How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saving Mother - Part III

Step 1 – Save the Children

We need to rebuild our social and environmental infrastructure from the ground up. The monumental problems with our society start at birth, and so we must begin with our children to restore the natural balance.

For thousands of years, the worth afforded to traditional feminine societal roles has been undervalued. Historically, work provided by women, which accounts for at least of half the labor expended on the planet, has never been paid for or esteemed. A woman was expected to stay at home, care for and educate children, tend a kitchen garden, care for livestock, provide healthcare to the entire family, cook, clean and tend to her husband’s needs. For all her efforts, she was usually provided with sustenance and shelter, and much of the sustenance she either grew or harvested herself.

Her male counterpart, on the other hand “brought home the bacon.” Society valued his contributions and compensated him with currency for his efforts. Men who were able to bring home a lot of money were praised as being good providers and successful and were almost universally admired by society as a whole.

Women who excel at traditional female roles raising healthy, well rounded and educated children are perhaps appreciated by their family members, but the societal admiration she achieves is negligible when compared to that a successful man can garner. She works just as hard if not harder than an uber-wealthy Wall Street Banker, but she receives none of the material compensation for her efforts and will never gain notoriety outside of her immediate social circles. In fact most women who chose to work at home usually describe themselves as “just a stay at home mom.”

In the modern world if a woman can’t both bring home the bacon and fry it up, she is somehow deemed as inadequate. Over time, women seeking appreciation and respect in the world have been forced to leave the home and join the traditionally male rat race. In doing so, women have proven they can adeptly perform the same work as men. Women have earned an equal place in the contemporary western workplace; however, it is unfortunate they had to do so in order to earn a living and respect, and the transition of women from homes into the workplace has come at a certain cost to society. A woman can have it all, but frequently it is simply humanly impossible to do it all and to do it all well. As women add to the responsibilities on their plate by going out into the workplace, children’s needs do not change, and a care giving vacuum results.  Care givers need not be women.  Many fathers are up to the task too, but somebody needs to step up and fill the void lest our children all fall through the cracks. 

At infancy, a baby born in the United States can expect that its mother will be required to return to work six weeks after giving birth. The infant will then be sent to a day care facility, or if the parents are lucky enough, the child will be cared for by another family member or cared for at home by domestic staff. By the time the child is old enough for public education, he/she can expect to be put into an over-crowded, under-funded classroom with a poorly-paid and emotionally and physically exhausted teacher.

As relative wages decline and women are forced into the workplace to make ends meet, children receive less and less of the nurturance essential to healthy development. The thing that should be most dear to us as a species, ensuring the best possible future for the next generation, is immediately undermined when we pass off the responsibility of caring for our precious young in favor of the pursuit of commercial enterprise.

We can only begin to save our Earth by saving ourselves first. How can we expect to protect our planet, when we pay so little respect to the feminine value of nurturance? Our society now suffers from a wealth of evils caused from abject neglect. Even in our homes, the female is now forced into the masculine role of money earner going out into the workforce each day and leaving the care of her children and household largely in the hands of other individuals.

Those who are caring for our children are paid a pittance for their efforts, meaning that finding quality care givers is often impossible. As much as many child care workers are well meaning, it is very difficult to get enthusiastic about your job when you are barely making minimum wage. Ultimately, our society is collapsing from the ground up. Our children are plugged into electronic devices getting their moral and ethical tutorials off a television or the internet rather than from a present parent.

As a society, our children have become lost their position of priority. We spend much more money on our prisons and military than we do on our educational infrastructures. Under the given circumstances, it is no wonder so many children are experimenting with drugs, having sex, dropping out of school, shooting each other and generally failing in society. How can we expect to march forward into the future when we are miserably failing at preparing those who will become the decision makers in the next generation?

Little Steps Everyone Can Take
Read to your children every single day. Read them classics like Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Tales of Peter Rabbit and read them stories that teach them to stretch their imaginations like the Harry Potter series. They will learn to love books, use their minds and amuse themselves. If you don’t have kids, read with someone else’s. The answers to all the world’s problems can be found between the pages of books and in the minds of imaginative people. A child who loves books can make up for much that is lacking in his education and upbringing.

