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Book Chapters are Posted in Reverse Order – See Categories, The Book and Scroll Back

Posted on 06 March 2014 by admin

I have received complaints that only the last chapter (16) of Beyond Animal, Ego and Time is posted on this blog.  In fact all of the chapters are posted if you keep scrolling back under Categories under The Book.  This is because they are in reverse order in the files under Categories.  I invite everyone to read the book from the beginning chapters even if this involves quite a bit of scrolling back.  I promise it is thought provoking if nothing else.

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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: Chapter 16 – Transcending Egocentricity, The Significance of Insignificance, Intervention Opportunities, Index and Sources

Posted on 08 July 2013 by Jerry

(Note: This is the final posting of chapters and sections of the book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time.  For those of you who have read the book or portions of it, I invite you to comment, criticize or question.  I hope you found useful information and that the ideas were thought provoking.)


The last imperative to revisit is the requirement to insure evolution continues. We previously discussed the three paths of progress in evolution: physical, intellectual, and emotional. Of these three, the path of evolution with the greatest velocity is intellectual. This is because intellectual evolution is accelerated by the exponential growth of knowledge and thought and not bounded by the time necessary for physical change. When you add past ideas and information to an expanding body of knowledge and thought produced by an ever increasing human population you have an unprecedented opportunity for the evolution of intellect and insight.

We acknowledged we might not perceive evolutionary advancements when they occur and cited our recent recognition of self-awareness in other animals. With the complexity of life in the modern world it is difficult to always be sensitive to what is occurring around us. To be vigilant and recognize evolutionary progress when we encounter it, we must come to the task with a certain openness and receptivity. We must bring the right analytical perspective. As much as we can benefit from a new thought, holding on too long to an old one can handicap us.

An example of this is the casual way many people use the notion of “survival of the fittest.” British economist Herbert Spencer is credited with first use of the phrase “survival of the fittest” to represent his characterization of Darwin’s process of natural selection. Over the years even Charles Darwin embraced the phrase as shorthand for natural selection. Unfortunately when people try to apply the thought in their daily life it limits their perspective and leads them to misconstrue the lesson of evolutionary progress.

This is most obvious in business. The phrase calls to mind imagery of one animal besting another. Many business people generalize this concept, using it to justify a different standard of morality. They use it to rationalize setting aside their normal personal moral standards so that they view the world of business as dog-eat-dog where it is expected and encouraged that the strong and knowledgeable take advantage of the weak and uninformed. Their conclusion that anything goes in business becomes the basis of primitive behavior of the past. People who see a world where this view is acceptable cloak themselves in misunderstood science as they strive to recreate the jungle around them. They have obviously missed the point.

Evolution provides a continually changing and improving definition of “the fittest”. The image of the most aggressive animal in the jungle is backward looking. Evolution looks forward and defines the fittest human being as the one who can demonstrate mastery in the present and future. The fittest today are those who exhibit an ability to work with and lead others. They have achieved the greatest level of consciousness and prescience by establishing future directions and taking actions that produce the greatest good for the greatest number. Evolution is a forward moving process that propels life and human beings to ever-higher levels of greatness and accomplishment.

It is difficult to precisely describe characteristics of the future “fittest” human beings because in large measure we will only know them when we see them. We can get a sense of the type of attributes they will have by looking at the people we honor and whose memory we hold most dear. We remember those who demonstrate concern for the welfare of strangers: Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, and Oscar Schindler. We honor people who articulate higher human ideals and lead great change to improve the human condition, often with great personal sacrifice: Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. We learn from individuals who advance our knowledge and increase the probability of our survival in the future: Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Werner Heisenberg, and Francis Crick. We revere those who advance human belief and inspire us to be better people at peace with the rest of humanity: Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus Christ, Confucius, and Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah. These are the people we honor and remember. They possessed the attributes that made them the fittest of their time and epitomized the kind of people and actions to which we aspire.

We previously observed human thought is at its best when it rises to the highest levels of abstraction. This occurs when it is most productive in reaching for the greatest truth. The ability to abstract an idealized state to which we can direct our action is one of our most advanced intellectual capabilities. It is where we should be looking to see successive breakthroughs in our intellectual evolution.

Abraham Maslow died in 1970. Some people suggest that had he lived longer he would have added to his Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy reflects an exclusively egocentric view of human consciousness. It approaches all levels of need from the individual’s perspective and fails to recognize any higher level of consciousness, one that transcends the individual. It is intuitively obvious that when the individual’s needs have been fulfilled in full measure there is a likelihood they will look beyond themselves to the welfare of others.

It can be observed, however, that many people recognize and respond to the needs of others and they do this without having achieved complete fulfillment of their own needs. This can be seen in the sizable charitable giving of human beings. Many economists, behavioral scientists and cynics question the motivations of those who donate because they sincerely believe human nature is unequivocally self-serving. They argue that charitable giving is motivated by a donor’s expected utility where they derive personal benefit immediately or in the future from the donation. Examples discussed include donating to the creation of a park where the individual will enjoy its benefits or supporting medical research from which he or she may benefit in the future. They also cite the donor’s opportunity to derive benefit from the act of giving either because the size of their donation enables them to the advance their social status or they receive a “warm glow” from making charitable contributions. They may experience this feeling of enhanced self worth even when no direct social benefits are forthcoming to themselves or the beneficiaries of charitable giving are far away.138

The greatest opportunity for us to see this charitable behavior as something other than self-serving occurs when the beneficiaries of the donations are unknown to the donor and little opportunity exists for personal recognition. Examples of these kinds of donations are those made in response to the December 26, 2004 Tsunami as a result of an earthquake in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Another example is donations given to provide disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

As a result of the 2004 Tsunami, an estimated 229,866 people in some fourteen countries were listed as killed or missing by the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery 2005.139 Humanity reacted to this tragedy by donating to its victims. Not counting the assistance and donations from governments nor funds donated by individuals outside the United States, for which there is inconsistent recordkeeping, donations principally from U.S. citizens amounted to $1,874,949,705 in cash and in-kind gifts.140 The comparable figure donated in response to Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $3,574,031,029.141

It is hard to argue that all of these donations are strictly self-serving. The scale of the contributions and the fact that many were made over the Internet, which is an almost anonymous donation medium, suggest there is another cause of this human response. When we identify the types of people we honor and remember we find a common thread that indicates that we recognize and assign the greatest value to behavior and achievements that provide benefit to others, and more particularly to strangers.

It is time to recognize evolutionary development of a new level of consciousness that extends beyond self-serving behavior. We need to add another Being need on Maslow’s Hierarchy, a need for Transcending Ego and manifesting a genuine concern for others. Even if, in order to side step an unnecessary debate, we must satisfy the skeptics by ascribing a “warm glow” of self worth to those who achieve Transcendence, so be it. It is still time to recognize the development of this new level of consciousness and intellectual ascendance.

The most intuitive way of thinking about this transcendent level of the hierarchy is to see it as a mirror image, only inverted, of the original hierarchy in terms of the needs of others. In this view, providing for the physiological needs of others has the greatest urgency, followed by satisfying their safety needs and, in turn, their belonging and esteem needs and ultimately their self actualization. This would seem to be supported by a history of charitable giving where the greatest outpouring of support has occurred when the physiological and safety needs of others are threatened.

There is one final thought that continues to handicap the evolution of human consciousness. That thought occurs when we believe the superficial differences between human beings somehow divide us into meaningful groups. The ongoing perception and definition of difference is the principal root cause of the “Them Versus Us” dichotomy that has contributed to the human history of discrimination, hostility, persecution, slavery, war, and genocide. This belief that somehow one group of human beings is fundamentally different from another and therefore inherently better or worse may be the single most destructive belief people have held onto since our most primitive days.

A wide intellectual acceptance of the theory of evolution exists that holds that all life forms are related. By implication, all human beings are related. This generalized relationship for many people is not direct enough to dispel their ongoing belief in meaningful differences. It is not explicit enough to persuade them to accept all human beings as peers and equals.

