@))$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 from a biological perspective.
The only logical way to confront the ecological catastrophe' our species is in the process of creating would obviously be to do so as quickly as possible.
Perhaps a quick review of our species' recent history will shed light on why altering the way in which we interact within our homeworld's ecosystem is of utmost importance.
Approximately 10,000 years ago, an enterprising ancestor of ours realized the benefits of planting seeds in the same place, year in and year out. There were only a handful of our ancestors scattered across our world as this "Agricultural Revolution" began: perhaps a million or so Homo sapiens were foraging worldwide when a few of our ancestors began experimenting with agriculture. This far more dependable source of sustenance, however, allowed the population of our species to begin it's upward spiral.
If one were to fast-forward to circa 1800 AD; one would see our species' population breaching one billion around the time the Industrial Revolution was beginning to gather steam.
Today, less than two hundred years later, there are 6.5 billion of us and the insidious by-products of the Industrial Revolution are contaminating the entire planet's ecosystem, as well as accumulating within ourselves.
In the opinion of the vast majority of biologists, if we are ever to create a true civilization, then the way our species interacts within the biosphere MUST BE REMEDIED IMMEDIATELY! Global warming is only one of many ecological imbalances our species is creating, and why ecologically sane policies must be empowered.
Perhaps the most pressing problems we face biologically, and collectively as one species, are the global desecration of forests, the exponential growth of our species' population, and our "modern" civilization's continued use of fossil fuels.
The current "development" of our equatorial forests is possibly the most tragic event in our species miserable history. The incineration of our homeworld's forests translates into millions of years of evolution laid waste in the name of limitless greed and blind promiscuity. Simply put; the greatest holocaust since the end of the Cretaceous is occuring right here, right now, for no sane reason whatsoever.
As of now, in 2004, because there is little doubt the planet is indeed warming, saving these forests also translates roughly into cooling our world. Biodiversity has become merely a fringe benefit.
Pristine forests contain a great deal of organic carbon, which seems to accumulate with age. Unfortunately, the Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, Russia, the United States and other nations with intact old growth forests are all in the process of "consuming" these forests for short-term economic gain.
If there were a bright side to this trend, it would be that it is quite possible to reverse the situation almost overnight in many a cooperative nation.
For example, laborers 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 worldwide. 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 saving, protecting and rejuvenating our world's remaining "carbon sinks", rather than simply allowing a few ignorant individuals to destroy our planet's genetic heritage in the name of short-term profits. Most importantly, protecting and reseeding forests is one of the easiest ways to slow the warming of our world. [See Science, Sept. 22, 2000, Managing 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 there's an obvious reason these two problems are never discussed in campaigns for the Presidency. Both issues involve so many nations, it is 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 in a responsible manner.
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 approximately two hundred years ago with the advent of 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.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, ...2005]. To end with a few quotes;
Never underestimate the power of human stupidity -RA Heinlein
The use of modern technology to tear resources from the earth is bringing the biosphere to the brink of collapse. We are a species out of harmony with nature, gone berserk in the indulgence of its desires at the expense of other living beings. -Dr. John E Mack
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Original article first published