We are leaving the next generation a world of woes to contend with. The least we can do is provide them with the intellectual tools to be able to cope with the mess.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saving Mother - Part II

Little Steps are Giant Steps

Global business as usual is an environmental cataclysm waiting to happen. This sentiment is not an alarmist, left wing conspiracy to undermine democracy and capitalism. It is a verifiable, scientific observation. Our current trends have resulted in a steady deterioration of the earth’s biological infrastructure. The law of entropy states that an object in motion will remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force. If we do not drastically alter our behavior, our actions can only lead to greater and greater environmental deterioration.
Warning signs of impending doom are cropping up everywhere. We have scraped the seas clean of fish, our weather patters are becoming increasingly erratic, extremism is on the rise, and resource wars have become the norm. Signs that our economic model is flawed are also blatantly obvious. The entire global economy hangs by a thread dangled by a greedy investment banking industry, and our elected leaders spend trillions of our taxpayer dollars simply to prop up the failing status quo and continue to look at inadequate indicators such as GDP growth rates to assess the situation. We know the free trade, GDP growth dogma doesn’t work. We are living in the consequences of the failures of neoliberal unfettered capitalism. The more of the same solutions espoused by our global leaders is lunacy.
Nothing short of a revolution is required to save our species and planet earth. The task at hand seems daunting, but many of history’s greatest revolutions erupted spontaneously from the few small actions of individuals. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person launching the civil rights revolution. In1776, Abigail Adams asked her husband to remember women’s voting rights in the formation of our new democracy. The consistent small steps of numerous women over the next 150 years finally succeeded in securing women’s suffrage in 1920. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote a book entitled Silent Spring sparking the modern environmental movement. The small actions of average people have been the impetus behind the movements that have changed our world for the better.
In fact, the only way to make a change is to start taking action. Passivity is not an option. If we sit back and let those in power continue to dictate the course of history, nothing will change. Those in economic and political positions of authority have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The size and scale of the effort need not be monumental. Pennies saved faithfully over the course of a lifetime can add up to millions of dollars. Humble seeds planted in the spring yield bountiful harvests in the summer and fall. A child, properly nurtured and educated can grow up to change the course of history.
We must now create the world we want to live in. Most people would agree the ideal world would have an economic strategy that is fair and provides a living wage and adequate resources to sustain the lives of every human being. The new economy would also not consume resources faster than nature can replace them, would not produce pollutants in greater quantities than the environment’s ability to neutralize them and would allocate resources equitably among all earth’s organisms. Our new society would embrace diversity, both human and natural and eliminate the economic biases that allow a few people to exploit the rest of society and all creation for personal gain. We would lose the winner take all mentality that currently characterizes global predatory capitalism and replace it with an ethic of shared responsibility and community. Then we would create a political system where non-living, inanimate entities, such as corporations, have no place in determining the policies that impact people and other living things. Finally, our communities would be healed, people would reclaim their physical health, we would have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and families would once again be able to spend quality time together.
The action plan will be multifaceted. We must ensure that the population of the world is intellectually equipped to resolve the complex issues of the day. Real education must become an international imperative. Our current economic models are deeply flawed and cannot be remedied with more of the same misguided philosophies. The global economy will need to be completely overhauled in compliance with common sense and the laws of nature rather than in opposition to both. Our values of equality and justice must expand again to include all living things. Industry must change its production methodologies with an aim to first doing no harm to environmental or human health. The world has enough wealth right now to end poverty. It is immoral not to do so. Our cultural and spiritual values will need to transform so the words we speak match the actions we take.
Our actions must also match our wishes for the world we want to create. As Gandhi once noted, we must “be the change [we] want to see in the world.” Each and every person has within themselves a unique creativity, so the recommendations made in this text are simply suggestions based on the author’s own insights and passions. Ultimately, the great mass of humanity, once dedicated to the path of reform, will create novel individual contributions to solving the world’s problems. We must each use our passions and our gifts to select the path that is right for us. The spark of Sophia will guide us on our common journey.
Details to follow…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Saving Mother - Part I

3.6 million years ago, an ape-like primate genetically diverged from its ancestors to walk upright and become the first known species of hominid, Australopithecus afarensis. A million years later, after numerous genetic trials and errors, another hominid, Homo habilis, discovered that by chipping a rock, he could form a sharp, cutting tool. Another million years came and went before another descendent, Homo erectus, discovered that the same stone tool became more effective when sharpened on both sides of the cutting edge.