Part of the reason this exaggeration of differences persists is the less than certain knowledge of human ancestry provided by archeology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology. A number of fossil discoveries appear to consist of the early human species that inhabit various places on our evolutionary tree. These include Australopithecus anamensis, Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo sapiens.142 As new specimens are discovered whether on the island of Flores (Homo florensiensis)143, in a Siberian cave (Denisovans)144 or somewhere else, debates continue amongst paleoanthropologists as to which came first and which is in direct line of ancestral succession leading to humans.145 While these ongoing debates have kept alive the thought that the differences between us are significant they all fall somewhere on the human family tree. Unfortunately archeology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology will remain subject to individual interpretation, disagreement, and uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

The unraveling of the human genome in molecular genetics however gives us additional scientific insight that is more precise in defining human relationships. Two independent research efforts have used the nucleotide sequences of alleles and their rate of mutation over time to trace ancestry and population migrations back through the generations. “Dividing the total number of genetic differences between two populations by an expected rate of mutation provides an estimate of the time when the two shared a common ancestor.”146 One effort has been undertaken over a number of years is by Dr. Douglas C. Wallace and his colleagues at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. They use mitochondrial (mt) DNA to create a genetic history.147 (mt)DNA is passed in tiny rings of genetic material in the female egg cell from the mother to offspring with no recombination. This gives a pure maternal genetic history unaffected by male genes. Another effort by Drs. Peter A. Underhill and Peter J. Oefner of Stanford University has analyzed the Y chromosome to trace ancestry through the male population.148

The result of these two efforts was to establish “that the root of the human phylogenetic tree occurs in Africa … and that eastern Africa may have been an ancient source of dispersion of modern humans both within and outside of Africa.”149 Further, the data in these studies trace human ancestry back to a single male and a single female in the relatively recent human history. The mitochondrial data trace our origin to a single female that existed in Africa between 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. “The tree is rooted in a single individual, the mitochondrial Eve, because all other lineages fell extinct.150 The study of the Y chromosome similarly traces our lineage to a single male, the Y Adam, who lived approximately 270,000 years ago.151

As with any scientific conclusion no absolute certainty exists. Indeed there are some who disagree with these findings. Some paleoanthropologists offer an alternative to this Out of Africa conclusion that is the Multiregional View. It suggests the evolution of modern humans began when Homo erectus spread throughout Eurasia approximately one million years ago. There is a third or Compromise hypothesis that combines elements of these two distinct viewpoints.152

These offered alternatives notwithstanding, the weight of scientific evidence indicates all human beings are closely related. Supporting this conclusion is the intellectual framework of evolution, archeological fossil record, our identical anatomical structure, knowledge that humans share 99.9% of the same genes153, and our collective lineage traced back to the same individual female and male ancestors who lived less than 300,000 years ago.

For these reasons we have to allow perceived human differences to slip away as insignificant and inconsequential. Then and only then can we fully acknowledge and embrace our collective human kinship. While we each are individuals with unique life experiences, we are the same. We each benefit from or fall victim to the human condition.

As we look around us we can find countless others that are less or more fortunate than ourselves. We see victims of the accident of origin who are born into environments that have the inherent dangers of starvation, disease, or warfare. We see people with life disabling medical conditions where each day is a stark reminder of their mortality. We see mental illness where the difficulty of day-to-day life or the blight of chemical imbalance or dependence has driven people away from reality. We see impossible circumstances that overwhelm a personal ability to overcome.

We also see people who are born to great wealth or have encountered fortunate circumstances in their lives. There are those who have found the great love of their life and those who have been set on a course that led them to great accomplishment. There are those who are unknown and those who have great celebrity. What we all share is the human condition. We all have high points and low points in our lives. In this we are the same.

This knowledge should lead us to know we are not alone. When we look outside ourselves to all of the other billions of people who are alive at any given moment, we see but one predicament, we are each but one of billions. We were all born, will live and die as a part of the life process. Each of us tries to find the best paths between our births and our deaths for our loved ones and ourselves. In this we are the same and it must bind us together. When we understand the profound shared reality we must feel empathy for one another. This empathy is what enables us to care about the quality of each other’s life experience and encourages us to act to help others when and where we are able.

There is much to do.


Afterwords: The Significance of Insignificance


Paradoxically our individual, objective insignificance in an infinite universe gives us the freedom to attempt to do things of significance. As one of the over six billion people alive today who will exist for probably no more than seven or eight decades within the three plus billion years that life has been on the planet, it is difficult to argue that any of us is capable of doing anything in our lifetime that will be significant. This recognition of our inherent, almost certain, insignificance is intimidating and distressing.

In a counterintuitive way however, this insignificance liberates us. Unbound by the burden of seeking to be significant we are free to try and influence the course of events and stand up to forces in our environment that are doing the things that are counterproductive to the future of humanity and life. If we fail to influence future direction we will end up being no less significant than we would have been anyway. If we succeed in influencing the future toward a more beneficial outcome in even a tiny way, we will bring a measure of significance to our existence way beyond that which we would otherwise have achieved.


Addendum – Intervention Opportunities


The following is a representative list of organizations actively pursuing issues including global climate change and the ozone hole, nuclear disarmament, synthetic biology, disaster and refugee relief, upgrading the quality of life experience, and biological diversity. These and other similarly focused groups would welcome your support and active involvement. Investigate thoroughly since each organization has its own approach to their mission with some groups being much more aggressive and militant than others.

Many of the organizations listed are actively involved in multiple issues. Find the right approach and organizations for you. These and other groups represent a way for each of us to take up the mantle of Guardian and make a difference in the course of our planet’s future. They represent a place to begin or expand our action.




Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

257 Park Avenue South

New York, NY 10010

Tel: 212 505-2100


Greenpeace International

702 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20001

Tel: 202 462-1177


Natural Resources Defense Council

40 West 20th Street,

New York, NY 10011

Tel: 212 727-2700




Arms Control Association

1313 L Street, NW, Suite 130

Washington, DC 20005

Tel: 202 463-8270



(International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War)

66-70 Union Square, Suite 204

Somerville, MA 02143

Tel: 617 440-1733


NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative)

1747 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 7th Floor

Washington, DC 20006

Tel: 202 296-4810


Trident Ploughshares

42-46 Bethel Street,

Norwich NR2 1NR

United Kingdom

Tel: 0845 45 88 366


Union of Concerned Scientists

Two Brattle Square

Cambridge, MA 02238-9105

Tel: 617 547-5552


War Resisters League

339 Lafayette Street

New York, NY 10012

Tel: 212 228-0450





431 Gilmour Street

Second Floor

Ottawa, ON K2P 0R5


Tel: 1-613-241-2267


Human Genetics Alert

Unit 112 Aberdeen House 22-24

Highbury Grove, London N5 2EA

United Kingdom

Tel: 020 7704 6100


Organic Seed Alliance

PO Box 772

Port Townsend, WA 98368

Tel: 360 385-7192


SYBHEL Project

Center for Ethics in Medicine

University of Bristol

3rd Floor, Hampton House

Cotham Hill

Bristol BS6 6AU

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)117 331 0720



Synthetic Biology Project

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20004-3027

Tel: 202 691-4398


The Center for Food Safety

660 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, #302

Washington DC 20003

Tel: 202 547-9359


The Institute of Science in Society

29 Tytherton Road, London N19 4PZ

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1908 696101

Contact: Julian Haffegee




International Red Cross

ICRC Headquarters in Geneva

International Committee of the Red Cross

19 avenue de la Paix

CH 1202 Geneva

Tel: ++41 (22) 734 60 01


Medecins Sans Frontieres

(Doctors Without Borders)

