The Critical Issues

When the United Nations launched the first Development Decade in the 1960s, there was high hope that the nations of the world would move forward in joint efforts to create international systems and structures that would address the urgent needs of the emerging nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America while assuming the continued growth of the market-oriented industrialized economies. Development would mean more and better for everyone. Progress would guarantee a flourishing economy and technological advancements for the entire world.

Now, four Development Decades later, there is little evidence that the numerous development plans and strategies embraced over the years have done anything to improve significantly the situation of the poor of the world or to enhance the prospects for the wider community of life on Earth. On the contrary, as we look around us today, the struggle for life seems all the more perilous.

Over the whole Earth, the human community and much of the entire community of life is now in serious danger. Problems abound: poverty and starvation, consumerism and population growth, debt burdens and trade imbalances, crime, AIDS, drugs, war and refugees. Most ominously, all of the biogeochemical systems essential for life on Earth, the habitats essential for the survival of diverse species, and even the atmosphere and the oceans are now disturbed and threatened on a planetary scale.

As we humans have begun to think globally, it has become clear that we do not have just a poverty problem, or a hunger problem, or a habitat problem, or an energy problem, or a trade problem, or a population problem, or an atmospheric problem, or a waste problem, or a resource problem. On a planetary scale, these problems are all interconnected. What we really have is a poverty-hunger-habitat-energy-trade-population-atmospheric-waste-resource problem. This mega problem is so new that we did not even have a name for it until 1970 when the late Dr. Aurelio Peccei described it and named it the "global problematique."

Although Earth is one biologically and environmentally, it is not one socially and economically. Differences between the circumstances of the people in the "North" and "South" complicate discussions of the global problematique.[*]

Approximately a fifth of the world's people live in the North -- the rich, industrialized countries of Canada and the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. In the North, the per capita consumption of energy and other resources and the per capita generation of wastes (especially carbon dioxide and the various air pollutants that cause acid rain) are extremely high relative to those in the South.

About four-fifths of the world's population lives in the South -- the emerging countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the South there is still rapid population growth, and the environmental impacts (especially deforestation, overgrazing, water pollution and toxic wastes) are largely due to poverty, inadequate education, and inadequately regulated industry.

A clear sense of our future -- Earth's future -- requires that we examine trends over an extended period. The following discussion will consider developments covering the period 1600 to 2200. While this six hundred year period is only a brief moment in the overall history of Earth, it spans the period during which human activity has had and will have the greatest impact on Earth and is sufficient to provide a context for a discussion of the critical issues of the 21st century. A few events and discoveries that have already occurred during this period are noted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Philosophical ideas, historic events, and scientific discoveries during the period 1600 to present.

In thinking about the future it is also important to keep in mind how far into the future our major institutions think. Governments work on a time horizon related to the tenure of elected officials, which is typically less than a decade. Market economic decisions typically look ahead about a decade, depending on interest rates. Only the faith traditions of the world have an outlook of generations. Some faith traditions teach that all decisions should be made from the standpoint of their impact on the seventh generation into the future.

To help establish a generational perspective, the shaded columns in all figures in this book mark the seventy-year period that a child born today might live. The line at the right of Figure 1 marks the time of birth of the seventh future generation.

Our Numbers and Basic Needs

Figure 2: History and projection of the number of human beings whose needs must be met, assuming current fertility and mortality rates remain unchanged indefinitely into the future. Sources: United Nations. 1992.

Long-Range World Population Projections: Two Centuries of Population Growth, 1950-2150. New York: United Nations. p. 28; and McEvedy, C. and Jones, R. 1978.

Atlas of World Population History, Middlesex, England: Viking Penguin. pp. 342-51.

When thinking about the future and human needs in the future, it is necessary to consider the number of humans whose needs must be met. To make projections of human numbers in the future, it is necessary to make assumptions about future trends in human fertility and mortality rates. The simplest such assumption -- and one that is highly unlikely -- is that human fertility and mortality rates in the future will remain just as they are now.

The past history of human numbers and the numbers that the United Nations projects would exist if today's fertility and mortality continued unchanged is illustrated in Figure

  1. During the lifetime of adults today, human numbers approximately doubled from about

  2. billion (1 billion = 1,000 million) to about 5 billion. The time that a child born today might live is illustrated by the gray vertical bar. Much more growth in human numbers can be expected within the lifetime of an infant born today.

A key aspect of caring for the children of the future is food. Since the bulk of our food -- 98 percent -- comes from the land, caring for people for the future requires that we think carefully about land resources and their use. [4]

The total land area of Earth is about 15,000 million hectares (37,000 million acres), but only a relatively small part (about 22 percent) is potentially arable (see Table 1). Most of the land (78 percent) is too wet, too poor, too cold, too dry, or too steep for cultivation. The potentially arable land, which totals about 3.3 billion hectares (8.2 billion acres) is of mixed quality, ranging from highly productive to slightly productive.

Table 1: Types of Land on Earth


Land Types




(millions of ha.)

of Total






















Too cold



Too dry or steep



Too wet or poor






Total land area



Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. 1989.

FAO Production Yearbook tapes.

Rome: U.N Food and Agriculture Organization.


Several important aspects of the human dependency on land are illustrated in Figure 3. The straight line across the figure marks the estimated maximum potentially arable land.

Approximately half of this total (1.4 billion hectares) is already used for crop production, and much of the remaining less-productive land is already grazed by livestock. Adding to the world's base of arable land or intensifying its use is costly, and additions have slowed dramatically over the last several decades. Consequently, land under continuous cultivation will probably never reach even 3.3 billion hectares.

Equally important, arable land is being lost through erosion, deforestation, expanding urban areas, depletion of irrigation water, salinization, waterlogging, and other factors. The effects of these factors on available arable land are illustrated schematically by the downward sloping curve.

The amount of land needed to feed the world population is shown by the curve rising toward the maximum available land. This curve is simply the curve of human population growth from Figure 2 multiplied by the average amount of land per capita required to feed people -- 0.26 hectares per person (0.64 acres per person). [5]

Figure 3: Agricultural land needed at current yields to feed the human population, historical and projected, and the total amount of potentially arable land. One ha. is equal to 2.47 acres. At current yields, 0.26 ha. (about 0.64 acres) is needed, on average, to feed a person.

In Figure 3 (and several other figures), the curve of land needed to feed the people crosses the curve of land available. Of course in reality it is impossible for this to happen: population cannot increase unless there is food to feed the people. The reason that the two curves cross in Figure 3 and some other figures is that the two curves are projected independently. In reality, as these two curves approach each other, there is a great increase of hunger, starvation, misery, and mass migration, and environmental destruction. Increases in deaths keep the curves from ever actually crossing.

Even now we see examples on our television screens of local areas where the need for land has approached the land available. Local food prices rise and, of course, the poor suffer first and most. The first to die are infants and the old. Before actual starvation (calorie deficiency) occurs, protein deficiency limits children's growth and mental development. [6] A child born today will live to see many people's need for land become much more desperate than today.

Three options are open to us in keeping these curves apart: stopping population growth, preserving arable land, and increasing agricultural yields. It is sometimes suggested that changing the diet of people living in the North is a fourth option, but it is not.

