TROUBLED PLANET @ Feb., 2001

Miami Herald

Reproduced with permission of Jim Morin and The Miami Herald

NOTE: If you are so overwhelmed by the cares of today that you cannot find the time and energy to concern yourself with the cares of tomorrow, [Click Here to Return Home now]. But if you do care what the future holds, and would like to help shape that future, read on. By all means, read on. . . .


FACTS FROM CURRENT SCIENTIFIC AND STATISTICAL SOURCES (1) :

It took all of human history until the early1800s for the world's population to reach the first billion, 130 years to reach the second, 30 years to add the third, 14 years to add the fourth, 13 years to add the fifth and 12 years to add the sixth. World population growth has been considered a geometric progression (2). If people understood how geometric progressions work in the final stages (where we are now), they would realize that population growth (along with global warming) must be the greatest priority of this century.

People born in 1930 have seen a tripling of the world population in just 70 years! The young people born in 1987 are likely to see a doubling of the global population from 5 billion to 10 billion (3) within their lifetimes. Paralleling the population explosion are all sorts of environmental impacts. In a world of mounting social and environmental problems and finite resources, clearly we can't keep growing, consuming and producing toxic wastes at our present rates.

Ecologist Stuart Pimm tells us that humanity will soon pass the point of utilizing 50 % of all the stuff plants produce each year, which is the biological interest on our planetary savings account. For the world's available supply of fresh water the figure is also 50%. We have passed the 30% point of our fisheries. Unchecked pollution may cause the loss of 70% of reefs in the next 38 years. Will we continue to degrade our land and water, deplete our oceans, drain our wetlands, diminish our forests? Or will we see these as short-sighted choices, certainly sometimes driven by desperation, more often by ignorance, the greed of the few (often supported by the tax dollars of the many), and just pure bad management? And seeing these things, will we come up with the will to do what is necessary?

The quality of young peoples' future is in their own hands, because most of their parents - from ditch diggers and mechanics to C.E.O.s, legislators and presidents, no matter how loving - don't know or care enough or want to make the necessary changes to address this aspect of the quality of life in their children's and grandchildren's futures.

"More than five million people die every year from contaminated drinking water; in the next 25 years more than two-thirds of humanity will lack access to clean water. Some very influential business and political leaders seem to see water not as a global commons, but as a commodity to be enjoyed by those with the thickest wallet. More insidious than national squabbles over water rights, the privatization of water would be a lethal blow for the world's poor. Wealthy individuals, cities and industry would drink while those unable to pay for water would simply die of thirst. Around the world, corporations are gaining rights of ownership over water and making those rights felt. The specter of a world where resource barons control the very elements of life is not in the offing, it's here and now."(4)

In the United States, states are given the authority to manage their coasts through regulation and development. But with the exception of California and Rhode Island, which have developed successful plans, the policies of most states are still weak. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is developing a coordinated management approach to regulate U.S. coasts, work that has been hampered by a lack of funds and Congressional threats to eliminate the agency. (5)

Meanwhile, we are rapidly destroying the natural systems and balances of the planet that supports human life.

Today's young people can rise to the occasion and meet the challenge, or ignore the problems and pay the consequences - like lemmings (6). The decision is theirs.

Footnotes:
1) Zero Population Growth (ZPG) @ http://www.zpg.org Population Reference Bureau (PRB) @ http;//www.prb.org Stuart Pimm, Ecologist, Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University.
2)Population growth is also considered exponential, to account for the variation in growth rate and doubling time.
3)PRB and the United Nations' "World Population Estimates and Projections" now say that if access to family planning continues to spread the world population could level off at about 10 billion (still a planet-challenging quantity of people.) Although half the married women in less developed countries are now using contraception to reduce the number of children they bear, additional global family planning assistance must come from the more developed nations that have the resources and people motivated to help.
4)Skin Diver, March 2000, "It's a Brave New World for Water," by Jean-Michel Cousteau, using facts from The 1999 Turning Point Project, a coalition of more than 60 non-profit organizations.
5)Anybody getting the message yet???
6)Lemmings are long-haired rodents inhabiting far northern territories. Lemmings are best known for overpopulating and then following an imperative that sends them in vast herds to relocate. Often they blindly follow their leaders over cliffs or into large bodies of water, where they die en masse.