Rue de Lausanne 78

CP 116 – 1211

Geneva 21


Tel: +41 (22) 849.84.84



Oxfam International Secretariat

Suite 20

266 Banbury Road

Oxford OX2 7DL

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 47 2602

UK 0300 200 1300


The International Rescue Committee

122 East 42nd Street

New York, NY 10168 USA

Tel: 212 551-3000





Equality Now

PO Box 20646

Columbus Circle Station

New York, NY 10023

Tel: 212 586-0906


Genocide Intervention

1200 18th Street NW, Suite 320

Washington, DC 20036

Tel: 202 559-7405


Global Fund for Women

222 Sutter Street, Suite 500

San Francisco, CA 94108

Tel: 415 248-4800


Heifer International

1 World Avenue

Little Rock, AR 72202

Tel: 800 422-0474


Human Rights First

333 Seventh Avenue,

13th Floor

New York, NY 10001-5108

Tel: 212 845-5200




Animal Welfare Institute

900 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20003

Tel: 202 337-2332



(American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

424 E. 92nd Street

New York, NY 10128-6804

Tel: 800 628-0028


Compassion in World Farming

River Court,

Mill Lane,

Godalming, Surrey,


United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1483 521 950


Farm Sanctuary

P.O. Box 150 Watkins Glen,

New York 14891

Tel: 607 583-2225


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

501 Front Street,

Norfolk, VA 23510

Tel: 757 622-7382


The Humane Society of the United States

2100 L Street, NW

Washington, DC 20037

Tel: 202 452-1100


The National Anti-Vivisection Society

53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 1552

Chicago, IL 60604

Tel: 800 888-NAVS

312 427-6065




Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 710

Tucson, AZ 85702-0710

Tel: 520 623-5252


Global Crop Diversity Trust

c/o FAO

Viale delle Terme di Caracalla

00153 Rome


Tel: +39 06 570 55142

+39 06 570 53324





abstraction, human thought and, 72–74, 187

acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), 128

affection, needs for, 100

Africa, human phylogenetic tree and, 191–192

agriculture, genetically modified organisms and, 149–150

AIDS. See acquired immune deficiency syndrome

Alpha Centauri System, 43

America and Cosmic Man (Lewis), 14

American Clean Energy and Security Act, 126

amines, 21

amino acids, 21

Anderla, Georges, 64

Ångström, Knut, 118


cycle of life, 178

farm cruelty and, 179–183

human reaction to, 178–179

self recognition and, 178

tools, use of, 57–59

Antarctic, ozone levels, 110–111

Aristotle, 30, 118

Armstrong, Neil, 127

Army-McCarthy Senate hearings, 137

Arrhenius, Svante, 118

art, emotional development and, 78–79

atomic bomb, invention of, 127

Australopithecus anamensis, 190




complex reflex, 66–67

knowledge-based cosmology and, 4

Behringer, Richard, 52


early stage of human civilization, 9

knowledge vs., 11–12, 81–82

belongingness, needs for, 100

Big Bang, 20, 32

billiard ball hypothesis, 35

biogenic sphere, 24–26

Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), 150

birds, tools, use of, 57

Birks, J., 135

Bohr, Niels, 36–37

Bolshevik Party, 136

Bornean Orangutan, 57

bosons, 28–29

Broglie, Louis de, 37

bromine, 112

bromochlorodifluoromethane, 112

bromofluorocarbon compounds, 110

bromotrifluoromethane, 112

Buddha, 30

Bush, George W.

Russian threat and, 140

SORT, 134


California Institute of Technology, 66

Capitalism, 137

carbon dioxide (CO2), climate change and, 117–119

cells, memory and, 45–46

Center for the Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety, New York University, 75