The Northern (especially American and Canadian) diet contains a high percentage of meat. Much of the meat is produced by feeding grain to animals. The meat produced in this way contains only about 10 percent of the calories contained in the grain fed to the animals. The idea is that if Northerners ate lower on the food chain (less meat and more grains and vegetables), there would be enough grain left over to feed the whole human population. A change of the Northern diet would indeed help by shifting the curve over about 15 years (see Figure 4) and would also, incidentally, improve the health of Northerners. However, a change of Northern diet cannot by itself solve the problem facing us all.

It should also be noted that if incomes in the South were to increase to the point that Southerners begin eating like Northerners (which seems to be the trend among affluent Southerners), there would be a large jump in the demand for agricultural produce (see Figure 4). Such a jump would accelerate the growth in the need for arable land.

For population to stop growing, the number of births and deaths must become equal. This can happen -- and has happened historically -- either with both births and deaths at a high level or with both births and deaths at a low level. If the deaths are to be kept low and people have long lives, the norm for a person must become one child -- two per couple. If this norm were met, the human population would ultimately stabilize after a delay of about forty years during which today's large numbers of youth pass through the fertile period of their lives.

Figure 4: Land needed with current diets, and with hypothetical dietary shifts

so that everyone eats either the current Southern diet or the current Northern diet.

The ultimate size of the stable population can be roughly estimated from what demographers call population profiles. Population profiles for the countries of the North and South are shown in Figures 5 and 6 for the year 2000. These profiles are, essentially, bar charts. The bars extend to the right and left of the center for females and males, respectively. Each bar represents the number of people in a five-year age cohort, for example, the number of males between the ages of 20 and 24.

The profile for the countries of the North is shaped approximately like a column. This shape is indicative of a stable, non-growing population. It means that the people in fertile years of their lives (about 15 to 45) are having, on average, about two children, just enough to create new bars at the bottom of the column that are the same width as their own bars. People are just reproducing themselves.

Figure 5: Population profile showing the age-sex distributions for the countries of the North, as projected by the World Bank for 2000.

Source: Bulatao, R. A.; Bos, E.; Stephens, P. W.; and Vu, M. T. 1990. World Population Projections, 1989-1990 Edition.

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (for the World Bank). pp. 6-8.

By contrast, the profile for the developing regions is shaped like a pyramid. The pyramidal shape is characteristic of a rapidly growing population. It means that people in the 15 to 45 year cohorts are creating new bars at the bottom that are much wider than their own. The more gradual the slope of the pyramid's sides, the more rapid the population growth.

Figure 6: Population profile showing the age-sex distributions for the countries of the South as projected by the World Bank for 2000.

Source: Bulatao, R. A.; Bos, E.; Stephens, P. W.; and Vu, M. T. 1990. World Population Projections, 1989-1990 Edition.

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (for the World Bank). pp. 6-8.

As population growth slows and stops, the shape of the profile gradually shifts from a pyramid to a column. If somehow by the year 2000 replacement fertility (essentially two children per couple) could be achieved throughout the world and if mortality could be kept from increasing, the population pyramid for the countries of the South would ultimately become a column as wide as the base of the pyramid for the year 2000 (see Figure 7). The wide column implies that, barring a huge increase in deaths, the population of the South will grow ultimately to at least twice the number projected for the year 2000. Since in 2000 there will be about 5 billion people living in the South, there might ultimately be 10 billion or more in these countries -- assuming no increase in mortality rates. In addition there will continue to be a billion people or more living in the North, bringing the world total to at least 11 billion.

The analysis of the previous paragraph provides only a very rough estimate. Recent United Nations projections, prepared with much more elaborate methods, suggest that Earth's human population might level off at approximately 12 billion by about 2150. [7]

Figure 7: Approximate stable population profile for the countries of the South

assuming replacement fertility (an average of 2.1 children per fertile couple) is achieved by 2000.

The magnitude of the change in demographic behavior implied by the U.N. projections can be seen by comparing the historical and projected annual increment to the human population. The annual increment (births less deaths) is an indicator of the additional people for whom housing, jobs, schools, food, etc., are needed each year. As shown in Figure 8, the annual increment to the world population is now rising at a record rate. Approximately 90 million people are now added each year -- roughly the equivalent of adding a Mexico every year. According to the U.N. projection, the annual increment will continue to rise to record heights for another few years, peak sharply at about 100 million people per year in 2000, and then fall by roughly three-fourths within the lifetime of today's infants. [8] Should this much-needed event actually come to pass, it would be a truly remarkable change in human reproductive habits, comparable only to the demographic change of the last two decades in China. [9]

Such rapid changes in fertility are extremely difficult to achieve. Currently, large families serve the economic and social interests of couples in most nations of the South. Large families (especially when there are more boys than girls) are perceived as divine blessings and evidence of the virility of the father and the continued fertility of the mother. The children provide free labor, are a source of security in both community disputes and old age, and give status to women and especially to men. Moreover, under current government policies in many countries, children are a relatively low economic burden to the couple. Child labor laws, traditions, religious beliefs, financing of education and health services, the status and education of women, and the norms by which men judge each other's masculinity will all need to change radically if the number of children couples want is to drop to two. There will also need to be increases in the availability of family planning services.

Figure 8: Annual increment to the world's population from 1600 to date and as projected by the United Nations.

Sources: United Nations. 1990. World Population Projections. New York: United Nations. p. 21; United Nations. 1992.

Long-Range World Population Projections. New York: United Nations. p. 14; and McEvedy, C.; and Jones, R. 1980.

Atlas of World Population History. Middlesex, England: Viking Penguin. p. 342.

Our Food and the Land

Even if human population is successfully limited to 12 billion, the problem of meeting human needs is not solved. At current yields, over 3 billion hectares of arable land would be required to feed 12 billion people (see Figure 9), and while there are 3.3 billion hectares of potentially arable land available on Earth, the economic and ecological cost of bringing it all into production is prohibitive. An effort to bring 3 billion hectares under cultivation implies an enormous loss of habitat for many entire species and for the critically important wild varieties of human food species. As a consequence, we must also give attention to efforts both to preserve arable land and to increase yields.

Figure 9: Agricultural land needed at present productivity if population growth stops at 12 billion.

Note: One ha. = 2.47 acres. At current yields, 0.26 ha. (about 0.64 acres) is needed, on average, to feed a person.

The human future is closely linked to the future of soils, and alarmingly little is being done to monitor soil losses and deterioration. Only in the last decade and a half has it been possible to estimate the magnitude and productivity effects of soil loss even in the industrialized countries of the North. Even rudimentary data on soil loss is almost completely unavailable for most countries of the South. [10]

The arable area currently under cultivation in the world is about 1.4 billion hectares, [11] far less than the 3.3 billion hectares potentially arable. Land area under cultivation, however, is increasing only slowly and the rate of increase is declining because the cost of bringing additional land into production is so high. [12] During the 1960s, land under cultivation increased 4.4 percent; in the 1970s, 3.3 percent; during 1980s, less than 2 percent. At the growth rate of the 1980s, arable area might reach about 2 billion hectares by 2200. Should soil losses continue at a mere tenth of one percent (0.1%) per year, land under cultivation would decline almost 20 percent to 1.2 billion hectares by 2200.