Then 150,000 years ago, a new hominid, Homo sapiens, appeared on the African landscape sporting a new large brain. In spite of his vastly enlarged frontal lobe, allowing for increased reasoning and problem solving, other than a few novel tool making technologies, early Homo sapiens remained relatively unchanged for another 100,000 years. But 40,000 years ago, something changed. Humans began to paint on cave walls, craft jewelry and adorn their dead. Complex culture and language developed. 10,000 years ago Homo sapiens planted seeds and domesticated livestock, and four hundred years ago he learned to harness the power of combusting fossil fuels. Now, the human species has completely altered the natural environment of the planet earth.

Since the Big Bang created the known Universe 15 billion years ago, all that exists has been in a constant state of transformation. Nothing in the universe is static. Tides rise and fall, seasons come and go, organisms are born, live, die and return to the elements from which they arose, and suns incinerate in cataclysmic supernovas giving rise to new beginnings. As the world changes around them, species are equipped with the genetic mechanisms to evolve into new organisms adapted to the new environmental baseline. Those that are inflexible and do not adapt are exiled to extinction.

Human beings have undergone dramatic transformation since an early hominid first left the shelter of a forest canopy and decided to walk upright on the African continent millions of years ago. Earth, once a mere condensation of cosmic dust, gas and debris, metamorphosed from an orb of inanimate rock into a verdant home for all known living things.

A shark that does not constantly swim will suffocate. Water must flow or it becomes stagnant and putrid. If the planets stopped short in their elliptical paths, they would be sucked into the sun and incinerated. Movement is the very essence of life itself. And so the ever adaptive hominid finds himself at a threshold where he must either transform or perish. The earth’s ecosphere has radically altered once again, and while our species has been the agent of earth’s change, we must adapt to our new, self-made habitat or we will follow Australopithecus afarensis into the fossil archives.

Fortunately, we are nothing if not an industrious species. The task at hand, while seemingly enormous, is not beyond our capabilities to resolve. Once a pathetic, practically bald and clawless cave-dweller, we have evolved from a population of only a few million into the most successful species on the planet. Unfortunately, in doing so, we have transformed the earth from a habitat that was once resplendent with all the resources our species covets to one in which many of those same resources are now scarce. We have also rendered much of the planet inhospitable to life. We have achieved much, and now we must use our penchant for industry to reverse the historic destructive environmental trends of our preceding kin.

First and foremost, we must learn to embrace the verifiable and constantly changing laws of the universe, and we must learn to change with them rather than clinging to the rules of outdated dogma. The Hebrew Bible, Koran and Old Testament are mythologies. The absolute dominance of a male, all-powerful deity that rules from a remote throne results in the destruction, not the creation of life. If we insist on remaining static in these outmoded beliefs, there is no precedent to indicate our march to extinction will be averted. The hand of God has remained elusive, and the case study has now lasted more than 2,000 years with less than favorable results. Exploitation, domination and consumption without any regard for nurturance, replenishment and balance are not conducive to the support of life.

The current state of earthly affairs is enough to make a person pessimistic about the future, but scanning the history of the past few thousand years, models do exist for a better alternative and some great moral strides have already been made. There is hope for the future.

Like a proverbial phoenix, the earth has an amazing ability to regenerate and rise reborn from the ashes of cataclysm. No matter what we dish out as a species, she has the benefit of time on her side and life will flourish again. When we pollute our air, poison our water, devastate our landscapes and fill up the earth with garbage, the earth and her organisms all suffer. We are morally responsible for the catastrophic extinctions and the contamination of the planet we have fashioned, but also our own qualities of life are degraded by our activities. It is our own life-sustaining habitat we are destroying.