CERN. See European Organization for Nuclear Research

CFCs. See chlorofluorocarbons

chain reflex, 66

charitable giving, motivation of, 188–189

Chen, Shaohua, 104

Chernoybl-4 nuclear reactor, 139

chimpanzees, tools, use of, 58–59


CFCs and, 115

communism, changes and, 140–141

nuclear weapons, 133, 138, 138–139

poverty line, 105

chlorine atoms, 112

chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), 110–112

chromosome, 45–46

climate change, 105–106, 110, 117–131

Climate Stewardship Act, 126

Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, 126

Cocconi, Giuseppi, 42

The Cognitive Animal (Gallup, Anderson, Shillito), 59, 63

cognitive dissonance, 11

Cold War, 133–134, 136–140

Collins, William, 125

Colman, Robert, 125

Communism, 136–138, 137

The Communist Manifesto, 136

complex reflex, 66–67

compound lens microscope, 27

Compromise hypothesis, 191

compromises, government and industry, 165

conditioned reflex, 65


beliefs vs. knowledge, 11–13

failure to address, 12–13

segregated societies and, 11–12

contextual reformation, 173–174

cosmology, knowledge of universe and, 16–17

Crutzen, Paul, 110–111, 135

Cuban Missile Crisis, 138

cyclic universe, 32



Damasio, Antonio, 74–75, 77–78

Darwin, Charles, 24, 63, 186


inevitability of, 19

of organism, life information and, 53

reanimation and, 91–93

decision making

consciousness, emotions and, 74–75

self awareness and, 65–68

democracy, 137

Denisovans, 190

deoxyribonucleic acid. See DNA

Department of Biological Anthropology, Cambridge University, 58

Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, 50

Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas, 52

Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, 52

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (Damasio), 74

Descartes, René, 56

deterministic system, 35–36

Development Economics Research Group, World Bank, 104

Diamond, Jared, 165

differences, between humans, 189–193

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), 22

death of organism and, 48–58

genetic engineering and, 148

matter, memory and, 45

mitochondrial, 49, 191

nuclear, 49

physical evolution and, 70

Dobson, Gordon, 110

Dobson unit, 110

“Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy, 13

Drake, Frank, 42

Duke Energy, 127

DuPont, 110



earth, age of, 71

egocentricity, transcending of, 185–193

Einstein, Albert

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and, 38

light, study of, 36

matter, energy and, 19

simultaneity and, 23

Ekman, Paul, 76

Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act, 126

electron microscopy, 51


quantum mechanical theory and, 37

wave function and, 37

emission reduction, 126–127

Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, 191

The Emotional Brain (LeDoux), 75


art and, 78–79

centering of, 173–175

consciousness, decision making and, 74–75

evolutionary development and, 72–79

origin of, 76–77

empathy, self awareness and, 62–64

Engels, Friedrich, 136

entanglement, quantum, 38–39

environment, humans, impact on, 109–116

esteem, needs for, 100

European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), 28

European Union, 137


aggregate level, 88–89

of emotion, 72–79

of intellect, 72–74, 185

one-to-many-to-one progression, 88

physical, 70–71

survival of the fittest, 186–187

extraterrestrial life, probability of, 42–43



farm animal cruelty, 179–183

fermions, 28

Flannery, Tim, 110–111, 112

force carrier particles, 28–29

fossil DNA, study of, 48–58

Fourier, Joseph, 117–118

France, nuclear weapons, 133

free will, 35

Freon, 110

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 12



Gaia, 128

galaxies, 29

Gallup, Gordon G., Jr., 62–63

Gautama Buddha, 30

generation, measurement of, 130

genetic engineering, 70–71, 147–150

genetically modified food, 149–150, 158

genome, 45–46

Germany, nuclear weapons, 135–136

glasnost, 139

global climate change, 105–106, 110, 117–131

global village, 14

Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, 126

Global Warming Reduction Act, 126

God, singular life form and, 92

googol, 31

googolplex, 31

Gorbachev, Mikhail, 139–140

Gore, Al, 122

gorillas, brain and, 63

Great Pyramid of Khufu, 127

Green Revolution, 125–126

greenhouse gas reductions, 126

The Guardian (newspaper), 156

Gulick, Steve, 58

Guns, Germs & Steel (Diamond), 165

The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (McLuhan), 14



Hadron, 28

Halon-1211, 112

Halon-1301, 112

halons, 110

Haywood, James, 125

HCFC-22 (hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22), 115

Heisenberg Indeterminacy Principle, 37–38

Heisenberg, Werner, 37–38

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, 37–38

Helios, 43–44

Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow), 98–106, 170, 187

Hiroshima, 133

HIV. See human immunodeficiency virus

hologram, 47

Homo erectus, 190, 191

Homo ergaster, 190

Homo florensiensis, 190

Homo genus, 71

Homo habilis, 57, 190

Homo heidelbergensis, 190

Homo rudolfensis, 190

Homo sapiens, 190

first appearance of, 71

uniqueness of, 55–68

homosexuality, American military and, 13

household wealth, 104–105

Hubble space telescope, 31

Human Genome Project, 46

human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 155


ancestry, 190–192

body, elements of, 54

development, equality of, 162–163

intervention, future and, 161–167

phylogenetic tree, 191–192

thought, evolution of, 72–74

uniqueness, 53–68

Hume, David, 30

Hurricane Katrina, 2005, charity and, 188

Huygens, Christiaan, 36

hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22. See HCFC-22



imperatives, in belief system, 94–96

implications, in belief system, 94–95


CFCs and, 115

nuclear weapons, 133

inductive reasoning, 32–33

infinity, universe and, 30–33

innate reflex, 65, 66

instinct, 8

intellect, evolution of, 8, 72–74

interaction, with others, 175–177

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), 122–124

International Geophysical Year, 119

International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), 149

intervention, future and, 161–167

intuition, emotion and, 77–78

investigatory reflex, 66

IPPC. See Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

ISAAA. See International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

isolation, beliefs, conflict and, 11–12

Israel, nuclear weapons and, 133



Jansen, Zacharias, 27

Japan, nuclear weapons, 136

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 155

Jones, Jim, 12

Jurassic Park scenario, 86–87



Kasner, Edward, 30

Keeling, Charles David, 119

Kennedy, Donald, 125

Kennedy, John F., 127

kindness, 177

Klaus, Vaclav, 140


belief vs., 81–82

human differentiation and, 68

quantifying of, 64

Koch, Christof, 66–67

Korean War, 138

Krings, Matthias, 49



language, human differentiation and, 68

Large Hadron Collider (LHC), 28

Law on Cooperatives, 139


capitalism, abuses of, 137

climate change and, 126–127

farm animal cruelty and, 179–183, 182

LeDoux, Joseph, 75

Lenin, Vladimir, 136

leptons, 28

Lewis, Wyndham, 14

LHC. See Large Hadron Collider

life, beginning of, 20–23

life experience, enhancement of, 169–183

life matter, 25

light, study of, 36–39

Lindeman, F.A., 110

livestock, cruelty and, 179–183

living matter, 25–26

love, needs for, 100

Lovelock, James, 128



MacArthur, General Douglas, 138

Macquarie University, 110

MAD. See Mutually Assured Destruction

magnetic field, planet and, 29

magnetism, 91–92

Manning, Martin R., 125

Mao Tse-Tung, 138

mark tests, self-awareness and, 60–61

Marx, Karl, 136

Maslow, Abraham, 97–103, 102, 187

mass spectrometry, 51

matter particles, 28

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 48, 58

McLuhan, Marshall, 14

McMaster University, Hamilton, CA, 50

Medvedev, Dmitry, 134


encoding and, 84–85

living matter and, 45–54, 83–84

transfer of, past into present, 85

meteorites, 21, 29, 41

methane (CH4), 128–129

microscopes, 27–28

Millennium Development Goals, UN General Assembly, 106–107

Miller/Urey experiment, 21

mirror tests, self-awareness and, 60–61

mitochondrial DNA, 49, 191


first life on planet, 21–22

manufactured, grown, 151–152

Molina, Mario, 111

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1987, 112, 115

Morgan, Dave, 58

Morrison, Philip, 42

The Moscow Treaty, 134

Mote, Philip, 125

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, NY, 155

Multiregional View, 191

mutation, genetic modification and, 70

Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), 134



Nagasaki, nuclear bomb, 133

National Academy of Sciences, 149

natural selection, 24, 186

Nature (Molina, Sherwood Rowland), 111

Neanderthal, genetic analysis of, 49–51

New START. See New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), 134

New York University, 75

Newton, Isaac, 36

Nisbet, Euan, 129

Noonan, James, 50

North Korea, nuclear weapons and, 133

North Pole, ozone hole, 112

nuclear disarmament, 144–145

nuclear DNA, 49

nuclear weapons, 133–146

nucleotides, synthetic biology and, 152



Obama, Barack, 134

October Revolution, 1917, 136

Oefner, Peter J., 191

On the Origin of Species (Darwin), 24

one-to-many-to-one progression, 24

opposable thumb, 57

optical microscopy, 51

origin of life experiments, 20–22

Out of Africa model, 191

Oxford University, 110

ozone, 110–111

ozone hole, 109–116



Pääbo, Svante, 48–50

Pakistan, nuclear weapons and, 133

Pask, Andrew, 52

Pavlov, Ivan, 5, 65–66

People’s Temple Agricultural Project, 12

peptide nucleic acid (PNA), 151–152

perestroika, 139

philosophy, 9–10

phylogenetic tree, 191–192

physical evolution

genetics, human science of, 70–71

random mutation, genetic modification and, 70–71

selective breeding, 70–71

The Physical Science behind Climate Change (Scientific American), 125

physiological needs, 98

Planck’s constant, 37

PNA. See peptide nucleic acid

Poinar, Hendrik, 50

poliovirus, genetically engineered, 156

politics, global climate change and, 125–126, 147

polymerization, 21–22

poverty rates, 105

prefrontal cortex, self awareness and, 67–68

present moment, 171–173

Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, 182

primates, tools, use of, 58–59


extraterrestrial life and, 42–43

future events and, 40–41

mathematics of, 39–40

past frequency, 40

time and, 40

proportionality policy, weapons and, 142–143

prosperity, world, 106

Protestant Branch Davidians, 12

Proxima Centauri, 43–44

Putin, Vladimir, 134, 140



quantum mechanics

deterministic universe and, 36

development of, 39

entanglement, 38–39

quarks, 28

A Quest for Consciousness: a Neurobiological Approach (Koch), 66



Randerson, James, 156

Ravallion, Martin, 104

reanimation, death and, 91–93

recollection, 174–175


chain, 66

complex, 66–67

conditioned, 65

innate, 66

investigatory, 66

of self-defense, 66


belief, supernatural and, 3–4

definition of, 10

remote projection, 174

Renfree, Marilyn, 52

Revelle, Roger, 119

ribonucleic (RNA) acid, 22

Rowland, F. Sherwood, 111

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 111, 118

Rubin, Edward, 50


New START, 134

nuclear war, U.S. and, 135

nuclear weapons, disarmament, 144

threat of, 140–141



Safe Climate Act, 126

safety needs, 98–100

Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, 104

Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, 149

Sanz, Crickette, 58

Schrödinger, Edwin, 37

Science magazine, 125

Scientific American magazine, 125

scientific knowledge, systems of thought and, 10–11

scientific method, 32–33

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 119

secular institutions, beliefs, conflict and, 11

selective breeding, 70–71

self awareness, 59–65

animal kingdom, humans and, 69–70

decision making and, 65–68

empathy and, 62–64

prefrontal cortex and, 67–68

self, consciousness of, 72–73

self-actualization, 101–102

self-defense reflex, 66

Seventh Day Adventist Church, 12

sheep-human chimera, 149

simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), 155

simultaneity, Einstein and, 23

singular life form, optional future and, 89–96

Sirotta, Milton, 30–31

SIV. See simian immunodeficiency virus

smallpox virus, 156

SORT. See Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty

South Africa, nuclear weapons and, 133

South Pole, ozone hole, 112

Soviet Union

Cold War and, 138–139

disintegration of, 140

nuclear weapons and, 133

Spanish Flu virus, 155–156

Special Theory of Relativity (Einstein), 23

Spencer, Herbert, 186

Stalin, Joseph, 138

Standard Model of particle physics, 28

Stanford University, 191

stars, first formation of, 20

State University of New York, Stony Brook, 156

stimulus, response and, 65–66

Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), 134

String Theory, 33

Styrofoam, 111

survival of the fittest, 186–187

synthetic biology, 70–71, 147, 150–159

systems of thought

development of, 10

scientific knowledge and, 10–11

Szilard, Leo, 127



Taubenberger, Jeffrey, 155

telescopes, 27

teraelectronvolts (TeV), 28

TeV. See teraelectronvolts


abstraction and, 72–74, 187

human, evolution of, 72–74

systems of, 10–11

thumb, opposable, 57

time, tense of, 170–171

tools, use of, in animals, 57–59

Topolanek, Mirek, 140

totalitarianism, 136–138

Township-Village Enterprises, 141

transcendence, of ego, 189

Trinity test nuclear explosion, NM, 133

Tsunami 2004, charity and, 188

Tyndall, John, 117–118



ultraviolet (UV) radiation, 110, 111

uncertainty, universe and, 35–44

Underhill, Peter A., 191

understanding, search for, 7–17

United Kingdom, nuclear weapons, 133

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 122

United Nations General Assembly, 106–107

United Nations, nuclear weapons and, 145

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, 104

United States

global climate change and, 125

nuclear weapons, 133–135

use of power and, 141–142

United States Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, 155

United States Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, 155

United States Congress, greenhouse gas reductions, 126

United States Department of Agriculture, 150


cyclic, 32

fundamental nature of, 27–28

galaxies, 29

infinity and, 30–33

inner, investigation of, 28

perceptual levels and, 29

structure of, 33–34

University of Nevada-Reno, 148–149

University of Tokyo, 149

uskoreniye, 139

UV radiation. See ultraviolet radiation



VH Bio Ltd., 156

Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985, 112, 114

Vindija Cave, Neanderthal bones and, 49–50

viruses, risks of, 154–155

visualization, 175



Wallace, Douglas C., 191

Warren Jeffs, 12

wealth, household, 104–105

The Weather Makers (Flannery), 110

weather models, 120–121, 122

“What-is-it?” reflex, 66

WHO. See World Health Organization

Wildland Security, 58

Wilson, Allan, 48

Wimmer, Eckard, 156

WMO. See World Meteorological Organization

World Bank, 104

The World distribution of Household Wealth (UN), 104

The World Distribution of Income: Falling Poverty and…Convergence, Period* (Sala-i-Martin), 04

World Health Organization (WHO), 156

World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 122

World poverty line, 104

worldview, 13–15



Young, Thomas, 36



Zanjani, Esmail, 148








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45Joshua M. Plotnik, Frans B. M. de Waal, and Diana Reiss, Self-recognition in an Asian elephant, PNAS, November 7, 2006, volume 103, number 45, 17053-17057.