OUR CASE FOR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET:

Today's children are our next generation of parents, voters, consumers and leaders - and probably the last generation with enough time left to begin effecting turn-arounds. The choices they make today are critical to stabilizing populations and protecting the environment. It's really up to the young people, because they are still flexible and free to make changes. Later, locked in to the pressures of family and job responsibilities, comes resistance to change.

Only 6% of young men and women in the United States vote before the age of 30. The non-voters tell us it's because they are skeptical and don't know if they can believe what the candidates say.

With the voting power that young adults are wasting, they could organize and accomplish almost anything. Consider how American students brought the Viet Nam fiasco to light. Consider how, in their desire for social change, the student and youth vote in Mexico has just ended 71 years of uninterrupted rule and corruption.

We believe it is essential that people be enabled to understand the awesomeness of the geometric progressions impacting the planet. And what better place to see what is happening than on the once-glorious coral reefs of America? Their accelerating degradation makes it easy to understand the impact of the geometric progressions we are caught up in. We are losing our coral reefs so rapidly we should be relating them to the miners' canaries of old - in other words, the fate of the reefs foreshadows that of mankind.

Our Coral Reef Community Foundation raised the money to install the first 100 or so mooring buoys over the living coral reefs of Key Largo. Those buoys have become the conservation standard for saving reefs from anchor damage all over the world. But that's not enough. Human activity on the Florida Keys has so polluted the water five miles out to sea where the reefs are that we are losing the corals anyway. The reefs are in a state of environmental collapse, while everyone cheerfully carries on "business as usual."

As underwater cinematographers, videographers and still photographers since the 1960's, we have witnessed and documented the radical deterioration of the water quality in a coral reef system several miles offshore from a continuously expanding human population. The in-water visibility and the coral health are collapsing. We now experience murky water and ever more diseased coral with alarming frequency. The speed and intensity of this destruction is occurring as a geometric progression that parallels our population growth.

All of us SCUBA divers can see what's going on beneath the surface that still looks fine to the fishermen and land people who do not enter the sea. We can share the truth with the rest of the people and help them understand how the health of the near shore oceans affects their own health. The Cousteau Society led the way. Now each of us can be a personal example of non-polluting behaviors and lifestyles.

We need to reach the countless people who don't know and don't care. To do that we must stop being just the converted preaching to the converted on PBS and the Discovery channels. We need to engage the interest of the vast, tuned-out masses. Bottom line, we need to place huge audiences in a dramatic environment in which they cannot help but learn the need to begin doing their part. But who, who is willing and able to take up such a cause - to educate and influence while entertaining? . . . because that's about the only way to reach the masses. Oh, for a Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Spike Lee, Jane Fonda or Sylvester Stallone to take up the cause for their children's future instead of just for their children's futures.

Assuming enough young people somehow magically do decide they want to use their voting power to have a say in their future as we are suggesting, it would be invaluable to have a trusted internet organization to inform and guide them, a politically oriented website like childrensfuture.org. Its purpose would be to educate people to understand that to continue business as usual means to continue spending the children's environmental inheritances and creating unimaginable problems and costs for today's children and grandchildren to deal with. Childrensfuture.org's function would be to provide information that enables voters to make wise choices at the polls and enables consumers to know which corporations are being environmentally responsible.

Childrensfuture.org eventually would guide people all over the world by providing guidelines and priorities for similar organizations in other countries - organizations comprised of individuals unable to ignore the poverty and misery of people less fortunate than themselves.

Childrensfuture.org also would refer people to other organizations that are doing good work, like Population Resources Bureau, Zero Population Growth, The National Geographic Society, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Cousteau Society, Isaac Walton League, Union of Concerned Scientists, ENFO, Reef Relief, etc.

At least we'd be trying!

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