We alone are the masters of our domain. We can decide to live in a polluted cesspit devoid of the beauty and splendor of nature or we can evolve once again and replenish the abundant, miraculous diversity of the creation we call home. The steps we take may be small or large. Each tiny improvement towards the betterment of our environment and our earth enriches our lives and the lives of all earth’s creatures. Imagine a world where our spiritual morality once again includes reverence for the earth and all her creatures.

The evolution of the human spirit in western society has been pronounced. We undermined the fallacy of the divine right of royalty to rule over and exploit the masses. We exposed the atrocity of slavery and criminalized it in our culture. We liberated women from the caste of chattel and recognized the right of every person including women and people of color to participate through voting in the democratic process. We eliminated the hypocrisy of segregation and extended civil rights to all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation (well we are still working on the last group). An African-American man now stands as the 44th President of the United States. Our culture is morally evolving and while we may take several steps backward from time to time, we have been steadily moving in a positive direction.

Our truly enlightened mantra of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” must now grow and evolve to apply to all living things. The time is now to give up our misguided notion of human supremacy and exchange it for life supremacy, extending our values of equality to all other organisms and Earth herself. We cannot survive without the rest of our ecosystem no matter how advanced we may think we are. Our survival depends upon the survival of the rest of creation.

As a species, if we continue to align ourselves with a divine entity that is distant and separate from the world, we will continue to view ourselves as detached from nature. We will undoubtedly continue to engage in the harmful treatment of our planet looking to the heavens for a non-existent salvation. But, if we can evolve a new spirituality that allows us to perceive our inextricable connection to the earth, we will realize it is impossible to harm earth without harming ourselves in the process, and Homo sapiens will find the salvation he has been searching for under his feet and in his own backyard.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Literacy, Belief and the Environment - Part III

Fact and Belief

A bumper sticker depicts a fish symbol imprinted with the name Darwin being consumed by a larger fish that reads “truth.” The person that proudly displays this artwork on the back of his vehicle for all to see has a fervent belief that the theory of evolution espoused by Charles Darwin in his landmark book The Origin of Species and now embraced as fact by the vast majority of the scientific community, is a falsehood. The bumper sticker sporting fundamentalist believes instead that the two-thousand plus year old biblical rendition of creation as expressed in Genesis is irrefutable, literal truth.

Scientific expertise has come a long way since Darwin first published his idea in 1859 that species change genetically over time in response to environmental variables. We now have carbon dating, genetic testing, genome mapping and a slew of other technological advances that allow us to actually track the genetic evolution that Darwin could only imagine during his time. A lowly tree snail, Cerion spp., actually evolves so quickly that scientists can observe its genetic progression over a period of a few years giving researchers unprecedented insights into the mechanisms of evolution(1). The fossil record displays a physical testimony of the extraordinary array of permutations of organisms that roamed the earth and were the predecessors to today’s species. Numerous other scientific observations have confirmed what Darwin suspected long ago. Life forms are not immovable static entities doomed to extinction in a changing world but are instead ephemeral miracles that morph and change with their environment in an endless dance of evolution and adaptation.

Given the preponderance of proof available to support Darwin’s ideas, why do more than 40% of Americans believe the theory of evolution is an outright falsehood? Richard Dawkins in his recent book The Greatest Show on Earth – The Evidence for Evolution believes a large portion of the issue may be one of semantics(2). Frequently lacking an adequate scientific education, many fundamentalists are unaware of the meaning of the word “theory” in scientific jargon. Dawkins cites the Oxford Dictionary’s multiple definitions for the word. In science, the word theory is defined as follows:

“[a theory] has been confirmed or established by observation or experiment, and is propounded or accepted as accounting for the known facts; [it is] a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed(3).”
Those who embrace the notion that the theory of evolution is a falsehood adhere to another interpretation of the word “theory,” defined as, “A hypothesis proposed as an explanation; hence, a mere hypothesis, speculation, conjecture; an idea or set of ideas about something; an individual view or notion(3).”