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48Collected Statements about Animals, Science,

49Robert Anton Wilson, Four Trends That Give Me Hope, 1989.

50Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Lectures on the Work of the Cerebral Hemisphere, Lecture One, 1924, From Experimental Psychology and other essays, published by Philosophical Library, New York, 1957

51Ibid, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

52Ibid, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

53Ibid, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

54Christof Koch, A Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach, Roberts & Company Publishers, March 2004.

55Ibid. Christof Koch

56Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Harper Perennial, November 1, 1995.

57Ibid. Antonio R. Damasio.

58Joseph Ledoux, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life, Simon & Schuster; First Edition, March 27, 1998.

59Paul Ekman, Facial Expression and Emotion, American Psychologist, Vol. 48, No. 4, pps 384-392, April 1993, 1992 Award Addresses.

60Demis Hassabis, Carlton Chu, Geraint Rees, Nikolaus Weiskopf, Peter D. Molyneux and Eleanor A. Maguire, Decoding Neuronal Ensembles in the Human Hippocampus, Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 7, pps 546-554, March 12, 2009.

61Ibid, Antonio R. Demasio.

62Edward N. Zalta, Principal Editor, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Epistemology, December 14, 2005,

63Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok, A Cyclic Model of the Universe, Science, May 24, 2002, Vol. 296. No. 5572, pp. 1436-1439. DOI: 10.1126/science.1070462

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65Xavier Sala-I-Martin, The World Distribution of Income: Falling Poverty and  … .Convergence, Period, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. CXXI, May 2006, Issue 2.

66James B. Davies, Susanna Sandstrom, Anthony Shorrocks, Edward N. Wolff The World Distribution of Household Wealth, United Nations University, World Institute for Development Economics Research, Discussion Paper No. 2008/03, February 2008.

67The Millennium Development Goals Report, United Nations, New York, 2007.

68UN Report Points to Serious Shortfalls in Development Aid: Millennium Goals in Jeopardy, Secretary-General Warns, United Nations Press Release, July 2, 2007.

69Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006

70Ibid, The Weather Makers, p214.

71The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995, Press Release, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, October 11, 1995.

72Ibid, The Weather Makers, p217-218.

73Keith Bradsher, New York Times, Air conditioners batter the ozone layer, San Francisco Chronicle, page A5, Friday, February 23, 2007.

74Spencer Weart, The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect, Text of an essay in the web site “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart,

75American Institute of Physics, 22 pages, May 2006. For an overview, see The Discovery of Global Warming, Harvard University Press, 2003.

76Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, Chaos in the Atmosphere, June 2007,

77The IPCC: Who Are They and Why Do Their Climate Reports Matter?, Global Warming, Union of Concerned Scientists,

78The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, The Norwegian Nobel Committee, Oslo, October 12, 2007.

79IPCC, 2007, Summary for Policy Makers. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,

80IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 7-22

81IPCC, 2007. Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer (eds)), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

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83Donald Kennedy, Editorial – Climate: Game Over, Science, Vol 317, pg. 425, July 27, 2007.

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99Vicky Hu, The Chinese Economic Reform and Chinese Entrepreneurship, Lecture, May 2005, X Jornada d’Economia caixaManresa l’esperit emprenedor,

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102Ko Kobayakawa, Reiko Kobayakawa, Hideyuki Matsumoto, Yuichiro Oka, Takeshi Imai, Masahito Ikawa, Masaru Okabe, Toshio Ikeda, Shigeyoshi Itohara, Takefumi Kikusui, Kensaku Mori & Hitoshi Sakano, Innate versus learned odour processing in the mouse olfactory bulb, Nature 450, pps 503-508, November 22, 2007.

103Alysson R. Muotri, Kinichi Nakashima, Nicolas Toni, Vladislav M. Sandler, and Fred H. Gage, Development of functional human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons in mouse brain, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. December 20, 2005; 102(51): 18644-18648.

104USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Biotechology: Noncompliance History,

105U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply, CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety, August 2006,

106Rick Weiss, Biotech Rice Saga Yields Bushel of Questions for Feds: USDA Approval Shortcut Emerges as Issue, Washington Post, Monday, November 6, 2006, page A03

107Marc Gunther, Attack of the mutant rice, Fortune Magazine, July 2, 2007,

108Margaret Mellon, Jane Rissler, Karen Perry Stillerman, To USDA: Deregulation of LLRICE601, Letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists, October 10,2006, _agriculture/solutions/sensible_pharma_crops/ucs-comments-on-deregulation.html

109 Aris A., Leblanc S., “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.”  Reprod Toxicol (2011), doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2011.02.004



112Steven A. Benner and A. Michael Sismour, Synthetic Biology, Nature Reviews/Genetics, Volume 6, July 2005, p. 542.

113Daniel G. Gibson, John I. Glass, Carole Lartique, Vladimir N. Noskov, Ray-Yuan Chuang, Mikkel A. Algire, Gwynedd A. Benders, Michael G. Montague, Li Ma, Monzia M. Moodie, Chuck Merryman, Sanjay Vashee, Radha Krishnakumar, Nacyra Assad-Garcia, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Evgeniuya A. Denisova, Lei Young, Zhi-Qing Qi, Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro, Christopher H. Calvey, Prashanth P. Parmar, Clyde A. Hutchison III, Hamilton O. Smith, J. Craig Venter, Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome, Sciencexpress,, May 20, 2010, 10.1126/science.1190719.

114Genesis redux, The Economist, May 22, 2010.

115Holger Breithaupt, The engineer’s approach to biology, EMBO reports 7, 1, 21-23 (2006),,

116Lawrence Fisher, The Race to Cash In On the Genetic Code, New York Times – Business Day, 8-29-1999,

117Gary Stix, Owning the Stuff of Life, Scientific American, February 2006, pps 76-83.

118Synthetic Biology, postnote, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, January 2008, Number 298,

119Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (2010, June 8). Government funding for synthetic biology on the rise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 4, 2010, from

120Synthetic Biology Influencing Development, Lloyd’s Emerging Risks Team Report, Version 1, July 2009,

121Mary Carmichael, How It Began: HIV Before the Age of AIDS, Frontline PBS, May 30, 2006,

122Jon Cohen, The Hunt for the Origin of AIDS, Atlantic Monthly, Medicine, October 2000,

123Jonathan B. Tucker, Raymond A. Lilinskas, The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology, The New Atlantis, A Journal of Technology and Society,

124Elizabeth Pennisi, Virology: First Genes Isolated From the Deadly 1918 Flu Virus, Science, March 21, 1977, Vol. 275. No. 5307, pp. 1739.

125Eckard Wimmer, The test-tube synthesis of a chemical called poliovirus: The simple synthesis of a virus has far-reaching societal implications, EMBO reports (European Molecular Biology Organization), Rep. July 2006; 7(SI): S3-S9.

126Cello, Jeronimo; Paul, Aniko V.; Wimmer, Eckard, Chemical Synthesis of Poliovirus cDNA; Generation of Infectious Virus in the Absence of Natural Template, Science, Vol. 297(5583), August 9, 2002 pp 1016-1018.

127James Randerson, Science Correspondent, Lax laws, virus DNA and potential for terror, The Guardian, Wednesday June 14, 2006.,,1796805,00.html

128Julie Wakefield, Doom and Gloom by 2100, Scientific American, July 2004, pgs 48-49.

129Jocelyn Kaiser, Synthetic Biology – Attempt to Patent Artificial Organism Draws a Protest, Science, Vol 316, June 15, 2007, page 1557

130Carolyn Y. Johnson, Accessible Science: Hackers aim to make biology household practice, The Boston Globe, September 15, 2008.

131Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, W.W. Norton & Co.; July 11, 2005

132Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, in a speech at the Wilson Center Director’s Forum in a series sponsored by the Wilson Center’s Foresight and Governance Project, March 6, 2001.


134Table of State Humane Slaughter Laws, Michigan State University College of Law, 2006,,

135FSIS Directive 6900.2 Revision 1, 11/25/03, United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

136Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals, The Humane Society of the United States, citing statistics provided by the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, August 22, 2009.

137Initiative 07-0028 California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,

138Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami, Philip Brown and Jessica Minty, William Davidson Institute Working Paper Number 855, December 2006.