Additional perspective on the pressures on arable land comes from trends in per capita arable land (see Figure 10). At the global level, arable area per capita has declined steadily from roughly half a hectare per capita in the 1950s to less than a third of a hectare in the late 1980s. The countries of the North have experienced a decline from roughly 0.54 hectares in 1960 to 0.47 hectares in 1989. Despite the large increases in arable area in Brazil, Indonesia, and the Sudan, the countries of the South as a group have experienced a severe drop from 0.46 hectares to 0.26 hectares. If one takes into account land losses due to urbanization and other non-agricultural demands, and due to erosion, desertification, waterlogging, and salinization, it is likely that future per capita levels of arable land will drop toward a tenth of a hectare.

Prior to this century almost all the increase in food production was obtained by bringing new land into production, but that is no longer possible. For human numbers to reach 12 billion will involve adding an additional 7 billion, enough to fill the habitable land of every continent to the density of China and India today. If soil losses and competing uses of land can be stopped completely within a century and intervening losses limited to no more than 15 percent of the total arable land, there might ultimately be about 2.8 billion hectares of potentially arable land, significantly less than the 3.1 billion hectares needed at present yields to feed 12 billion people (see Figure 11). Even with extraordinary efforts to protect and preserve arable land, there is not enough potentially arable land to feed the human population projected for the late 21st century at current agricultural yields. By the first decade of the next century, almost all of the increases in food production must come from increased output per hectare -- from higher yields -- rather than from increases in arable area under cultivation. [13]

0.64 acres is needed, on average, to feed a person.

Our Agricultural Yields

The theoretical effects of increasing yields are shown in Figure 11. At current yields about 1.5 billion hectares are needed to feed the human population. If yields were somehow to be doubled, only half as much land (0.75 billion hectares) would be needed, so doubling yields moves each point on the curve down by half.

Figure 12: World agricultural yields from 1600 to present and projections.

Sources: For the history: Food and Agriculture Organization, Production Yearbooks; and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Statistics.

For the projection: Ruttan, V. W. 1990. "Constraints on Sustainable Growth in Agricultural Production: Into the 21st Century."

In: Agriculture and Rural Development Department and Training Division, World Bank, eds. 1991.

Eleventh Agricultural Symposium: Agricultural Issues in the Nineties. Washington: The World Bank; and Ruttan, V. W. December 1992. Personal communication.

Similarly, somehow quadrupling yields would move the curve down by three quarters. Note that the effect of the theoretical doubling and quadrupling does not change the shape of the curve but shifts it over and lowers the plateau level. A major human goal must be to find ways to increase yields enough to bring the plateau level below the curve of land available.

Then let man look at his Food, (and how Allah provides it): For that Allah pours

forth water in abundance, and Allah splits the earth in fragments, and produces

therein grain, and Grapes and the fresh vegetation, and Olives and dates, and

enclosed Gardens, dense with lofty trees, and fruits and Foddera provision for

you and your cattle.


The Holy Qur'an 80:24-32

The history of yield increases is plotted in Figure 12. Yields increased relatively slowly until modern methods of genetics and plant breeding ushered in the period of the so-called "Green Revolution." The Green Revolution was an enormously significant event in human history. [14] Without it, human needs for land would already have exceeded the land available. As a result of the Green Revolution, yields have increased at about 2.1 percent per year. Furthermore, wheat prices in constant U.S. dollars have declined since the middle of the last century and rice prices have declined since the middle of this century.

While these trends in yields and prices are apparently reassuring, a deeper look raises many concerns about the long-term viability of the trends in input-intensive agriculture.

Mainstream agricultural methods create serious resource and environmental problems: surface and underground water pollution due to run-off of chemicals and animal waste, erosion and compaction of soils, energy dependence (see Figure 13), depletion of underground water deposits, and worker and community health problems. These weaknesses in mainstream agriculture, and alternatives to them are described in two major, path-breaking reports, Agroecology [15] and Alternative Agriculture. [16]

While these reports provide a critically important service in critiquing mainstream, input-intensive agriculture, they do not provide a sense of agricultural yields to be expected globally in the future. The only recent comprehensive analysis of this extremely important matter seems to have been done by Professor Vernon W. Ruttan, Regents Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. The following paragraphs summarize his principal findings:

Our Genetic Resource

All methods of increasing food production are essentially "tinkering" with Earth's ecosystem, and "[t]o save every cog and wheel," wrote the great American naturalist Aldo Leopold, "is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." [18] We are not saving every cog and wheel. We are throwing away the parts of the ecosystem left and right, as illustrated in Figure 14. By early in the 21st century, species will be vanishing forever at a rate of hundreds per day.

A species that becomes extinct, that disappears forever, can easily be seen as a "nonproblem," since it just vanishes and we hear no more about it. But the rapidly increasing losses of species is a very serious problem. Species are valuable for many reasons.

First and foremost, the community of all life is like a sky full of stars, and it is the whole sky full of stars, not human technology, that allows life on Earth to continue. We humans have been making our star to shine brighter and brighter, not even noticing that the other lights in the sky are being eclipsed. Each time we crowd out another species, it is an aesthetic and spiritual loss for all of us. Children born today will have no opportunity to see a third of the species that were here during the lives of their parents and grandparents.

There are pragmatic reasons for concern, too. Both conventional and biotechnical methods of increasing yields require diversity in the germplasm for major crops, but the diversity of available germplasm is declining daily. The wild races and strains of crop plants on which plant breeders depend will largely be lost over the next few decades as more and more marginal land is brought into cultivation. [19]

P.H. 1993. Personal communication.

Dr. Peter H. Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a world-renowned expert on the diversity of Earth's species, summarizes the practical concerns as follows:

In fact, the loss of biological diversity is important to us for many reasons. Only about 150 kinds of food plants are used extensively; only about 5,000 have ever been used. Three species of plants -- rice, wheat and corn -- supply more than half of all human energy requirements. However, there may be tens of thousands of additional kinds of plants that could provide human food if their properties were fully explored and brought into cultivation. Many of these plants come to us from the tropics.

Further, there are numerous uses for tropical plants other than for food. Oral contraceptives for many years were produced from Mexican yams; muscle relaxants used in surgery come from an Amazonian vine traditionally used to poison darts; the cure for Hodgkin's disease comes from the rosy periwinkle, a native of Madagascar; and the gene pool of corn has recently been enriched by the discovery, in a small area of the mountains of Mexico, of a wild, perennial relative. Among the undiscovered or poorly known plants are doubtless many possible sources of medicines, oils, waxes, fibers and other useful commodities for our modern industrial society.

Furthermore, as genetic engineering expands the possibilities for the transfer of genes from one kind of organism to another -- indeed, as our scientific techniques become even more sophisticated -- we could come to depend even more heavily on biological diversity than we do now. [20]

One particularly dangerous false and popular notion current today is that with a collection of seeds from endangered species, biologists can restore the ecosystems containing these species, should we ever need them. Scientists cannot recreate lost species, and even if they had all the species, biologists would have no idea, even with billions of dollars and thousands of scientists, how to recreate, for example, a tropical rainforest. [21]

Our Energy

The uncertainties about the future of agriculture involve not only future yield increases, but also the fundamental change that modern high-yield methods have brought to agriculture. Agriculture once was a means of capturing solar energy in the form of edible food calories. This is no longer true. Under high-tech, high-yield agriculture, solar energy has essentially become a catalyst for transmuting fossil fuels into food. Food grains produced with modern, high-yield methods now contains between four and ten calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of solar energy. These fossil fuel inputs are for pesticides, fertilizers, tractor fuel, truck fuel, irrigation energy, crop drying, and for other uses (see Table 2). Meat produced by feeding grains to animals contains only about ten percent of the calories contained in the feed grains.

