Posts Tagged With: ecological degradation

LURKING UNDER THE HOLIDAY RADAR

We’re currently right in the middle of the holiday season; a time for merriment, frolicking, and joy for all. Or almost all. A time for lighting up Christmas trees all over the world, or decorating the exterior of one’s house to resemble pinball machines. A time for office and neighborhood parties, for egg nog or harder spirits, and for gorging and feasting on holiday treats with a calorie-be damned attitude. After all, we’ll all go back on our diets after the new year, won’t we? It’s a time for college students to enjoy a lengthy break from their studies and return home to their families, or for extraordinarily lucky ones, to vacation in some tropical paradise. A time to engage in holiday shopping in overcrowded malls with lengthy lines at the checkout counters in most stores, for gift giving and receiving, and perhaps for even feeling more generous than usual toward one’s fellow man.

Of course, not every one will be in such a celebratory mood. Ask the 1.3 million, long-term, unemployed Americans whose benefits are about to run out just before Christmas, if they’re experiencing heaps of the holiday spirit. These people receive roughly $325 a week in unemployment payments which enables them to sleep with a roof over their heads and put some food on the table. But the legislation providing these benefits expires shortly, and our dysfunctional Congress seems little inclined to renew it. Which leaves these people with 2 alternatives; either becoming homeless, or just simply dying. Or how about the millions of people incarcerated in our nations prisons. Think they’ll be frolicking in their cells? Many are there for either using or selling illegal substances such as marijuana or heroin. While these may be unwise choices, the stupidity of jailing people for bad decisions not only destroys millions of lives, it also costs the taxpayer hundreds of billions dollars. While the most deadly substance of all, smoking tobacco, remains perfectly legal.

In any event, I thought it might be fun to examine some of the world’s problems that we like to ignore during the holiday season, but which stubbornly refuse to go away, even with the on-going holiday merriment. The ones currently flying below the radar screen, but which will emerge in all their full glory, come January. Take Iran, for example. Please.

Iran, which is the world’s leading purveyor of terrorism and anti-semitism, is first down with goal to go on the one-yard line, as far as acquiring nuclear weaponry. Those crazy-kid mullahs who run the country have repeated many times that their ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel. The acquisition of nuclear bombs will, of course, give them the means of accomplishing that goal. It doesn’t have to be a direct attack either. For example, a nuclear suitcase bomb left in a hotel room in Tel-Aviv by an Iranian sponsored terrorist, will not only kill hundreds of thousands of residents, it would render the city uninhabitable for generations to come. Israel would undoubtably respond by unleashing their own nuclear missiles against Iran which could kill millions more. But the carnage would not end there. Radiation clouds would form in the stratosphere and travel around the globe, pouring down radiation poisoning on all countries.

The U.S. effort to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weaponry has been to impose fairly tough economic sanctions on that country. While these sanctions have resulted in some impairment of Iran’s economy, they have apparently not been enough to dissuade the mullahs from pushing ahead with their nuclear ambitions. So now, the Obama Administration has engaged Iran in negotiations to prevent its nuclear acquisition. As part of these talks, we have eased up on many of the existing sanctions while Iran has given up virtually nothing. Most foreign policy experts believe it’s sheer folly to expect Iran to discontinue its nuclear bomb development no matter what the on-going talks produce. The mullahs running the country are too fanatical in their hatred of Israel and the U.S. for that to happen. By the way, since the Iranian government despises the U.S. almost as much as Israel, a dirty bomb placed in a hotel room in Houston or Chicago would not be beyond the realm of possibilities. The only way to stop Iran from from acquiring nuclear weaponry would be for the U.S. to undertake decisive military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, such as around-the-clock bombing of these facilities until they are ruble. But that will never happen with this Administration; nor would it have happened had his Mittness won the presidency in 2012.

Speaking of weak foreign policy initiatives, the on-going “civil war” in Syria continues unabated with us doing nothing about it. The Assad government long ago crossed Obama’s red line in the sand by killing thousands of its fellow country-men using chemical weapons, with out any repercussions from the West. The war is now pretty much stalemated, but the killing goes on without any end in sight. And we do absolutely nothing; a course strongly applauded by both the far right and far left. The one thing that Ted Cruz praised Obama for was not taking any military action in Syria. A good illustration of the sanity of that foreign policy position.

Of course, many other long-term disasters are waiting in the wings. I’ve written before about how the steady and systematic destruction of our rain forests and oceans, coupled with climate change, will have devastating consequences for the very existence of life on this planet. Or how about our highly dysfunctional and polarized government that can no longer produce anything of benefit for its citizenry. The same citizenry that elected this government into power in the first place. I could go on but you get the picture. Besides it’s holiday time. So get in the holiday spirit, and eat, drink and join in all the festivities. We don’t have to check the radar screen until after the first. That’s when we’ll go back on our diets too. And also pay attention to what’s going on in the world.