139Ibid. page 4

140Tsunami Relief Giving, The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University,

141Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief Donations, The Center on Philanthropy atIndiana University,

142Early Human Phylogeny, Human Ancestors Hall: Tree, Smithsonian Institution,

143Archaeology and age of a new hominin from Flores in eastern Indonesia, M. J. Morwood, R.P. Soejono, R. G. Roberts, T. Sutikna, C. S. M. Turney, K. E. Westaway, W. J. Rink, J.-x. Zhao, G. D. van den Bergh, Rokus Awe Due, D. R. Hobbs, M. W. Moore, M. I. Bird & L. K. Fifield, Letters to Nature, Nature 431, ppgs 1087-1091, October 28, 2004.

144Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia, David Reich, Richard E. Green, Martin Kircher, Johannes Krause, Nick Patterson, Eric Y. Durand, Bence Viola, Adrian W. Briggs, Udo Stenzel, Philip L. F. Johnson, Tomislav Maricic, Jeffrey M. Good, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Can Alkan, Qiaomei Fu, Swapan Mallick, Heng Li, Matthias Meyer, Evan E. Eichler, Mark Stoneking, Michael Richards, Sahra Talamo, Michael V. Shunkov, Anatoli P. Derevianko, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Nature 468, pgs 1053-1060, December 23, 2010.

145African Skull Points to One Human Ancestor, Ann Gibbons, March 20, 2002, ScienceNOW

146Theories on Modern Human Origins and Diversity, Smithsonian Institution,

147Whole-mtDNA Genome Sequence Analysis of Ancient African Lineages, Mary Katherine Gonder, Holly M. Mortensen, Floyd A. Reed, Alexandra de Sousa, and Sarah A. Tishkoff, 2006 Oxford University Press for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

148The Human Family Tree: 10 Adams and 18 Eves, Nicholas Wade, New York Times, May 2, 2000,

149Ibid, Whole-mtDNA Genome Sequence Analysis of Ancient African Lineages

150Ibid, The Human Family Tree

151The Y Chromosome and the Origin of All of Us (Men), Svante Pääbo, Science, Vol. 268, May 26, 1995. Page 1142.

152Ibid, Theories on Modern Human Origins and Diversity, Smithsonian Institution

153Lauren Crowley, Human Genomics: Our Shared Inheritance, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,



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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: Chapters 14 & 15 – A Human Intervention Imperative and Enhancing the Life Experience

Posted on 05 June 2013 by Jerry



A Human Intervention Imperative


We explored human uniqueness looking at physical attributes. We observed that advanced development of the prefrontal cortex in some mammals has been shown to be the probable source of self-recognition, empathy, and conscious decision-making. We argued language enables us to vicariously learn another’s knowledge without personal experience, contact, or observation. Finally, we described our ability to identify problems, absorb information, perceive consequences, conceive of options from which to choose, and make conscious decisions.

The fourth imperative is that we must decide to intervene in the course of events and influence or control their outcome. This is how we will assure life is protected from threat, evolution continues, and life experience is positive. Humanity is the key to completion of the evolutionary cycle and the emergence of the future living organism in which we will each participate. Only we can do what is necessary. We must consider the information presented, relate consequence to our personal lives, weigh our options and make a conscious decision to become guardians of life.

It is useful to pause and reflect on what has been presented. We must judge whether the information is credible and factual, if the assumptions and conclusions are logical and consistent. We must determine if the cosmology and resulting philosophy makes sense to a rational mind. We must decide if it is useful to society.

The five most obvious reasons to embrace the cosmology are:

  • It satisfies the genetic human “investigatory reflex”, identified by Pavlov, which drives us to seek a more comprehensive explanation of existence;
  • It resolves our cognitive dissonance by creating much greater consistency between our beliefs and our scientific knowledge;
  • The role of guardian of life is a singularly human responsibility which requires a shared philosophical point of view to insure a coordinated human response;
  • It directs human attention and effort to the most pressing problems of our time;
  • With sufficient time, evolution of a single future life form is possible, probable, or inevitable depending on whether you believe it is a natural evolutionary outcome or we will be effective in altering the future course of events.

Irrespective of which reason is most compelling to any individual, all we need do is decide to make a commitment and find the way to best implement our decision.

Human beings do not develop equally. We exist along a continuum of circumstance. Each of us has a specific set of advantages and/or disadvantages. Each is born with unique capabilities that can carry us only as far as our motivation and circumstances will allow. This means there are levels of consciousness some people are not capable of achieving and others, while capable, will be denied by circumstance. Those of us who are left, who are capable and enabled by circumstance, will achieve insights that vast numbers of human beings cannot and will not see. We will be lonely in our knowledge and yet have a responsibility to share what we know because global challenges require all of us to act.

Problems lasting a thousand years require generations of advocacy, intervention, and vigilance. Not only must we share insights with those around us, we must inform and educate subsequent generations. Evolutionary potential must be explained to those that follow. They must know that the role of guardian entails not only protecting life but also insuring its continued evolution and the enhancement of everyone’s life experience.

For most of us the time horizon in our lives has been limited. Seldom have we had to look forward by decades or centuries. With the survival issues we face and the imperatives we have identified, we are forced to lengthen our time horizon to include many future generations. This too points to our uniqueness within life. While it may not be accurate to say the rest of the animal kingdom is unaware of the passage of time, it is probable we are the only species capable of thinking about the future in terms of hundreds, thousands, or millions of years.

Looking back at the total human experience we see a history of continual and pervasive change. We began as hunter gathers, became farmers and entered the industrial and information ages. We have weathered countless variations of governance, experiencing anarchy, feudalism, theocracy, monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorships, and democracy. We have tried capitalism, communism, and socialism. Nothing about how we live is immutable or not subject to change. No options are closed to us. We have the freedom of a flexible response to future requirements.

We know change is inevitable and it begins with each of us. The first change required is the loss of our individual and collective political naiveté. We must stop relying on the politicians whom we have historically trusted to do what is right. If we have learned anything from the past and present it is that politicians are subject to persuasion from numerous sources most of which are motivated by their own gain and not by the greater good. This leads to political rationalization of suboptimal outcomes almost always favoring the few at the expense of the many.

Intervention is an active word. Nothing substantial will happen unless there is collective human action. Collective action is the product of personal commitment by many individuals. It is the determination of people to convince the people around him or her to act with them in a specific way. It is alignment of popular sentiment around issues whose time has come that establishes a political environment where progress can be made.

Each person must participate in the fight to protect life on our planet. At a minimum, each must pick the survival issue you care most strongly about or believe you can most affect and become an activist in that area. We must stop being mere onlookers and bystanders. It is not enough to go out and vote every few years without activism in between. It is not enough to watch a television program and nod to yourself about the issues. It is not enough to tell a friend you agree with them. Passivity convinces no one and is incapable of overcoming the inertia of the indecision of others.

Those who investigate issues, form opinions, and take a stand to change present reality determine future outcomes. Those who convince others rather than are convinced by others will make the difference in the future course. It is the people that join organizations, contribute time and money, attend rallies and conferences, write letters, and walk door to door in elections that create the future. These are the things we must do. When problems resolve, these are the people history will remember and honor.

Each of us must administer personal tests to determine how much is enough? How much time, money, and commitment are enough? Our answer is relative to our circumstances. The issue selected is about survival. It is important and must be reflected as such in one’s behavior. Important commitments are public. When everyone in your circle of influence knows your passion and position on an issue the commitment is declared. We each must expend the energy to move issues forward and incorporate them into our daily lives. They should be a major way we spend our spare time, a way to meet new people and to give our self a sense of accomplishment. When you know your contribution of time and money is forcing a choice between things you care about, you are reaching the level of commitment survival issues deserve.

As we attempt to move forward there will always be suggestions of short-term compromise from government and industry. Undoubtedly compromise will be imposed. Successful activists take the progress that is offered and demand more. Survival issues require dogged determination and sustained commitment. Progress is made with an uncompromising focus on the end outcome and a continuing sense of urgency to get there. We do not have to convince all or even half of the people to make a major change in direction. Supportive political environments are created with a smaller number. To effect change, however, we must reach a sufficient number of people. We will know we have made substantial progress when world leaders feature the survival issues and their world status in their annual reports to their citizens.

Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs & Steel, made a compelling argument that geographical and environmental factors bestowed advantages on people that were greater contributors to their success than racial or genetic differences.131 Just as he argued that the accident of origin was more responsible for success of peoples than their capabilities, we will see that through no fault of their own, the adversity of global climate change will fall on people who happen to be in the wrong place on the planet. There will be physical life crises that rival any in humanity’s past. We have to prepare for the inevitable upheavals and hardships of populations migrating to different territories to avoid the consequences of higher temperatures and shrinking fresh water resources. We must be prepared to help a humanity ravaged by change.