Modern agriculture's dependence on fossil fuels ties the world's food supplies tightly to the world's energy supplies, especially petroleum and natural gas. Already the cost of energy intensive agricultural inputs (fertilizers, etc.) cost farmers 10 to 15 percent of the value of the crop produced. [22]

If agricultural yields are to increase by 100-200 percent, much fossil fuel energy must flow into agriculture. Should energy costs increase, farmers' costs will increase throughout the world, and they will be forced to increase their prices or go out of business. Many people who have become accustomed to eating food grown with energy-intensive, high-yield methods may not be able to afford such food in the future.

Table 2: The Energy Input for Various Items Used in U.S. Corn Production

Energy Item

Percent of Input


  (1000 kcal/ha.)  




Draft animals






















































Source: Pimentel, D. and Wen, D. Technological Changes in Energy Use in U.S. Agricultural Production.

In: Carrol, C. R.; Vandermeer, J. H.; and Rosset, P. M. 1990. Agroecology. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. p. 152.

Data are for 1983, the latest reported.

While increased yields are important, the ability to grow more food on experimental plots is not enough. A solution to the hunger problem (and the farm problem) requires sustainable methods to grow more food that farmers can sell profitably at prices so low that the neediest can afford to buy it. Since the future of farmers' costs and the future of the world's food supplies and costs are now directly linked to the future of the world's fossil fuels, we must turn to the matter of the future of energy for the world.

There are several sources of commercial energy in use in the human economy today. They include coal, natural gas, petroleum, nuclear fuels (uranium and plutonium), and renewable energy supplies such as fuel wood, water, wind, and solar energy. Electricity is not a source of commercial energy but rather an energy form derived from one of the sources listed above.

For the modern industrial economy, petroleum (oil) has been particularly important because it can be refined into useful fluid fuels (especially gasoline, fuel oil, and kerosene) that have a high energy content per unit of weight and are relatively safe to store, transport, and utilize. In fact, the whole industrial economy of the world is designed primarily around oil-based commercial energy. The future of oil is therefore very important both to development prospects generally and for food production in particular.

[D]oubling of consumption at constant time intervals can bring disaster with

shocking suddenness. Even when a nonrenewable resource has been only half

used, it is still only one interval away from the end.


E. O. Wilson

Much is known about the future availability of oil. Petroleum geologists have determined by four independent methods that the total amount of oil in Earth when we first started using it in 1900 was about 2,000 billion barrels. [23] This total includes all of the oil known in 1900, all that has been discovered to date, and reliable, stable estimates of all of the additional oil that will be discovered in the future. * In other words, 2,000 billion barrels is all we ever had or will have.

The outer boundary of Figure 15A represents this initial resource in "Earth's fuel tank." The width of the various compartments in the fuel tank indicate the initial resource -known and yet-to-be-discovered -- in North America, South America, the republics of the former Soviet Union, Africa, Europe, Asia-Oceania, and the Middle East.

Figure 15A: Distribution of Earth's original (1900) total petroleum resource.

Figure 15B: Distribution of Earth's petroleum resources remaining by 2010, assuming no increase in current rates of utilization.

Source: Masters, C. D.; Root, D. H.; and Attanasi, E. D. 1991.

"Resource Constraints in Petroleum Production Potential." Science. vol. 253. 12 July 1991. pp. 146-152.

Since 1900, oil has been steadily drawn from Earth's fuel tank, and this production has lowered the overall level in the tank and altered the relative level in the regional compartments. If current rates of production were to continue unchanged until 2010, the relative levels in the regional compartments would be as shown in Figure 15B. (If the rates of production were to increase to assist in the economic development of the countries of the South, the levels would be still lower.) The shaded area in Figure 15B represents oil remaining; the white area represents the now-empty part of Earth's fuel tank. The regional distribution of oil shown in Figure 15B has significant implications for the world energy market. By 2010, approximately half of the oil remaining will be in a single compartment, the one in the Middle East. As long as several producing regions control more than half of the total resource, the international market can be expected to respond effectively to occasional disruptions in production. By 2010, however, any dislocations in the Middle East must be expected to have global consequences that will be beyond the control of other producing regions. [24]

How long will the fuel in Earth's oil tank last? It is possible to give a reasonably precise answer to this question based on what we know about petroleum and its use. Petroleum production began at zero in 1900 (when petroleum was first produced commercially), and increased at about 7 percent per year through 1973 (see Figure 16). Although sudden price increases in 1973 and 1979 broke the exponential trend in petroleum production, some increase in production is still expected over the next few decades. [25]

Ultimately, however, petroleum production must peak and return to zero when all of Earth's total supply of 2000 billion barrels has been used. By about 2025 a rapid decline in petroleum use must begin. Within the lifetime of a child born today, virtually all of Earth's petroleum will be burned, and Earth's fuel tank will have gone from full to empty.

By leveling off oil use at the current rate (about 21 billion barrels per year), it would be possible to delay the fall-off in the availability of oil for perhaps ten or fifteen years, but there will never be large increases in the availability of petroleum to fuel development in the countries of the South. This fact has major implications for the development prospects for both the South and the North.

The industrial style development characteristic of the North is fundamentally a process of replacing human labor -- man, woman, and child power -- with other forms of power derived from commercial energy sources. The energy is needed not only for daily ongoing activities such as powering factories, household conveniences, transportation systems, and energy processing, but also in the construction and maintenance of buildings, roads, equipment, and other economic infrastructure and capital that is now so characteristic of the "developed" countries of the North.

To build industrialized economies modeled on the North, the countries of the South would require enormous quantities of a particular type of energy-fluid fuels. Northern economies are designed to operate on fluid fuels, especially gasoline, because such fuels contain much usable energy for their weight. One gallon of gasoline provides the equivalent of two and a half weeks of human labor. [26] Where could this fluid-fuel energy come from? Not from petroleum, as pointed out above.

The U.S. Department of Energy has investigated probable future prices of petroleum assuming competition from all other sources of energy (see Figure 17). [27] Until the 1973 oil embargo, the average global energy price (in 1982 dollars per barrel equivalent) was approximately $10 and declining slowly. In 1973 the price of oil doubled. Then in 1979, prices doubled again to about $40 per barrel as a result of decisions by the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Since 1979, energy prices have declined as a result of four factors: energy conservation, a slowing of the global economy during the early 1980s, increased petroleum production in the United States and in the North Sea, and the desire of OPEC members for high annual incomes. The outlook now is for prices to increase again toward the end of the century.

Figure 17: International price of imported crude oil from 1860 (first commercial oil production) to the present and a mid-level projection, 1990-2010.

Source: Energy Information Administration. 1992. Annual Energy Outlook 1992. Washington: U.S. Department of Energy. DOE/EIA-3083 (92). p. 6; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 1989.

Energy and Technology R&D--What Could Make a Difference? as reported in: U.S. Department of Energy. 1991.

National Energy Strategy. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

These and other petroleum price projections assume only modest increases in the use of energy in the countries of the South. The South is simply not assumed to "develop," meaning that energy use per capita in the South is assumed not to approach that in the North. If instead one assumed substantial development (i.e., substantial growth in per capita energy utilization) in the South, the depletion of the world's petroleum resource would proceed more rapidly and the price increases for petroleum and other forms of energy by the end of the decade would be higher than shown in Figure 17.

