US military--the strongest in the world--failed to prevent the attacks. So, logically one would ask, how does a futuristic jet fighter defend against contemporary enemies, like jihadists who would smuggle explosives into a train station or crowded shopping mall?

Saul Landau, "2006 Pentagon Budget as Sacrilege--Bush Invests National Treasure in Death and Destruction," Counterpunch, June 25, 2004


One industry that has done particularly well during the Bush administration has a strong interest in the outcome: the arms industry. A new report from the World Policy Institute tracks how this critical sector has exerted influence over administration policies, and how it is 'voting with its dollars' in the 2004 campaign. "These have been boom years for the arms industry, with contracts for the top ten weapons contractors up 75% in the first three years of the Bush administration alone," notes William D. Hartung, the co-author of the study and the director of the Institute's arms project. "While some of this funding is related to the war in Iraq or the campaign against terrorism, much of it relates to Cold War relics like the F-22 combat aircraft or nuclear attack submarines that have little or no application to the threats we now face or the wars we are now fighting."

Arms Industry Influence in the Bush Administration and Beyond: A World Policy Institute Special Report by William D. Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca, October, 2004


More than 100 countries have military budgets of less than $1 billion, roughly what the Pentagon spends in one day. The U.S. and its allies, including Australia, account for more than 70 percent of the world's military spending whilst so-called "adversary" powers--Iran, Iraq, North Korea --account for an absolutely trivial amount.


Graph showing annual military expenditures of U.S. and allies in proportion to the annual military expenditures of communist and "rogue nations." Be prepared to be surprised


Amount of money that the United States Defense Department has lost track of, according to a 2000 report by its inspector general:
$1,100,000,000,000 (One trillion, one hundred billion dollars).

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Ratio of the above amount to the rest of the world's military budgets combined: 2:1.

Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies

--Harper's Index, August 2003 (see Harper's magazine online or in print)



America's biggest single business might be the one that "makes things that go boom," and produces and sells weapons not only to the American military, but also to the rest of the world. America's military expenditures exceed those of the next highest 23 nations' combined, probably more nations than that by the time this is written. Perhaps war has been humanity's greatest business all along? Hasn't history up till now, consisted largely of a list of wars fought, and a record of how
rulers have employed their armies? Wasn't one of the most expensive and intensive projects in American history the Manhattan Project to build the first nuclear bomb?

Today we need to shift gears, and begin another massive project because the consumption of energy as well as clean fresh water continues to rise around the world. In fact, one-fourth of the planet is expected to suffer severe water scarcity by the year 2025. [Peter Swanson, Water: The Drop of Life] (Granted there remains plenty of water in the oceans, but to extract the salt and any other impurities from it so it can be used by cities, farms and factories, will require desalination plants and filtration apparatus galore, and add fees to nearly everything we buy, including food and clothing.)

Perhaps it's time that we as a species called a truce to all wars so we can face the coming energy shortages and fresh water shortages together, and save civilization. That is, if we can restrain ourselves from spending inconceivably huge sums of money simply making more "things that go boom," and thus reduce humanity to a state of continual warfare over dwindling energy and water reserves. For instance, India is planning to damn northern rivers to divert more water toward India, but that will diminish the amount of water reaching already parched Pakistan, and elevate tensions between those two nuclear powers.

Here's to the new project. Instead of the "Manhattan Project" let's call it the "Do It Or Die Project."



The World Game Institute has estimated that 30% of the world's annual military expenditure would be enough to significantly heal the world's gravest wounds, including overpopulation, starvation, disease, lack of safe drinking water, inadequate housing, lack of education, and environmental deterioration.

Based on information gathered by The World Game Institute


The world's major ecosystems are buckling under the strain of human activity. So says an exhaustive, two-year study by 175 scientists from the World Resources Institute and several UN agencies. They say half the world's wetlands have disappeared in the past century; forestry and agriculture have gobbled up half the world's original forests; and fishing fleets are 40 percent larger than the ocean can sustain. [In 2003 it was reported that 90% of the world's big fish reserves had been depleted. Fishing fleets continue to grow, and fish-finding sonar leaves the fish no place to hide.--E.T.B.] World Resources 2000-2001 warned, "Halting the decline of the planet's life-support systems may be the most difficult challenge humanity has ever faced."