These and other challenges will undoubtedly involve new ways for us to live our lives. Those unwilling to give up the excesses of the past will resist these changes or who are afraid to move to new circumstances. But if the future mimics the past, change will predictably fall somewhere in the middle of our expectations, not as small or distant as we hope or as large or immediate as we fear. And as has been the case in the past, humanity will eventually invest the energy to adapt and weather the change in order to survive and continue to progress. The longer we wait, however, the larger the challenge becomes and the more energy we will have to invest.

We all long for life without cares surrounded by our loved ones where happiness and contentment are shared and each day is filled with optimism about a better future. However, the best we can hope for are days, weeks, months, or sometimes years of relative well being where effort made in the past shelters us from negative consequence in the present and future. This is the fundamental nature of life. It is not without hard work, planning ahead, being mindful of what is truly important and engaging in meaningful and rewarding relationships wherever we can find them. Even so we must anticipate and deal with future adversity.

Looking at our history and human nature, it is hard to avoid pessimism about the future. It is difficult to look at the threats to life just identified, human actions required, and necessary sacrifices and not be daunted by the enormity of the challenge. And yet, with all of this there is reason for optimism. Life is tenacious and insistent. Human beings have a history of weathering and overcoming adversity. We have always figured out a way. We will do no less in the future. We are embarked on an odyssey of change that is far from complete. Human history documents our relentless exodus from our roots in the animal kingdom. Figuratively, we struggle to complete our process of metamorphosis, standing up straight to finally transcend our animal origins. We must not underestimate the change that is possible or the strength of our desire and ability to accomplish it. We must intervene in the course of events and consciously become the guardians of life. We are the chrysalises that will become life’s butterfly.




Enhancing the Life Experience



We have discussed the need for human beings to intervene in the course of events and assume responsibility for outcomes as guardians and custodians of life. In addition, we have dedicated four chapters to the Imperative of protecting life and identified survival issues we must resolve. Before we end our investigation we must briefly revisit the other two imperatives, to create an aggregate positive life experience and insure that evolution continues.

The imperative to create positive life experiences recognizes that our combined experience will be integral to the worldview of the future singular life form. We must assume that all contributions are not equal, that as the sensitivity of the sensory system and complexity of a creature’s intellectual ability increases, their relative contribution to future consciousness is magnified. This assumes the contribution of experience from higher life forms, i.e. human beings, is greater than that of lesser forms.

The life experience over which we have the greatest control is our own. This chapter is about how to apply this imperative to everyday life. Further insight on how we should live can be found by returning to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. No one exists exclusively in self-actualization where we are only doing what we were “born to do” and continuously achieve at our full potential. Everyone spends time in multiple levels of the hierarchy each day. We have to breathe, eat and sleep, have shelter, and feel secure.

A key differentiator of one human life from another is the proportion of time spent satisfying physiological and safety needs versus higher-level belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs. Maslow’s hypothesis was we spend our lives seeking to invert his pyramid to achieve a state where the majority of our time is self-actualizing and time required to satisfy lower level deficit needs is minimal. It comes as no surprise that for most people the pyramid has not inverted and daily life is focused on the first four levels of the hierarchy. Nevertheless, humanity’s future global objective must be to minimize deficit needs and maximize the being need of Self Actualization.

Implicit in the Hierarchy of Needs is a time tense. As the individual conquers lower level survival needs, satisfying each successive level need requires a greater amount of time. As an example, those people who go beyond satisfying basic physiological needs for food, water, shelter, etc. find satisfying needs for love, acceptance, and belonging require a greater investment of time because they have to cultivate and nurture necessary relationships with others. Similarly, the Esteem needs of achievement, education, competence and respect all imply sustained effort over an even longer period of time. They also involve identification and definition of conscious goals and objectives.

This implied time tense prompts us to examine where our consciousness is focused, in the past, present moment, or future. Only the present moment is reality. Past moments are but memory. Future moments are but anticipation. While true that only the present moment is real, one of our strengths is our ability to think in all three time tenses; to learn from successes and failures in the past, to be fully conscious of circumstances and action required in the moment, and to identify what must be achieved in the future and channel present efforts accordingly.

There is benefit in the present to minimizing negative influences of the past. As an example, we can all remember negative comments and discouragement from others who told us we were not worthy or were not capable of achievement. These could have been the taunting comments of other children or discouragement from well meaning adults who sought to insulate us from an experience of failure. Unfortunately, we tend to give these memories too much influence on our present lives.

It is always true that past experiences occurred at a different place and time and to a different person, ourselves at an earlier moment. Our memories can be flawed by immaturity, inaccurate perception, and/or misinterpretation. The past must be reevaluated in light of the present. For this reason, we should be very harsh with memories, easily and quickly dismissing those inconsistent with who we now are, that do not contribute to our present and future success, and which do not support the direction we have chosen for ourselves. We should also retain memories that represent the best contribution to who we have become or are becoming.

At the same time we must give witness to the passing of the present moment for it is in each moment the history of our life is written. It is within each moment that we can fulfill our promise to be a good person, to do that which brings pride to those who know us and creates value in our existence. It is also the point at which experience takes place with lessons learned, insights gained, and memories made. We must extract all the value we can from each present moment, savoring the existence of that moment which comes but once for each of us.

Each moment presents us with a choice. We can exist, harvest, or invest in the moment. All living creatures exist in each moment but absent other thought or action mere existence offers the least value. When moments pass without notice the full potential of life is squandered. To harvest a moment is to recognize its passage and extract the fullness of its value. It can be to feel joy at being alive, the pleasure of the warm sunshine on your face or inhaling the fragrance of a flower. It can be laughter with a friend, hugging a child, or kissing your mate. It can be any thought or action that consciously puts you in your moment with full appreciation of its experience and opportunity.

To invest in the present moment is to expend effort focused on enhancing moments that follow. It can be working harder in the present to reduce effort or risk in the future. It can be crafting a solution today to forestall a problem anticipated tomorrow. It can be working to achieve a milestone that gives ongoing and sustainable advantage. Just as it is the bicycling energy of the moment to climb the hill that allows the opportunity to effortlessly coast down the other side, it is the excess returns on today’s invested effort put aside and saved that provides support to withstand adversity in the future. And when the individual creates value in excess of their own requirements, the surplus can be redirected to help others. Investment in the moment for the future is where the greatest value lies.

How we feel can be as important as what we do in the present moment. Not only are feelings a part of our memory and life experience but they also have a powerful influence over what we choose to do. Each of us has experienced days when we knew we had to do something we thoroughly disliked. We could spend the whole day procrastinating, dreading the task and postponing it to the last possible moment. On the other hand we have all also had days when we were looking forward to something we really enjoy. The rush to complete mundane tasks in order to be free to do something we look forward to makes for a very different day. How we feel during the two different days is very important. Knowing how to manage our daily mood can make a significant difference in the quality of our life experience.

While there are many benefits to living in the moment there are hazards as well. We have to recognize that being swept along in the emotion of the moment is one the risks that must be managed especially when the present emotion is negative. We are highly susceptible to our emotions but always have less concern when we are feeling positive.

Our objective must be to remain emotionally centered in a stable, secure, and positive state. Maintaining centered emotions requires frequent mid course correction much as the flight path of an airplane that is buffeted by the winds is continuously corrected to stay true to its destination. A good technique for re-centering your emotional state is contextual reformation. We will look at three techniques to help manage your emotional state to achieve the best life experience.

In the course of daily life we each live in a variety of contexts or interrelated conditions within which we exist. We move from one context to another as the activities of our day progress. For example, a married man with children may begin the day in a husband context when he wakes up in bed next to his wife. He moves to a father context when he sits down to breakfast with his children. As he goes to work he assumes his career context.

Throughout the day each of us moves from one context to another. It is easy to get lost in the daily contexts of our life and lose the centering that is critical to emotional stability and security. For example, when we encounter trouble on the job or difficulties in our marriage, we will tend to focus our attention on one context to the exclusion of all others.

On a more immediate level we can often find ourselves in a stressful or emotion filled situation where we are caught up in the moment and allow negative emotions such as fear, embarrassment or anger to control our reactions. This is an example of how we can lose control of the present moment and our centered emotional stability. It often occurs when we do something we regret.

A way of regaining control, our first technique, is to perform a process of remote projection. Briefly imagine going to a distant place, a corner of the room, where you can look back at yourself. Your objective is to see you in a broader, objective context. Look at your surroundings and situation. Imagine yourself moving farther and farther away. Reposition yourself in the broader context of the world around you. In the first case of one context dominating all other contexts, remote projection enables you to pull back and see all facets of your life and put them once again in proper perspective.