The depletion of the global petroleum resource does not present a serious problem if some other form of energy replaces fluid-fuels at comparable prices and without creating serious environmental problems. Although there are large coal reserves around the world, burning this coal would produce unacceptable quantities of carbon dioxide, and converting the coal to synthetic fluid fuels (oil or gas) before burning would produce even more carbon dioxide than burning the coal directly. Nuclear,* solar, wind, and thermal power can produce electricity, but cannot produce efficiently the fluid fuels on which all industrial economies now depend. The least costly and least polluting option readily available is to radically increase the efficiency with which energy is used everywhere. [28]

The spectre of the unavailability of energy in a form and quality usable in an expanded global economy has not, as yet, affected the workings of the marketplace. Several decades will be needed to make an orderly transition to a world energy economy beyond the era of petroleum. We are already at the point of needing an alternative to the petroleum economy, and yet no transition is in progress to an energy economy that will meet the needs of all peoples. Yet, as can be seen in Figures 16 and 17, there has been essentially no response by the market mechanism.

Part of the reason for the lack of action on global energy for sustainable development is the United Nations System of National Accounts (UNSNA). Under this system, the primary measure of how well a nation's economy is doing is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a measure of the total goods and services produced by a country during a year. This grading system for nations takes no account of declining "natural capital" such as oil deposits. In fact, under the UNSNA a nation's resources have "value" only after they are used. The faster a nation converts its resources (for example, petroleum) into "goods" and its "goods" into wastes -- the faster the "throughput" of resources to waste and pollution -- the higher the nation's marks on the GDP scale. Even the $1 billion cost of the grossly inadequate cleanup after the Valdez oil spill in Alaska increased the U.S. GDP, giving the totally false impression that oil spills are good for the U.S. and other economies.

Although efforts are being made to revise the UNSNA, [29] there is strong resistance to change. Part of the resistance to change is based on a strong faith that the greed and self-interest underlying the market mechanism foresee all economic, resource, and environmental problems, and that the market mechanism will steer the ship of state safely through the rocks ahead. The difficulty is that the market mechanism is so short-sighted that it can scarcely see beyond the bridge and certainly not as far as the rocks ahead.

The limited foresight provided by the market is a result of basing market decisions on "present values." There are three difficulties with this approach. First, the market mechanism works only for those who have the money necessary to be a part of the market. This is why, as far as the market mechanism is concerned, countries of the South are not now and never will be of a significant factor in world petroleum markets.

Second, the present value method of valuing future costs and benefits, which is now incorporated into all business calculators, allows individuals and corporations in a market system to look ahead, only as far as the discount rate (essentially the prevailing interest rate) permits -- about ten years at a 7 percent discount rate, seven years at 10 percent, and about one year at 70 percent. The higher the interest rate, the more short-sighted market decisions become. For the market mechanism to look ahead, the decades needed to develop a new global energy system would require interest rates everywhere to be kept in the range of 1 percent to 2 percent.

Some faith traditions say that all societal decisions should be made based on the welfare of the seventh generation in the future, which means considering costs and benefits for the whole society about 140 years into the future. For the market to consider the interests of the seventh generation, interest rates would have to be kept below half of one percent (0.5%).

The third difficulty with present values is that they weigh future costs and benefits to the individual or corporation making the decision, and as a result, costs and benefits to the society as a whole are ignored as "externalities." Successful market-oriented national economies have developed many institutions and procedures to limit the neglect of externalities such as pollution and to control false advertising, dangerous products, and abuse of labor. The former centrally-planned economies of the world lack not only the entrepreneurial experience required in a market economy but also the regulatory institutions that limit the most rapacious and destructive aspects of capitalism. It is no wonder that they are finding the transition from a planned economy to a market economy difficult.

The market mechanism, as it functions in international trade, strongly favors the industrialized countries of the North and multinational corporations. The key international agreement concerning international trade is the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT). Currently the GATT agreements encourage the sale of Southern resources to the North at unreasonably low prices, encourage practices that bring toxic pollutants to the South, accelerate the destruction of genetic resources in the South, and discourage value-added processing of resources of the South. [31]

The point is simply this: Decisions concerning the global energy economy would be very different if they were based on the costs and benefits to the seventh generation and on a different system of national accounts. The future costs of present resource consumption, waste production, and pollution generation would then not be ignored. As things are, the limited world supplies of petroleum and the inability of the market mechanism to stimulate an early transition to a new global energy economy that can accommodate development in the South mean that the countries of the South face an impossible task of development, at least as "development" is now understood.

Our Environment

Human numbers, wealth, poverty, technology, and beliefs are now having planet-wide consequences. [32] The energy and agricultural scenarios sketched above have several large environmental implications. One of particular concern is certain chemicals that human activities are releasing into the atmosphere. Some of these chemicals are altering the planet's temperature-regulating systems, threatening to change the climate and temperature of the whole Earth. Others are depleting Earth's protective layer of stratospheric ozone, increasing the amount of dangerous ultraviolet light reaching ground level.

The greenhouse gases

A number of so-called "greenhouse gases" have the property of allowing high frequency solar radiation to pass through the atmosphere to the surface of Earth where the radiation is absorbed, providing warmth to Earth. These gases (carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbon 12, methane, chlorofluorocarbon 11, nitrous oxide, ozone (stratosphere), ozone (troposphere), and other chlorofluorocarbons) block the transmission of low frequency heat radiation back into space. The net effect of the greenhouse gases is to trap solar energy and keep the temperature of Earth within a range in which approximately 3 million species can live. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases can disrupt the operation of the planet's temperature-regulating systems and cause the temperature of Earth to rise. [33]

Currently, the concentrations of all greenhouse gases are rising. Most alarming are the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide (see Figure 18). Northern transportation and industry are the principal sources, but Southern deforestation is also very significant.

Figure 18: Carbon dioxide concentrations, historical and projected.

Source: IPCC Working Group I. June 1990. Policymakers Summary of the Scientific Assessment on Climate Change.

"Business-as-usual" scenario. Nairobi: U.N. Environment Programme. pp. 7-9.

As a result of the increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gases, the temperature of the entire planet is expected to begin increasing soon. The best estimate currently available of global temperature change comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been established jointly by the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Programme. The IPCC estimates that the average temperature of the planet will increase by about 2.5°C by 2100 (see Figure 19).


For the first time in 1991 the effect of ozone depletion (discussed below) on the overall temperature of Earth was calculated and measured. It was found that ozone depletion cools Earth so much that ozone depletion may have offset and masked a significant part of the temperature increase to be expected from greenhouse gases over the past decade.


On first hearing, an increase of 2.5°C does not sound alarming. Local day-to-day temperature changes are much larger. On a planetary scale, however, an increase of 2.5°C has enormous significance. It is a change of a magnitude unprecedented since the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Furthermore, the pollutants causing this global disaster are expected to continue accumulating in the atmosphere for at least several decades (see Figure 18), so the ultimate temperature rise could easily be even larger.

A major concern associated with temperature increase is a rise in the sea level and the flooding of low-lying coastal areas. Nearly a third of all humans live within 60 km (37 miles) of a coastline, and some of the world's most productive biological systems are also in coastal areas. The IPCC projects a sea-level rise of 60 cm by 2100 unless corrective measures are taken very soon. This projection takes into account both thermal expansion of sea water and melting of glaciers. Even if increases in greenhouse gas concentrations were to stop suddenly in 2030, the momentum of change would cause an increase in the sea level of 40 cm by 2100. [36]

U.N. Environment Programme. p. 25. The historical data are from Hanson, J. E. 1988.