Clearly, the above two definitions are distinctly at odds with one another. According to the first interpretation, a theory is accepted as a factual explanation of phenomena as confirmed by all available methodologies. The second definition categorizes a theory as mere speculation at best. When scientists refer to the “theory of evolution,” they are invariably evoking the first definition. Since it is scientists that have developed, described and defined the theory, it should stand to reason that we adhere to their intentions when deciphering the meaning of their words. To do otherwise is a grave logical fallacy. Yet this is where we find ourselves as a society. Rather than absorb facts and adjust one’s beliefs to a higher level of understanding, some in our society think it is perfectly acceptable to adjust facts to fit with their beliefs.

Having duly readjusted untidy facts, the steadfast belief in the literal translation of the Judeo-Christian Bible as truth is able to persist in the American culture regardless of numerous irrefutable data that more than adequately clarify the factual inaccuracies of the Bible. More significantly, in the democratic United States, where every adult has the ability to influence public policy, fundamentalist ideals have become pervasive in the political realm on issues like population control, global warming, Middle Eastern foreign policy and resource exploitation with significant implications for the future of the planet. People’s religious beliefs would not be problematic if they were not so potentially dangerous.

Recent research studied for the first time the effect of religious belief on the brain (4). By comparing the functional MRI scans of 15 self-professed Christians and 15 non-believers, scientists were able to witness the brain’s activity when evaluating statements of basic observable facts, such as “grass is a plant,” as compared with statements of religious belief such as “Jesus was born to a virgin named Mary.” The surprising findings were that fervent religious beliefs activate the brain exactly the same as observable facts. The Christian fundamentalist that believes Jesus walked on water, does so with the same conviction that he believes he has ten fingers and ten toes.

Given the religious zealot’s certainty, it is no small wonder that any evidence that contradicts his absolute belief is disregarded as false. In this context, it is understandable, if not perplexing, that numerous far right advocates maintain the beliefs that Saddam Hussein is responsible for the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and that President Obama is a Muslim and non-citizen regardless of definitive evidence that proves without exception that these beliefs are in fact, completely untrue.

These findings have considerable repercussions for the future of our society, and the seemingly oxymoronic sentiments echoed by the fundamentalist bumper sticker echo a frightening insight beyond their intended meaning. The “truth” embraced by the adherents to Christian fundamentalist belief includes the sanctioned subjugation, rape and enslavement of women, genocide against entire cultures of people and a dictate to subdue all the life forms on the planet.

How do we proceed in a world where a large proportion of citizens are adherents to religious orthodoxy and cannot be persuaded by bona fide facts to part with their beliefs? Our current global environmental and economic cataclysm will not be thwarted by prayer alone, and our future is not predestined by a divine father dictating our fates from his heavenly throne.

Carolyn Merchant writes, “We live our lives as characters in the grand narrative into which we have been socialized as children and conform as adults. That narrative is the story told to itself by the dominant society of which we are a part. We internalize narrative as ideology. Ideology is a story told by people in power…By rewriting the story, we can challenge the structures of power. All stories can and should be challenged (5).”
Just as organisms must evolve and adapt to their environment in order to avoid extinction, the human psyche must also be flexible, expanding with and embracing new knowledge as it supersedes ignorant superstition. As Homo sapiens allowed his beliefs to expand according to newly discovered truth, he developed language, art and science and left his cave to explore the outer reaches of the universe. We must evolve or we will perish.


1- Bell, Michael, August 2002. Wonderful Life. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Volume 17, Issue 8, Page 396.

2- Dawkins, Richard, 2009. The Greatest Show on Earth – The Evidence for Evolution. Free Press Publishers, New York.

3- The Oxford English Dictionary.

4- Harris, S., Kapplan, J. et al., 2009. The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief. On the World Wide Web at

5- Merchant, Carolyn, 1996. Earthcare – Women and the Environment. Routledge Publishers, New York. Page 54.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

World Population - Part III

An Ethic of Life?

If any man’s wife go aside and is unfaithful to him, …the man shall bring his wife to the priest…let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse and say to the woman – “the Lord make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the Lod makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge; now this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!” (Numbers 5:12-22)

A PBS program entitled “Now,” addressed the growing economic insecurities of the American middle class. After lamenting the loss of her family home due to her husband’s chronic illness and inability to work, one Illinois woman, Melanie Fugate, proclaims that she could never vote for a Democrat because of the abortion issue. In the midst of her own financial ruin and the national economic disaster, not to mention wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this woman’s main concern in politics is abortion.