 

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LIVING ON ANOTHER PLANET

Know what the most precious commodity on this planet is? I’ll give you a hint-it’s not platinum or diamonds; nor is it gold or silver. The most precious resource on Earth is water, or at least the drinking kind. While 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, less than one percent of that is fit for human or animal consumption. It’s one of the reasons we have periodic famines throughout large chunks of Africa and parts of Asia. Lack of rains or periodic droughts seem to occur with increasing frequency in various parts of the world. Here in Las Vegas, which is one of the driest places on Earth, and where about 2 million people live in the LV Valley, we’ve been experiencing a severe drought for more than a dozen years. Las Vegas obtains its water from Lake Mead, which, in turn, receives its water from the Colorado River. Or to be more precise, the Colorado Streamlet, at this point in time. Our local newspaper recently ran an article about how Lake Mead is at its lowest level in history, and if drastic action isn’t taken by 2014, the area will simply run out of water. Although it didn’t specify what kind of drastic action options are available. Maybe the hotel/casino bosses can import kegs of drinking water into LV, the way they imported bootleg booze during the 1920s.

Here’s another fact you may want to consider. From the dawn of history through the year 1913, Earth’s population grew to a modest 1.8 billion people. That’s over a period of millions of years. In the last 100 years, however, our planet’s population has skyrocketed to over 7.1 billion. By 2025 it’s estimated to be around 9.5 billion. This, of course, not only adds huge amounts of stress and demand to available drinking water, but to all other precious resources such as coal, oil, gas, metals, etc.  Add to this, the fact that huge medical and technological  advances have considerably extended human life spans, which will put additional strains on food and water supplies as well as precious resources, and you have a situation where going to live on another planet looks more attractive by the day. Not that such an option is available at this point in time.

Perhaps the most brilliant mind in the world today, British astro-physicist Stephen Hawking, has recommended such a course of action. Single planet specious don’t survive, said Hawking in a recent interview. He further stated that the human race should not have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. He went on to say that should shrinking resources, nuclear proliferation, a growing population, or climate change threaten humankind on Earth, “a colony on Mars could serve as a lifeboat to keep the species going.” (Of course, one can debate whether our species deserves to be kept going, after the mess we’ve made on this planet.) He ended the interview by saying that technology being what it is today, he doesn’t foresee that kind of space travel in the next 100 years. (Where’s that “warp speed” technology they had on the Star Trek series, when you need it.)

Nevertheless, there is interest in a manned space trip to Mars. Since almost all large governments are broke these days, the technology would have to be developed by private industry. Mars is about 34 million miles from Earth, and astro-engineers estimate that with today’s technology, it would take a manned space craft about 8 months to make the trip. Provisions for the return trip back to Earth would have to sent to Mars on a second space craft, and be waiting there for the space travelers when they arrive. A Dutch organization called Mars One wants to start colonizing Mars within a decade. Its already received 78,000 applications from would-be colonizers willing to relocate. Which says a lot about how wonderful life has become on this planet.

Besides water, food and other resource shortages and overpopulation, you might want to consider certain other factors. Like ecological degradation.  Like the systematic erosion of our rain forests or ocean phytoplankton which capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide while emitting enormous quantities of oxygen. The final destruction of either will make life no longer sustainable on Earth. Or how about world-wide soil erosion which has caused the Earth to lose one-fifth of its arable land, just in the last decade. Perhaps global-warming ( whose existence is vehemently denied by all the Rush Limbaugh-types, and other assorted looney-tuners) is one of your hit-parade favorites. Let us also not leave out nuclear waste hazards as well as massive amounts of other toxic waste. As well as spreading holes in the ozone layer (which prevents from becoming as crispy as french fries) because of the existence of long-lasting chlorofluorocarbon gasses. And, to say nothing of the massive extinction of animal species due to all of the above, as well as man’s inherent greed and selfishness.  We are probably among the last generations to have the good fortune to co-inhabit this planet with large animals such as elephants, rhinos, hippos, the great apes, and major cat species-lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, etc. Within a hundred years it’s doubtful that they’ll exist even in zoos.

Old guys like me can probably make it through to the end of our lives without drastic global consequences. But young people might start to experience the effects of ecological degradation within their lifetimes. For example, global warming might finally result in the rise of ocean levels with the resulting flooding of word-wide coastal areas, which would displace hundreds of millions of people, and bury a large portion of the world’s primary agricultural lands. And none of what I’ve written takes into effect the craziness of many of the world’s leaders and governments. Anyone of whom could set off a nuclear holocaust at virtually any time.

So how about it. Anyone care to sign up to be one of the first voyagers to Mars?

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