As reported in Shabecoff, P. "Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate." The New York Times. 24 June 1988. p. A1.

The impacts on human settlements and the whole community of life are large. A 20-30 cm sea-level rise poses problems for low-lying coastal zones (for example, much of Bangladesh) and for island countries. Such a rise will destroy productive land and freshwater resources. A 100 cm rise (the high projection for 2100) would destroy several countries, displace large populations, destroy low-lying urban infrastructure, inundate productive lands, contaminate freshwater supplies, and alter coastlines. These effects could not be prevented except at enormous cost. [37]

Other effects of 2.5°C global warming will vary greatly from region to region. Some areas will experience only a modest temperature increase of a degree or so; other areas will experience changes two or more times the average. Major cropping areas of the world will be shifted, causing dislocations and disruptions. Exactly where these shifts will occur is beyond the predictive capabilities of current models on even the largest supercomputers. If cropping areas should move into regions of poorer soils, yields would likely fall or food become more expensive because of the additional fertilizer needed to maintain yields. As cropping areas move, existing agriculture infrastructure, capital equipment, and farm labor will be idled, and in the new areas infrastructure, capital, and labor will be inadequate to take advantage of the new conditions.

With increased carbon dioxide concentrations, crop plants will grow faster, but weeds will grow faster, too. In some areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the growth of weed species is expected to increase more than the growth of crop species.

As air warms, its capacity to hold moisture increases, and this implies changes for Earth's hydrologic cycle. Most climate models project an overall increase in precipitation of 7-11 percent from 1960-2030. [38] Increased evaporation rates, however, would lead to dryer soils in major cropping areas, a situation with adverse implications for seed germination rates and crop yields. Greater fluctuations in river flows will increase the damage done by droughts and floods. The stress on dams, reservoirs, channels, and dikes will also be increased as these important facilities experience more frequent storm flows that exceed their design capacity.

Some cities would become much warmer. Currently temperatures in Washington, DC, for example, exceed 100°F only one day per year and 90°F only 35 days per year. By 2030, there could be 12 days over 100°F and 85 days over 90°F. Other cities around the world can expect similar changes.

The ozone layer

Part of the radiation the sun sends toward Earth is harmful to virtually all forms of life. Fortunately, there is a layer of stratospheric ozone surrounding Earth that absorbs and blocks much of this harmful radiation, which is known as ultraviolet B, or simply UV-B. Without the protection of this invisible ozone shield, all life on Earth would be endangered by UV-B radiation.

Source: Global Environmental Monitoring System. 1987.

The Ozone Layer. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme. p. 23;

and Bowman, K. P. 1988. "Global Trends in Total Ozone." Science. 1 January 1988. pp. 48-50. Watson, R. T. and Albritton, D.C. 1991.

Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1991. Geneva: World Meteorological Organization, p. ES-v.

Note: Although there are no data on ozone concentrations above Halley Bay earlier than 1957,

many scientists feel the very constant concentrations during the 1957 to 1970 period probably extend well back in time,

as shown in the figure.

In 1985 scientists discovered, quite by accident, a continent-sized "hole" in Earth's ozone shield over Antarctica. (Measurements showing the formation of the hole were actually made by instruments on a satellite in the late 1970s, but the measured concentrations of ozone were so low that they were disregarded for years as an "obvious" measurement error.) The hole varies in size and depth from season to season. In some spots the ozone has been found depleted by as much as 60 percent. Figure 20 shows ozone declines measured in the ozone hole. [39]

Table 3: Trace Gases Affecting Ozone Concentrations

Average Average Annual lifetime global rate of in concentra-increase atmosphere tion (ppbv) (percent) Gas (years)

CFC-11 75 CFC-12 110 CFC-113 90 Halon 110

0.23 5 0.4 5 0.02 7 very low 11

nitrous 150 304 0.25 oxide

carbon 0.4 variable 0-2 monoxide

carbon 7 344,000 0.4 dioxide

methane 11 1,650 1

Source: UNEP/GEMS. 1987. "The Ozone Layer." Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.

The discovery of the "hole" in the ozone layer was a total surprise. No scientific theory and no computer model predicted the possibility of such a hole, and a full scientific explanation has still not been developed. No one knew if the hole would spread, endangering life over the whole planet.

As soon as the extremely low measurements of ozone concentrations were recognized as valid, intense research efforts were begun to determine the cause of stratospheric ozone depletion, to predict future trends, and to assess the ecological consequences of increased UV-B radiation. As a result of this research it is now known that the release of the chemicals shown in Table 3 adversely affect ozone concentrations. Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemicals do 80 percent of the damage to the ozone layer. A decade or more is needed for these chemicals to migrate from the surface of Earth to the stratosphere, and once there, they catalyze ozone-depleting reactions for 75-110 years. Each CFC molecule can destroy 100,000 molecules of ozone. A 1 percent reduction of stratospheric ozone increases UV-B radiation at Earth's surface by 2 percent.

An increase in the amount of ultraviolet radiation will cause an increased number of cancers, especially skin cancers in humans and other animals. Scientists estimated that a 1 percent increase in UV-B would result in a 2 percent increase in skin cancers of light-skinned people. [40] (Dark-skinned people are not as susceptible.) Caught early, wart-like melanoma tumors can be cured by surgical removal, but once the malignancy spreads to other parts of the body, it is among the most lethal and aggressive of cancers, resisting both chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

In addition to increasing melanomas, more exposure to UV-B radiation increases the general susceptibility to all cancers and infections. This is because exposure to UV-B impairs the effectiveness of the body's immune system, which helps fight cancer cells as well as infections.

An increase in UV-B would also increase the incidence of cataracts and other eye disease. The human retina is especially sensitive to damaging sunburn, but since there are no pain sensors in that part of the eye, we do not feel the burning.

Many crop plants and forest species are adversely affected by ultraviolet light. UV-B can slow growth, interfere with germination, damage plant hormones and chlorophyll, and, as a result, reduce the total plant mass produced during the growing season.

UV-B penetrates several meters in clear water and threatens many aquatic organisms. Single-celled algae, the beginning of the aquatic food chain, are seriously threatened. Experiments show that all anchovy larvae are killed to a depth of 10 meters by 15 days' exposure to UV-B at an intensity 20 percent higher than normal.

In September 1987, representatives of 24 countries met in Montreal to consider the problem. As with the greenhouse gases, the ozone-depleting chemicals are produced primarily by the wealthy, consuming countries of the North. CFCs are used in aerosols, refrigeration equipment, solvents, and foam producing agents, and there was reluctance on the part of Northern industrial and political leaders to ban them entirely. Instead, the Montreal Protocol called for a 50 percent reduction in CFC production in the 24 signatory countries by 1997.

Following the 1987 meeting, evidence accumulated that the protective ozone shield was thinning more rapidly than expected and that less damaging chemicals and processes could be developed more quickly and less expensively than industry leaders had expected. In 1990 the treaty's signatories met in London and adopted a deadline for phasing out the most damaging chemicals by 2000.