Melanie Fugate is not alone. The Christian Post reported recently that the abortion debate is rated as ‘very important’ to approximately 40 percent of all voters on both sides of the issue. People who care about the abortion issue are not ignorant bible bashers or immoral baby killers as current propaganda would have us all believe. Rather, people on both sides of the issue are deeply empathetic individuals, genuinely concerned about human suffering and the value of life. What both sides lack in most cases, is information, with pro-life advocates focused on the image of innocent babies meeting their end while pro-choice voters focus on the image of desperate women poised with coat hangers.

A lot of gray area exists in between the two extremes that both sides need to consider. Ultimately, everybody would like to see fewer abortions. Pro-life advocates and pro-choice proponents only disagree on the best way to go about achieving this aim. Fortunately, we do have several reliable and well researched independent studies on the topic and therefore have ample data to determine which methods are effective in reducing abortions. As a society, we must be intelligent enough to embrace the research and let our emotional biases defer to what will achieve our stated and shared goal – to preserve human life and reduce suffering.

Some of the greatest ironies today in the political realm come from the discussion on the ethics of life. People who are for the death penalty and support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan tend to be against abortion rights for women, and people who are pro-choice tend to be against the death penalty and think the war in Iraq is an atrocity against humanity. How can it be that our society is so divided when it comes to these issues with most people thinking killing is okay in some capacity but not others?

Former president George W. remarked during the presidential debates of 2004, “I think every child should be welcomed to life.” Unfortunately, the Bush administration policy did not support this claim. Healthcare for poor children was withheld, education funds were chopped, prenatal care for women in poverty is practically non-existent, and the list goes on. During the Bush administration’s tenure, 13 million precious children were relegated to a childhood of poverty in the United States of America – the richest nation on earth .

Certainly people on both sides of the abortion debate can agree that all children should be welcomed to life. We can work together to ensure that women in poverty have adequate access to reproductive health services including birth control, so they can enjoy the same rights to plan their families that more affluent women enjoy. We can all agree that the children in foster care and orphanages and those living in poverty need more of our attention as a society in order to reach their full potential.

In his book Our Endangered Values, Jimmy Carter cites a United Nations statistic that reports that 90% of women seeking abortions name poverty as the cause. Women who are well-educated and have a moderate standard of living rarely seek abortions. Doesn’t it therefore stand to reason that if we improve the lives of the souls already in existence, it will help to cut down on unwanted pregnancies?

Every child should be welcomed to life and cherished including the children who are already alive. Let’s take care of them before we force women to make the choice of raising a child in desperate poverty or giving it up for adoption.

The Old Testament clearly defines women’s lives and those of their children as the property of their husbands and fathers. We have come a long way since the days when Yahweh prescribed abortion elixirs for women suspected of cheating on their husbands. We don’t need to outlaw a woman’s right to choose whether or not to give birth. We need to create an environment where each and every woman in our society has access to the information and medical care necessary to ensure that she can prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place and then take care of the precious children she chooses to bear. We should all be able to agree about that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

World Population - Part II

We are the Problem

For much of human history, the population remained relatively constant, growing at a slow and steady rate. Pre-historic populations never exceeded one billion souls and usually remained fairly constant at less than 5 million people.

Early humans lived lightly on the earth in hunter-gatherer societies. They had an impact on the environment by consuming resources, burning fires and creating waste; however, primitive societies did not engage in impactful activities at a pace that exceeded the natural environment’s ability to repair itself. Resources were not used up faster than the earth’s ability to regenerate them, and the wastes created were organic and were reabsorbed into the ecosystem for reuse. Earth’s blanket of vegetation greedily consumed the carbon dioxide produced by simple cooking fires, and wood and plants harvested for consumption were quickly and sustainably regenerated by nature.

Some speculations suggest early hominids may have had some long-term negative impacts on the planet resulting from over-hunting of particular species including mammoths and may have caused the extinction of those species. However, the overall natural extinction rate of the planet, which is a normal byproduct of evolutionary change, remained relatively constant during prehistoric times and was affected more significantly by natural changes such as the great ice age. Contrasted with today’s human activities, primitive man’s environmental impacts were negligible.

