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At a meeting of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), this author suggested that the organization and its affiliates start work on a Post Covid-19 World Order. The suggestion was welcomed and a webinar was held by the South Asian branch on that topic.
Warning bells of the disorder awaiting the world due to unchecked growth, both in population and consumption were rung in the 1950s by the Club of Rome followed by the Brandt report, the Gro Brundtland U.N. Commission in its report entitled ‘Our Common Future’, as well as the Canberra Commission of which Dr Ronald McCoy, President of the IPPNW was a member. Similar warnings by many scientists were also ignored.
A major systemic shock was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the decline if not the demise of Communism. It liberated market capitalism of its shackles. Unbridled growth leading to hedonistic consumption became the order of the day. It is still the case. The inevitable decline had set in before the onset of Sars-Cov-2. which has perhaps made it irreversible.
Before forecasting the post-Covid global scenario, we should consider where we are today.
In a nutshell:
- Market capitalism continues to carry out environmental devastation with no holds barred, Covid or no Covid.
- Climate change, global warming, acidification of the oceans, melting of the glaciers and polar ice caps continue apace;
- The same level of alarm is raised about human overpopulation, exhaustion of natural resources, natural habitat destruction and species extinction. The list of disasters and ill omens is endless.
Although these disasters stare everybody in the face, very few have grasped that irreversibility has set in.
It means that if by Herculean effort or magic human civilization was to stop releasing carbon in the atmosphere and immediately put a stop to all depredation, overnight, so to say, the consequences of the decades of heedlessness will continue to be felt till well into the next century making life for the coming generations ‘Hell on Earth.’
- At the urging of scientists, mitigation techniques are being considered, it being a survival imperative for humanity,
- Carbon sequestration is a possibility but the scale and cost of reducing the emission levels reached make it a dubious proposition.
- Many alternatives, like solar energy among others, considered feasible, will take decades to be put into practice around the world.
The Nuclear Menace
My interest in nuclear disarmament started in earnest in 1998 when my first book ‘Third Millennium Equipoise’ was published. I will make only a few general references to this work:
The first relates to extinction on Earth. While there have been many extinctions, during the pre-Cambrian and during the following eras, the latest extinction took place during the Mesozoic era about 60 million years ago when dinosaurs, reptiles and most other life forms were destroyed up to about 77%.
In this regard, the potential effects of nuclear conflicts even at the level of non-P5 states have been well documented, especially in a paper prepared by Dr Ira Helfand.
Excerpts from a keynote presentation I made at the opening plenary session in August 2010 at the 19th IPPNW World Conference in Basel are reproduced below:
William Perry, a former secretary of defense had said that there was an even chance of a nuclear terror strike within the decade. Warning that we’re racing toward unprecedented catastrophe Mr Perry added, “this is preventable, but we’re not doing the things that could prevent it.” In November 2003, Mr Bush had observed, “The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists, and the dictators who aid them.” Accordingly, the White House went on to expend enormous amounts of capital and energy for tackling a non-existent W.M.D. threat, purported to come from Iraq, while ignoring or paying lip service to the main threat posed by global nuclear proliferation. In the process the risk that a nuclear explosion will devastate an American city is greater now than it was during the cold war.
The Obama Administration publicly disclosed the (previously classified) total number of operational US nuclear warheads in existence today – which stands at just over 5,000. Only the Russian Federation has more (over 6000). While this step was a move in the right direction, the nuclear build-up was cynically pursued alongside a quiet announcement by the Department of Energy (originally made in September 2009) that the US is moving forward with the deployment of a new generation of nuclear weapons, rather than working toward nuclear disarmament as legally required under the NPT.
The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a clean up to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed.
The Brookings Institute in the US made the following statement: “The United States is now fielding a new tactical and strategic nuclear military capability that has already been used to threaten a non-nuclear country. This new capability was certified without nuclear testing, using an existing surrogate testing facility with capabilities much less than those under construction and planned. The weapon was developed and deployed in secret, without public and congressional debate, contrary to domestic and international assurances that no new nuclear weapons were being developed. Other new or ‘modified’ nuclear weapons, earth-penetrating and otherwise, are planned.”
In conclusion, the closing paragraph of the presentation at the conference referred to above is presented here:
The large economies pushing toward very high growth do not seem to be concerned about future generations. The tragedy is compounded by the rest of the world that is undergoing recession pangs, pushing for greater consumption by China and India. In short, nobody seems to be concerned about the future of our children or the coming generations. We are heading toward planetary destruction here and now. China and India still want GDP increase in double digits when most of this growth is predicated on higher energy consumption levels based largely on abundant coal reserves, the burning of which is most conducive for global warming and climate change (…) China, overtaking the world’s largest car producer, saw its passenger car vehicle sales zoom 47.5 percent, from 5.7 million units in 2008 to 8.4 million units in 2009, in just one year.
India registered a 24.5 percent jump in passenger car vehicle sales from 1.5 million units in 2009 to about 1.9 million units in 2010 in the domestic market. Should this trend, egged on by the rest of the world for greater consumption to underpin the global economy continue for just 10 more years these two countries, without even counting the USA, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria would be able to incinerate the planet, with attendant environmental destruction on a scale not witnessed so far, even before the next nuclear-related mishap. It is time to take stock. Time is not running out for critical decisions that should have been in place by now; it has already run out. The human race is now running on borrowed time.