In 1992 the signatories (now 87 countries) met again and agreed to move up the phaseout deadlines as follows: 1996 for chlorofluorocarbons, 1994 for halons, and 2030 for hydro-chlorofluorocarbons. For methyl bromide, a previously unregulated ozone-depleting pesticide, it was only agreed to limit 1995 production to 1991 levels. [41] The situation at present is dangerous but hopeful. [42] From 1979 to 1992, the amount of total column ozone has decreased over most of the planet. Worldwide losses in 1992 were the largest ever recorded, probably due in part to the debris injected into the stratosphere by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. There are now for the first time significant decreases in ozone concentrations during the spring and summer in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the middle and high latitudes, where most humans live.

The ozone hole over Antarctica has become larger and deeper. Ozone losses have also been observed now over the Arctic, but no massive hole comparable to that over the South Pole has opened in the North.

There is strong evidence now that the ozone depletion is due primarily to chlorine and bromine containing industrial chemicals. Since stratospheric abundances of chlorine and bromine will increase at least until 2000, significant further losses of ozone must be expected at middle latitudes and in the polar regions.

Large increases in ultraviolet light have been observed at ground level in Antarctica. In the mid-latitudes, increases of ultraviolet light of about 12 percent occurred during the 1992-93 season of depletion, which now extends into the summer months.

If the Montreal Protocol is strengthened to limit further the emissions of chlorine and bromine-containing compounds, if all countries sign the protocol and fully comply with its provisions, and if no further surprises develop, the damage done to Earth's protective ozone shield might be repaired within about 100 years. A hundred countries (including India and China), however, have not signed the protocol.

Our Poverty, Violence, Hatred, and Despair

The issues discusses above -- population, food, land, energy, species, climate change, stratosphere, ozone depletion -- are all interrelated, and many other issues could be added to the list. The unchecked pandemic of the virus that causes AIDS has not even been mentioned. Nor has the reemergence of tuberculosis as a major disease that is furthered by AIDS, homelessness and poverty and that may kill even more people than AIDS. Nor has the global debt problem been mentioned, and the fact that net capital flows are now from that South to the North rather than from the North to the South. Water problems -- both quantity and quality -- are rapidly developing virtually everywhere. While the Cold War seems to be at an end, nuclear weapons having destructive power equivalent to 5,000 times all the weapons used in World War II are still with us, and the nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union are now under looser control than earlier. Toxic and radioactive wastes continue to accumulate with no satisfactory disposal methods in sight. Corruption, especially when related to drug trafficking, is bringing tragedy and despair to many communities and countries. The technologies needed to produce biological and chemical weapons, conventional weapons, and terrorist bombs are now much more widely available. Patent laws reward wealthy countries that can afford education and research and penalize poorer countries that can't. Education itself has become vital to the security and prosperity of every country. One could go on and on.

But there is one more issue that stands out from all the rest: What we are doing to Earth, we are doing to ourselves. The breaking of life-sustaining relationships in the biosphere parallels the breaking of life-sustaining relationships in the human community, our most critically important resource.

An old story from the book of Genesis in the Jewish Torah provides an illustration:

So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had and Lot with him, into the Negeb.

Now Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold . . . . And Lot . . . also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together . . . and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle . . . .

Then Abram said to Lot, "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen; for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.

And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord . . . . So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan valley . . . . Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan . . . . [43]

This is the story of two wealthy families that together could not be supported by the land. As the environment deteriorated and adversely impacted their wealth (cattle) and income, there was fighting between their servants. To preserve family unity, Abram wisely proposed that the two families part and live separately where the land could support them.

Abram's solution worked again and again for centuries. As long as "the whole land was before [us]," we could separate, migrate from country to country, continent to continent and settle where the land could support us. But the whole land is no longer before us. Now that we are 5 billion, much of the land cannot "support [us] dwelling together," and there is no well-watered Jordan valley waiting to be settled.

How will we respond now that the whole land is no longer before us? How will we respond when the deteriorating environment and resource base impacts on our wealth and income? Probably we will respond the same way that Abram's and Lot's herdsmen responded: in strife. Probably there will be more violence, hatred, and despair.

Already there are conflicts between communities and nations over land, water, oil, fish, "pollution rights," acid rain, genetic resources, forests, and many other resources. And such conflicts can be expected to intensify and to exacerbate already frayed relationships between nations, between women and men, between adults and children, and between peoples of differing cultures, races, and faiths. Some of the conflict will be motivated by greed, some by extreme poverty, and some by despair.

If we do these things in the greenwood,

What will happen in the dry?


From Greenwood by Peter Yarrow

In Zaire, for example, it is greed and corruption. Despite the fact that Zaire has rich deposits of cobalt, copper, and diamonds and rich agricultural lands, clean water, and inexpensive electric power, the World Bank in 1992 ranked it as the world's 12th poorest country with income of $220 per capita. The reason is primarily corruption and repression led by President Mobutu Sese Seko himself. Mobutu treats the country's funds as his own and has chateaux in Spain and Belgium and other major properties in Paris, Monte Carlo, Switzerland, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast. The repression is brutal. Soldiers in plain khaki uniforms -- the so-called "Owls" -- roar through the capital most nights in unmarked vehicles attacking and killing uncounted people considered political threats to Mobutu.

In September 1992 tensions were high after Mobutu canceled a national political conference called to draft a new constitution and schedule a multi-party election. Then a group of Mobutu's elite soldiers, angry because they had not been paid, began looting and burning the city. Soon civilians joined in. In short order, the industry was destroyed and the housing burned. Medical and other professionals fled, followed by foreign nationals and their investments, and everyone else who could leave. In just a week the trust that held the society together vanished and the society with it. [44]

The story of the Ik told by anthropologist Colin Turnbull is another example of how the resource of "community" can vanish. The Ik, a tribe of nomadic hunters in the mountains separating Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya, lost their hunting area and were forced to become "farmers" in an area not suited to settled agriculture. The result was chronic near-starvation for everyone and reduction of life expectancy to perhaps 20 years. Over the course of just three generations, the society lost all of the qualities we normally think of as human. Walled into compounds and fearful of each neighbor, their only goal was individual survival. A man and a woman no longer married for love, but because each thought they knew how to exploit the other. The only remaining concept of "good" was associated with food: A good person was a person with food -- nothing more, nothing less.

Turnbull's story of Adupa, one of the Ik children, and her "insane" attempt to preserve love in her family and community illustrates what can happen to human values as environmental conditions and human community deteriorate.

Hunger was indeed more severe than I knew, and the children were the next to go. It was all quite impersonal -- even to me, in most cases . . . . But Adupa was an exception. Her stomach grew more and more distended, and her legs and arms more spindly. [She was mad, and her] madness was such that she did not know just how vicious humans could be . . . .

Even worse, she thought that her parents were loving . . . . Adupa . . . brought

them food that she had scrounged from somewhere. They snatched that quickly

enough. But when she came for shelter they drove her out, and when she came

because she was hungry they laughed, . . . as if she had made them happy . . . .

Partly through her madness, and partly because she was nearly dead anyway, her reactions became slower and slower. When she managed to find food -- fruit peels, skins, bits of bone, half-eaten berries, whatever -- she held it in her hand and looked at it with wonder and delight, savoring its taste before she ate it. Her playmates caught on quickly, and used to watch her wandering around, and even put tidbits in her way, and watched her simple drawn little face wrinkle in a smile as she looked at the food and savored it while it was yet in her hand. Then as she raised her hand to her mouth they set on her with cries of excitement, fun and laughter, beat her savagely over the head and left her.

