The concerns we are not talking enough about

In the US, we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about whatever the President may tweet or say. And, since he is not known for being the most truthful person, we often chase issues that are over-stated, over-simplified or just not true.

Yet, what we are not talking enough about concerns me. Here are a few items that get too little air time.

– With global warming, coral reefs are in jeopardy. Coupled with over fishing due to territorial issues (like in the China Sea), fish populations are diminishing. This should concern us all, and will create conflict along with industry and food loss. *

– Also due to global warming, we are seeing heavier and repetitive weather patterns which are flooding our farmlands, causing more elongated droughts in drought prone areas, and sparking more forest fires. I read a forward-looking report from 2010 sponsored by the largest global pension trustees that predicted global warming causing more of these occurrences and the multiple tens of trillion dollars in costs to remedy them. *

– We also have a global water crisis that is rearing its ugly head in a number of places such as Capetown and Saudi Arabia. Aquifers are diminishing in certain areas and increases in population far exceed the ability for some areas to provide fresh water. Global warming is making the water crisis worse.

– Bee populations around the globe are in decline. The UN reported 37% of bee species are in decline with 9% now extinct. That is 46% of bee species. The bees pollinate many foods which will be in decline as well, which when added to other threats should raise alarm. Certain pesticides are one cause, but it is likely a more holistic problem, including global warmlng.

– Finally, as alluded to above, we need to be concerned about population growth. A scientist said a few years ago that if everyone consumed resources like the average Rwandan, the earth could support 15 billion or so. Yet, if they consumed like the average North American, the number drops to around 2 billion. We have about 7 billion now. Family planning and birth control have to be in the equation.

There are so many more things to discuss, but we need to discuss protecting our species and environment. Call me crazy, but I think that is important.


* Note: I did see a few stories this morning that were encouraging and concerning. The Central US flooding is a recurrent issue for some towns and even barge shipping traffic on the Mississippi River has shut down until June as a result.

On the coral reef bleaching, I read that Florida and Australian scientists are sharing working approaches to save and try to revitalize dying reefs. That is encouraging, but is it enough?

A science teacher teaching climate change is actively identifying (and teaching her students to do so) the approx. 30,000 internet sources of misinformation on climate change using dated, refuted and untruthful information saying variations that climate change is a hoax. Also, several petroleum companies have provided free teaching materials, which downplay climate change and sell the advantages of petroleum. In contrast, there are about 700 reputable, peer reviewed scientific sites that are worthwhile. That smaller number reveals where the money lies.

Everything is related

There is an old saying that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can be felt as a gust of wind around the globe. The point is to say everything on our earth is related. We impact each other and our environment and the opposite is also true. Too often, we lose sight of this context, and we miss the bigger problems while solving some smaller problem.

Just to get the thought process going, here are a few interrelated issues that provide some greater context for our problems.

One of the greatest issues facing the planet is global poverty, including the United States. Poverty impacts many issues through lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of socio-economic mobility, greater crime, fewer role models, lack of investment in the local economy and, because of all this, lack of hope. If economic opportunities are minimal, crime can take its place. Note, poverty is an equal opportunity offender affecting urban areas, rural areas and now it is finding its way into the suburbs.

Another of our greatest issues relates to our resources for air, water and food. These are all exacerbated by climate change, which makes fresh water more dear, harms our coasts with encroaching seas made worse when hurricanes hit ashore, intensifies our drought areas, makes more frequent our forest fires, and impacts our fisheries and crops. Right now, with about 7 Billion people, if we consumed on average like a North American, there would not be enough resources. That should be telling and it will only get worse. When I think of renewable energy, I see it as a way not only to save our planet due to climate change, but as a way to preserve our fresh water which is used to create energy with fossil fuel or nuclear power, not to mention the huge amount of water needed to frack for natural gas.

It is not a surprise that Pope Francis has raised these two issues as his major concerns in his recent encyclical. He will be talking more about these when he comes to the US. Our leaders need to listen to what he has to say as his message is dead-on accurate. And, he relates the two issues, as people in poverty are more impacted by environmental issues and climate change. It should be noted a poor fishing village in Bangladesh went away with rising sea levels. Tens of thousands of fishermen and their families had to move to already crowded cities to find work they did not how to do.

But, I don’t want to stop there as there are two more issues that impact both of the above issues. First, global corruption is widespread and hits home in the US. It is not as apparent, but think of the amount of money to get elected in our country. These funders are buying influence. So, once the votes are cast, the average voter pales in comparison to the funders and their lobbyists. It has always been this way, but it is now heightened with the obscene amounts of money to get elected. Yet, it is worse in other places. Global poverty exists because leaders keep the money in their pockets, even money donated to help those in need.

Second, the maltreatment of women affects us all. The Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky is true. If a religion or cultural mores treat women as a possession denying opportunity, they are doing themselves a huge disservice. They are competing in a world with only half its resources. Women tend to be more collaborative than men, as men have a greater tendency to compete on more issues. I call this a zero sum game – I must win and you must lose. If you remember the movie with Russell Crowe called “A Beautiful Mind,” about the schizophrenic, but brilliant economist John Nash, he won the Nobel Prize for a theory called the Nash Equilibrium which is still used today. In essence, if we pursue goals where we all succeed to a degree, the whole group would be more successful than if we each tried to maximize our own profit. Treating women like chattel flies directly against Nash’s economic theory.

So, these are the biggest issues facing our planet in my view. They do relate to each other. Yet, we need to start addressing these issues on a concerted basis or we will not be living very nicely in the future. I would start with treating women better, as their ideas and commerce will help us fight the other fights. Yet, we need to start fighting those issues as well.