"This Week: Science and Technology News," New Scientist, No. 2235, April 22, 2000



Scientists warn that dead zones are increasing in the world's coastal waters. The biggest culprit is fertilizer pollution, which causes decreases in the oxygen of bottom water and creates low-oxygen, or hypoxic, zones. Most sea life can't survive under these conditions: fish and other creatures swim away, while other aquatic life like shellfish, suffocate. Forty-three of the world's 146 dead zones occur in U.S. coastal waters, the second largest of which is in the Gulf of Mexico (as much as 21,000 square kilometers). The world's largest dead zone is in the Baltic Sea, spanning up to 70,000 square kilometers.

Karen Ann Gajewski, "Worth Nothing," The Humanist, Sept./Oct. 2004


We are now, slowly, becoming alarmed at the state of the planet. For a century, we have been breeding like a virus under optimum conditions, and now the virus has begun to attack its host, the earth. Sensible people grow alarmed, but many Sky-Godders are serene, even smug. The planet is just a staging area for heaven. Why bother to clean it up?

Gore Vidal, "(The Great Unmentionable) Monotheism and its Discontents," essay



Per capita, we Americans use up more of the world's natural resources and produce more of the world's pollution and industrial waste than any other nation. Meanwhile, America's Super Fund toxic waste dump sites are leaking into the ground water, and the estimated cost of clean up is a trillion dollars. Nearly every river and lake in America is currently so polluted that the government has warned against eating fish caught in them, while "dead zones" have appeared in coastal waters, due to fertilizer run offs from the land into rivers and oceans.

More than half the world lives in conditions that the average American would consider "poverty level" or below. For instance, over 60 percent of the world does not have access to a toilet. 70-80 percent of the world does not have access to clean drinking water; more than a million people die each year just from drinking bad water. One-fourth of the planet is expected to suffer severe water scarcity by the year 2025. [Peter Swanson, Water: The Drop of Life]

Globally, more than 800 million people suffer from malnutrition--with 7 million children under the age of five dying each year.

Diseases and parasites torment significant portions of mankind, with Malaria, TB, and Staph, making comebacks, and AIDS plaguing Africa and continuing to spread in Russia and China.

The life expectancies of people living in the most impoverished parts of the world are far lower than those living in the wealthiest (the life expectancy of a Japanese female born today is 83 years, while that of a Ugandan male is only 41 years). In large regions of the world human beings continue to reproduce at a rate greater than the ability of many nations to care for them via economic growth and environmentally sustainable long-term programs, thus leading to increased incidents of water scarcity, energy scarcity, starvation, poverty, ignorance, pollution, disease and war.

More people despise America than ever before, and more nations have weapons of mass destruction that could find their way into the hands of those people. Yet America continues to spend more money on manufacturing, using, and selling things that "go boom" all over the world, instead of spending more money on developing alternative energy resources that could make America a source of greater blessings instead of more extensive and expensive "booms."

Now here's Ted with the weather; it looks like another beautiful weekend.

And later, Florence will show us how to stuff a turkey until it gobbles for mercy.

And don't forget to stick around after the news for the HOME SHOPPING NETWORK!



In North America we are entrapped in an economic system whose very success depends on waste, gluttony, over-consumption, and debt. And like all systems, it is driven by a spirituality:

"You get what you deserve," is its invocation;

"You have what you horde," its doxology,

"You are what you can buy," its benediction.

K.L.S., "Giving Good Gifts: Ideas and Resources for Avoiding the Malls: Third Edition," Peace Work (Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Charlotte, N.C.) No. 4-5, 2001



What about the sin of vanity? I wonder just how much time, intelligence and resources are wasted each year by the industries that produce, advertise and sell products to enlarge breasts, lengthen penises, fight baldness, hide wrinkles, and keep your lips glossy in 100 different shades of color? Not to mention branches of the various luxury industries that sell outrageously priced homes, cars and clothing. I recently read that the luxury car industry is booming, they can't produce enough cars priced $100,000 or above for all the wealthy people who want one, so there's a waiting list. "Step right this way to the end of civilization. No waiting. We were so vain."

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