Of the numerous issues being discussed in the race for the American Presidency, the most pressing ecological crises are tragically not among them. This is most unfortunate, for failure to alter the present course humanity has chosen is unbelievably irrational. The only logical way to confront the ecological quagmire our species has collectively created would obviously be to do so as quickly as possible.
Perhaps a quick review of our species recent history will shed light on why healing the ecosystem of our homeworld is of utmost importance.
Around the time an enterprising ancestor of ours realized the benefits of planting seeds in the same place, year in and year out, [approximately 8,000 years ago], there were only a handful of humans scattered across the earth. When this "Agricultural Revolution" began, it is estimated ten million or less Homo saps were foraging worldwide. Yet this far more dependable source of sustenance allowed the population of our species to begin it's upward spiral.
Fast-forwarding a few thousand years to 1800 AD; our species breaches one billion around the same time the Industrial Revolution sputters into life.
Today, less than two hundred years later, there are 6 billion of us and the mutagenic byproducts of the Industrial Revolution are accumulating each and every day within our own bodies and the biosphere.
In the opinion of many biologists, in order to create a global civilization where no one goes hungry and in which everyone is given the chance to reach her or his own potential, then first and foremost, how our species interacts with the biosphere MUST BE REMEDIED IMMEDIATELY. The global desecration of forests, the exponential growth of the human race, and our "modern" civilizations continued use of fossil fuels are among the most pressing problems we face, even if the two main contenders for the American Presidency are completely unaware of them.
The "development" of our equatorial forests is possibly the most tragic event in our species miserable history. The incineration of our homeworlds forests translates into millions of years of evolution laid waste in the name of limitless greed and blind promiscuity. Simply put, this is the greatest holocaust since the end of the Cretaceous. The only bright side to this trend is it is quite possible to reverse the situation in many a cooperative nation.
For example, labourers currently employed in the "development" of their own nations forests, such as unsustainable logging throughout Indonesia, the Congo, and a seemingly endless parade of impoverished nations, could simply be paid the same amount, IF NOT MORE, to plant seedlings and rejuvenate the remnants of what remains. Currently, timber barons pay no more than a few billion dollars in wages annually throughout the tropical biome.
The industrialized nations of our world could easily create and fund an agency, which would pay loggers to change the nature of their occupations and initiate the resurrection of their national forests. In the long run this is not only the sole rational choice environmentally, but the only logical economic alternative as well. Continued economic practices throughout the tropics are shortsighted to say the least and reason dictates we change the way the timber industry operates as quickly as possible. All responsible nations must become actively involved in rejuvenating our worlds remaining "carbon sinks" instead of simply allowing a few ignorant timber barons to destroy our planet's genetic heritage in the name of short-term profits. [Please see Science, Sept. 22, 2000, Forests After Kyoto]
The second dilemma which must be dealt with and granted, much more difficult to solve, is the exponential growth of the human race. A serious attempt to reduce our numbers, or at least check growth, is obviously needed. Since most, if not all of the continued growth of our species occurs among the most impoverished people of our planet, is it not imperative to support education, contraception and financial incentives encouraging small families? The fact of the matter is that hundreds of millions of individuals are unable to purchase contraceptives simply because they are too costly or inaccessible. Sad as it may sound; innumerably more poor people would be practicing family planning if the possibility presented itself. [See Scientific American, Jan, 2000, The Unmet Need for Family Planning]
Now theres an obvious reason these two problems arent being discussed in the campaign for the Presidency. Both issues involve so many nations, its extremely unlikely, from a deep understanding of our mythological pasts, as well as our prophesied futures, enough humans would have the intelligence to follow the logical and rational path. Another problem is these two dilemmas essentially involve the industrialized nations of the world encouraging poorer countries to develop their nations resources responsibly and at the same time create a population plateau. And perhaps the main reason this years presidential campaign has failed to address these problems is because the candidates are so economically focused. After all, business is business and from an ecological perspective, an inconceivable mess.
The final problem many an ecologist would like the next President to deal with, however, involves the industrialized nations of the world making an extremely unlikely renovation, one which would show less technologically advanced nations the West is seriously committed to creating ecological sanity.
One must remember this "modern" society we have constructed had its origins less than three hundred years ago with the Industrial Revolution. For the most part coal powered steam for the better part of a century until oil became the primary source of energy in the latter half of the 1800s. The Age of Oil should have ended sometime after the Second World War. Unfortunately, the energy industry seems as willing to end our habit for overseas crude and convert to renewable sources of energy as the poorer nations of the world are in halting the incineration of their own forests and breeding exponentially. [See Scientific American, Sept, 1990. The entire issue deals exclusively with sources of energy.]
Is it not tragic, as our species throttles headfirst into the Third Millennium, on the threshold of an exodus amidst the stars, we continue to wallow in our own darkness, greed and blindness? The consequences of failing to deal with the present trajectory our species has plotted are unquestionably catastrophic. Perhaps only a few of us can comprehend why these problems are easily among the most pressing of our time, perhaps only a fraction of our species has the intellect necessary to understand the true problems our species faces in 2001. To end with a few quotes;