We have come a long way since our days as cave dwellers. Advancements in technology and industry have been a boon for our species but have come at a great expense to the planet. Often the cause of the harm we do is not what we think. When people in the developed world, sitting in cozy, climate-controlled homes and reading up on the latest diet in order to lose the extra tire of fat around their middle think about the environmental problems of over population, minds and consciences inevitably end up thinking about the developing world. We believe that the problem lies there, not in our backyard.

We look at the numbers: China has 1.3 billion people and India has 1.2 billion. Combined, these two countries have over a third the world’s population. Many developed countries actually have declining population rates. Over population is, we believe, someone else’s problem. Our firm beliefs even border sometimes on feelings of resentment for the world’s overly-fecund poor. How dare they burden our planet with their excessive procreation? Unfortunately for our smug attitudes, the impoverished are not the problem. We are.

The 2.8 billion people who survive on earth on less than $2/day are leading frugal lives with minimal environmental footprints. Under consumption, rather than over consumption is a daily reality for one third of the earth’s population. While the average person in Mozambique or Bangladesh is worrying about where their next meal is going to come from, Americans own more cars than there are people to drive them (1). The United States is home to 4% of the world’s population, yet we use up 25% of the fossil fuels consumed, and developed countries including the United States and Western Europe make up 12% of the earth’s people, yet we account for 60% of consumer spending. If all the world’s people were to live as we do, the earth and her resources would be rapidly used up.

We look at China and India with trepidation and fear. Their huge populations are a wake up call about the finite quantity of resources on the planet. If their massive populations were somehow able to rise to our level of affluence and subsequent resource consumption, there simply wouldn’t be enough stuff to go around. Our fear is not unreasonable. As oil reserves dwindle, China’s lack of enthusiasm to punish Iran for nuclear violations becomes clear. China is the leading purchaser of oil from Iran. China needs Iranian oil and can’t afford to piss Iran off. Another question is why do we think we are more entitled to the earth’s goodies than the world's poor?

As usual, our policies approach the growing crisis from the typical self-centered, winner take all American attitude. We’ll just take the oil we need through war, political manipulation and propaganda. Unfortunately, for us, these methods are becoming less and less viable as our economy and public support will no longer sustain them.

Instead of worrying about what will happen when China and India are like we are now, we should be paving the way as a shining example of how to live in sustainable balance with the environment. When their economies allow for it, they too can sustain themselves and their environment. This is a win/win solution in which everyone gets what they need without competing with others for resources. It is also the only way that we will be able to endure and maintain our current quality of life in the global decades to come.

The US has lost its competitive edge when it comes to manufacturing goods (China) and providing services (India). We need a new role for ourselves, and that role can and should be developing services, utilities, products and goods that have a net positive or net neutral environmental impact while helping developing countries to improve the quality of life for their people.

We are now fortunate enough to be able to make a choice. We have the knowhow and the technology to change our own destructive course. With our current level of technological advancement, if we cannot create a world in which every living human being can enjoy a basic standard of living and quality of life without poverty or destroying the environment and using up all of earth’s resources, then there are simply too many people on the planet. The masses of humanity that are being produced by our fruitful multiplications are destined for suffering.

The world has changed a great deal since Yahweh issued his dictate on the sixth day for humankind to fill up and subdue the earth. Yahweh should be pleased we have fulfilled His demands entirely. The earth is filled with people, and we have subdued Nature utterly. Fundamentalist Judeo Christians believe it is a sin to restrict reproduction and that we need to continue to fill up the earth according to God’s dictates even though the planet is clearly already overfilled. The Bible does not say, “Reproduce like rabbits until all of the earth is used up.” Nor does the Bible anywhere say, “Do whatever you want to the planet, and if you screw it up, God will save you.” As with many skewed interpretations of God’s words, the belief that it is morally correct to be reproductively irresponsible at the expense of all other life on earth is simply mistaken.

1- The Worldwatch Institute, 2004. State of the World – 2004. W. W. Norton & Company Publishers, New York.