I took to feeding her, which is probably the cruelest thing I could have done, a

gross selfishness on my part to try and salve and save, indeed, my own rapidly

disappearing conscience. I had to protect her, physically, as I fed her. But the

others would beat her anyway, and Adupa cried, not because of the pain in her

body, but because of the pains she felt at that great, vast empty wasteland where

love should have been.

It was that that killed her. She demanded that her parents love her. She kept going back to their compound . . . . Finally they took her in, and Adupa was happy and stopped crying. She stopped crying forever, because her parents went away and closed the asak tight behind them, so tight that weak little Adupa could never have moved it if she had tried. But I doubt that she even thought of trying. She waited for them to come back with the food they promised her. When they came back she was still waiting for them. It was a week or ten days later, and her body was already almost too far gone to bury. In an Ik village who would notice the smell? And if she had cried, who would have noticed that? Her parents took what was left of her and threw it out, as one does the riper garbage, a good distance away . . . . [45]

Turnbull observed and wrote about the Ik into the early 1970s, and since then many other communities have experienced the forces of poverty, oppression, violence, and hatred that destroy communities and create despair. In most cases, there was no anthropologist like Turnbull there to record what happened to a community, but we do have anecdotal information from news accounts. In El Salvador, for example, we know that community continues to be torn by the knowledge that hundreds on both sides of the civil war committed atrocities. In Eastern Europe and republics of the former Soviet Union, community is being shredded by continuing discoveries of neighbors and friends who were informers for the secret police.

As community fails in one country or region, it has implications for other countries and regions. Now as desperate people from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America attempt to relocate, they find they are not welcome in other lands. Over the 1984 to 1992 period, the number of people seeking asylum in Western Europe leaped from 100 thousand per year to 700 thousand people per year, a sevenfold increase in eight years. In response, asylum-granting procedures slowed and now stretch over seven years in Germany. Most applications are now rejected. Smugglers now transport not only illegal materials but also people into the Nordic countries. [46] The costs to Western European Governments of caring for the applicants and those rejected but not deported totaled $8.3 billion in 1992. [47]

The problem, of course, is not limited to Western Europe. Refugees are trying to escape from persecution, environmental deterioration, and economic collapse wherever they occur throughout the world. Desperate people are now willing to sell themselves into what amounts to slavery. Women have a particularly difficult time, and many are being driven to prostitution, even as young as eight years old. [48]

Another measure of the deterioration of community is provided by what is not in our news reports. In spite of the fact that 40,000 infants and children die each day of hunger

[49] and complications of malnutrition, starving children are not featured in the evening news programs or on the front page. After decades, they are no longer "news."

Increasingly in the industrialized North and among the wealthy classes of the South, the poor are thought of as "them," somehow different from "us." The focus shifts from love and compassion to distancing and objectifying, to valuing anything that keeps "us" from being like "them." [50]

But as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has noted, this shift to objectifying is not a realistic model:

[L]ook at wealth and poverty. The affluent society and the society deprived of

everything inter-are. The wealth of one society is made of the poverty of the

other. "This is like this, because that is like that." Wealth is made of non-wealth

elements, and poverty is made of non-poverty elements . . . .

We are not separate. We are inextricably interrelated. The rose is garbage, and the non-prostitute is the prostitute. The rich man is the very poor woman, and the Buddhist is the non-Buddhist. The non-Buddhist cannot help but be a Buddhist, because we inter-are. The emancipation of the young prostitute will come as she sees into the nature of inter-being. She will know that she is bearing the fruit of the whole world. And if we look into ourselves and see her, we bear her pain, and the pain of the whole world. [51]

To preserve and foster this sense of community that Thich Nhat Hanh calls "inter-are," we urgently need alternatives to despair and tragedy, and examples are emerging. [52] One is the city of Curitiba, the tenth-largest city in Brazil. Here, the mayor Jaime Lerner and the citizens of Curitiba have worked together to produce a first-world city in the third world.

Mayor Lerner, an architect turned political leader, builds community while thinking small and cheap. Subways, for example, do not appeal to him because they are expensive and time consuming to build. Using tube-shaped loading platforms and special buses, Lerner has built a municipal transit system as efficient as a subway. The tube stations are elevated so that people walk directly into the bus rather than up steps. Passengers pay their fares at turnstiles on entering the tube station rather than on entering the bus. People board at two per second, eight times as fast as on a conventional bus. Selected streets are reserved for buses, and as a result, buses travel at an average of 32 km/h (20 m.p.h.) and can transport more than three times as many people per day as conventional buses.

Another key to the mass transit system is integration of all modes of transport -- cars, buses, trains, streetcars, boats, and bicycles. A 90-mile bike path offers an attractive alternative to motorized transport and has become a vital part of the city's transportation system.

Only two decades ago, the city had just 0.46 sq. m. (5 sq. ft.) of open space per person. Now, Curitiba has 51 sq. m. (550 sq. ft.) per person -- three and a half times as much as New York City. Lerner feels that parks and high quality public transport give dignity to citizens and encourage them to take responsibility for helping with other problems.

And help they do. Over 20 years, 1.5 million trees have been planted. Seventy percent of the people regularly participate in the recycling program. Vouchers for surplus food encourage slum dwellers to bring in and recycle trash. Recovering alcoholics and homeless men work the trash sorting lines. Small businesses adopt street children. There is community. [53]

Like Mayor Lerner, Iceland's President Vigdis Finnbogadottir listens to the people and motivates them. When she became president of this largely deforested island, she announced that the people must bring their children to all of her speeches. Now after each speech, she and the children go out together to plant three trees: one for the girls, one for the boys, and one for the unborn. After she leaves, the girls must care for their trees, the boys for theirs, and together the girls and boys must care for the tree for the unborn. [54]

Another model is provided by the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) in San Salvador. Dr. Ricardo Navarro, an ecologist and engineer, left a university position to form CESTA, which focuses on bringing technology to the service of people and on bringing peace to a community divided by a brutal civil war.

To bring technology to the people, CESTA operates a school to teach people how to build and repair bicycles and pedal-powered tools, such as the bici-taxi, bici-mill, bicicompressor, bici-garbage collector, and bici-carts. They also produce wheelchairs for the many maimed in the war. "El Salvador will never have enough gasoline to give everybody a car, so what we need are bicycles and pedal-powered tools," says Dr. Navarro.

Another technology CESTA promotes is composting latrines. "For our people to stay healthy, we need clean, non-polluting latrines. We have a fiesta and teach communities how to build latrines that are affordable and work well for years."

Although the war has stopped, peace has not yet returned between the Armed Forces and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FLMN). As a step toward peace, Dr. Navarro and his colleagues at CESTA have begun planting the Forest of Reconciliation on Guazapa Mountain. The goal is to plant one tree for each of the 75,000 soldiers, FLMN fighters, and civilians killed in the war. With each tree is the name, photograph, and a paragraph about the person honored. In the forest, there are no ideological divisions; trees remembering National Guard troops, FLMN members, and civilians grieve together all over the mountain.

The Reconciliation Forest provides conciliatory honors forever for all fallen, and especially for Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero for whom the first tree -- a chestnut -- was planted. The Forest also contributes to the ecological restoration of Guazapa Mountain, which was severely damaged in the war.

Each of us must fight poverty, violence, and hatred that destroy the community and create despair. Like Adupa, we must insist on keeping our love. Humans cannot live without the resources of love and community.

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