January 1992 (vol. 8, #2) 1601 N Tucson Blvd #9,
Tucson AZ 85716 c 1992 Physicians for Civil Defense
The Evil Empire has fallen, ``leaving America in the lurch,'' wrote columnist Russell Baker in celebrating New Year's. He claims that America has spent a quarter of its lifetime cultivating an ``enemy habit,'' and has now become suddenly desperate, ``like a cigarette fiend in need of a smoke.''
Mr. Baker's diagnosis is slightly off target. Americans seldom sat in front of the television screen to see visions of evil Communists. The vision was of a nuclear apocalypse.
What America needs is a substitute apocalypse. The
one prophesied by St. John will not do. John, unlike Paul Ehrlich,
has not been proved wrong, but he lacks credibility, having no
Ph.D. in an earthy science. Furthermore, John's Apocalypse is
not preventable through the exertions of the Peace Movement (now
the Peace, Ecology, and Social Justice Movement).
The Real Enemy
As Helen Caldicott and other aspiring Messiahs have pointed out, ``We have met the enemy, and he is us.'' And what does the enemy threaten? It threatens our Patient the ``one patient none of us can afford to lose.'' The Patient has ``more than five billion dependents'' and might wear a hospital armband with the name Terra Firma, age 5,000,000,000 years, address Solar System 3rd Orbit (according to an advertisement for the PSR Quarterly). Each of us threatens the Patient daily by disposing of our toxic and radioactive waste directly into the sewer. Perhaps we use whipped cream from a spray can that is not labeled ``ozone friendly.'' Or we may fail to recycle our cardboard even though we could earn $0.75 by bringing a truckload to the recycling center.
The damage to the Planet is accumulating relentlessly, threatening a fatal outcome within the next decade. The mechanism of death will be indirect perhaps through destruction of the ozone although the details have not yet been worked out. We don't understand how heavy molecules like chlorofluorocarbons manage to get into the stratosphere in high enough concentrations to zap the ozone layer. But we know they're there, even if we haven't measured them.
There's not enough time for research to see whether a megaton of prevention will work an ounce of cure. Instead of an arms race, we need a ``race to save the Planet,'' which can replace the Cold War. The New Earth Order will transcend national sovereignty, but even that is not enough to stave off the environmental apocalypse.
``We must redraw the line between owner and community,''
said New York Times columnist Eric Freyfogle, lecturing to some
Iowa farmers who are mired in 18th century ideology. ``Property
is a malleable, evolving institution, something the community
ought to regularly reshape to reflect its knowledge and needs.''
He tried to quiet the farmers' ``exaggerated fears'' by assuring
them that some choices would still be open to them. They could
still post a ``No Trespassing Sign'' to ``keep other humans at
bay'' [except the ones telling them how to manage their crops].
He hopes they will soon ``join the dialogue'' because ``the land
cannot wait much longer'' (Ariz Daily Star 1/10/92).
Banning the (Population) Bomb
Previously, the environmentalist lobby was too fearful of the right-to-life movement to speak forthrightly. But last May, leaders of more than 100 environmental organizations joined leading population control advocates in calling for an urgent response to global overpopulation (Science 252:1247, 1991).
The ``carrying capacity'' of Planet Earth is being strained, in their view. The food supply is not the limiting factor, Paul Ehrlich's predictions of the Famines of 1974, 1985, and 2001 notwithstanding. Only Africa now suffers widespread famine, and only because of ``a network of social and political factors that could be corrected'' (Science 254:790, 1991). According to a Hudson Institute report, the globe could now feed another two billion people on good land diverted from crops by government policy in the US and Argentina, and another four billion if high-yield farming technologies were more widely adopted in the Third World (Wall St J 9/19/91).
The problem is, according to a National Academy of Science report on global warming, that population growth is the ``biggest single driver of atmospheric pollution.'' Increasing numbers and, more importantly, better living conditions, lead to increased energy consumption.
``The conspicuous doubling of the average lifespan of whole populations...over the past 100 years is linked to the progressively increasing energy flow through society over the same time....The recent rise of energy consumption by Homo sapiens to levels 10-20 times above the basic metabolic rate is glaringly beneficial to the species.'' Therefore, ``there will be no voluntary way back from a high-energy to a low-energy economy,'' according to Manfred Schidlowski of the Max Planck Institut für Chemie (Nature 9/26/91).
The ban-the-(atomic)-bomb movement accomplished the banning of strategic defense and the rejection of bomb shelters. Only because of this, nuclear weapons had (and have) the power to cause a near-apocalyptic destruction of our undefended industrialized society.
In the guise of averting another apocalypse (global warming, ozone destruction, acid rain, etc.) which, unlike nuclear weapons effects, is purely hypothetical the environmentalists could achieve the actual destruction of our industrialized society.
The Earth First! Wilderness System Preserve would ban man from 32% of the USA (except for ``indigenous peoples living a traditional pre-European-contact lifestyle''). Other regulations would ordain a similar lifestyle for the surviving remnant, and the final defeat of the Enemy which is us.