In the second example you are in the middle of a stressful situation and remote projection allows you to back out of an inward looking state and see your experience is transitory in nature. In both examples you can look at how you are reacting and ask yourself if the reaction is warranted. You should try to see yourself as others see you and ask if this is how you want to be perceived and known. If the answer is no, you can extract yourself from the context you are in or alter your reaction so you can be seen in a different way. This is how you can regain control of your situation and restore a centered state.

We all have times when we become discouraged, uncertain or apprehensive about something we are attempting to do. When our mood deteriorates we risk losing the motivation to keep pushing forward. Maintaining optimism is necessary to overcome normal human doubt. A second technique for contextual reformation and mood management is recollection. This technique involves recalling past accomplishments and remembering the positive emotions you felt when you achieved them. You could recall the pride and joy of your graduation from high school or college or the moment you learned you would be promoted. It is best to look back to anytime you achieved something that required significant effort and in some sense the outcome was in doubt.

Once you select an appropriate recollection, imagine yourself once more in that moment. Visualize your surroundings. Remember whom you were with and when and where the event happened. Recall the feelings you experienced and what caused them. This recollection enables you to feel the positive feelings of the past in the present. It reminds you that you can overcome challenges and prevail. It reinforces your ability to accomplish what you set your mind to do. It moves the emotional context of that moment to the present moment and re-centers your emotional state.

Our last technique for mood management is visualization. It helps create optimism about accomplishing something where the outcome may be in doubt. First you identify the major future goal, achievement, or event that you are working towards. Next you itemize the interim steps you need to take to accomplish your goal. Visualize yourself completing these things to get to the end outcome. Anticipate the perfect set of circumstances that would surround the outcome. Project yourself to the moment of successful completion. Imagine the emotions you will feel and the reactions of the people you care most about.

Visualization is a rehearsal for future success. It forces you to think about how you would accomplish your objective. It leads you to anticipate obstacles and conceive of ways to overcome them. Visualization renews the motivation that initially made you choose the goal you wanted to achieve. It increases your confidence in pursuit of it. No accomplishment is possible if you cannot at least imagine and visualize its attainment. The process of figuring it out increases your optimism of its feasibility and moves its reality from unthinkable and impossible to familiar and achievable.

The second area where you can have a direct affect on life experience is your impact on people around you. Your interaction with others and affect on them can often have a greater influence on positive life experience than managing your own moods. Evolution and natural selection have played a key role in shaping the behavior of genetically and biologically related family groups. There has been much study and documentation of interaction between family members with many theories of behavior from Freud and Jung to Watson and Skinner. For this reason our daily interaction with strangers is of more interest in this exploration.

It is important to consider two aspects of interaction with others. The first is that you must actively engage other people. Human beings are social animals who are susceptible to isolation, loneliness, and despair. We all too often move through our day interacting with others as if they are objects rather than people. Too often we relate to others in a perfunctory fashion, lacking real interest and responding in a highly superficial way. These interactions alienate and isolate both people by denying their value in each other’s eyes.

How often have we treated the person behind the counter as not deserving of recognition or worthy of validation? How do we react when people behind the counter treat us as if we are the nuisances? How many opportunities have we missed to break though the barrier of impersonality and actually engage one another? The tragedy is that a genuine personal connection and recognition of another’s existence and value takes only a few moments of attention and effort.

It means we have to pay attention to people and find a topic of conversation that establishes a common ground. We can chat about a shared characteristic, such as describing work you once did that was similar to their experience. It can be complementing them on a job well done. It can be any number of things that will demonstrate you are actually paying attention to them and thinking about their life or situation and acknowledging their existence. This leaves you and the other person with a positive feeling.

The second, and in many respects more important aspect of interaction with others is to actively seek opportunities where you can exhibit unanticipated kindness. While similar to active engagement, performing an unexpected kindness has a more powerful affect on the emotional context of others. It is an unsolicited offer to help someone you do not know and may never see again. The offered act must represent giving up something that is of value to you in time, effort or money. While the kindness benefits the other person, it benefits you as well in that it makes you feel good about yourself. It reinforces your kindness and care for other people. Opportunities for unanticipated kindness are often less obvious and always require more effort.

Actively engaging other people and performing unanticipated acts of kindness are like throwing pebbles into a pond. The beneficial effects will ripple out in ever widening circles affecting progressively more and more people. If what you do makes another person feel valued or that the world is a kinder place than they had thought, it improves their life experience that day. Further, it leads them to similar positive behavior that benefits someone else. Imagine the effect if everyone committed an unanticipated act of kindness each day. Imagine the power of over six billion daily acts of kindness.

When we think about the human condition it is not hard to imagine the cumulative effect of these kinds of actions. All human beings will react similarly when we reach out to them. Our DNA is 99.9% the same from one person to another regardless of ethnicity or nationality.132 Maslow’s hierarchy explains that the challenges we face in living day-to-day are the same. We must believe that the aspirations all people have for the quality of their life experience is similar.

Before we leave the subject of how we increase the quality of the aggregate life experience we must discuss the second largest contributing group, the rest of the animal kingdom. We are not the only contributors to the aggregate life experience. Plants and animals also contribute. Setting aside the assumed small contribution of plants, it is well documented that animals experience many emotions, are aware of pain and suffering, and have memory.

We must recall that at least four species other than Homo sapiens have demonstrated self-recognition.  These are the great apes (other than gorillas), Asian elephants, bottlenose dolphins and the Corvid bird family including magpies, crows and ravens. Anyone who has ever owned a pet or farm animal has seen a range of emotions in their animal’s eyes such as love, fear, happiness, or contentment. All who have read about animal behavior know about the nurturing and protection of the young by their parents.

The normal animal cycle of life consists of birth, growth, foraging and hunting, procreation, caring for offspring, aging and dying. While the life of wild animals can include difficult times like migrations, disease, avoidance of predators and starvation, it is possible to imagine that on most days there is a positive contribution to the aggregate life experience. This has been true even through the human development of an agrarian society. Small farmers and ranchers have always had a direct and personal interest in the welfare of their livestock if only as an investment they want to protect.

Most human beings in direct and personal contact with animals feel empathy and treat them with kindness. Pets elicit the stronger emotions of love and loyalty from their owners. Even people who are not pet owners, farmers, or ranchers generally react with concern when they encounter an animal that is suffering and in pain. These are normal human reactions and represent some of the higher states of emotion.

Human reactions change when we depersonalize our relationships with the animal kingdom. Our actions change when we are remote and no longer see or experience the reality of animal existence. We can avoid normal human reactions when animal care is unseen and the responsibility of others. Such is the case when we confine animals to artificial and limited enclosures in zoos, subject them to experimentation in medical laboratories, and turn them into commodities to be managed by big industrial food processors on factory farms.

Setting aside the negative examples of zoo confinement and medical experimentation that are both regrettable, the epitome of our present remoteness with the greatest negative effect is our relationship with the billions of animals in our food chain. The case in point is the treatment of animals under the control of big industrial food processors, the managers of our food supply, who raise and slaughter billions of animals each year in our name.

There is a sizable body of law pertaining to farm animal cruelty. Using the United States as an example, the nation has passed laws requiring humane treatment of livestock immediately prior to and during slaughter.133 In addition, about half the states enacted statutes that also set standards for the slaughter of animals. These statutes were designed to prevent needless animal suffering. They include description of how animals unable to move will be handled. For example they first must be stunned to unconsciousness before they can be dragged anywhere. The law also identifies the four means to be used to render animals unconscious before the actual slaughter which generally consists of slitting the animal’s throat and draining the body of blood. The four ways to render farm animals unconscious are with carbon dioxide administered in a chamber, captive bolt stunners which produce a forceful strike on the forehead, mechanical gunshot, and use of electrical current.135

Counting just cattle, chickens, ducks, hogs, sheep and lambs, and turkeys it is estimated we slaughtered over 4.8 billion animals in the U.S. in 2008. There are no government estimates for the slaughter of other farm animals, such as rabbits and horses.136 There are numerous video segments accessible on the internet that depict farm animal slaughter where humane steps to minimize pain and suffering have not been taken. With the huge number of animals slaughtered each year and the obvious terror, pain, and suffering experienced when they are not rendered unconscious, it is clear the existing law was a necessary first step to protect the life experience of these creatures.

With all the focus on the death of the animals it is surprising there are no national statutes and very few state laws that regulate the handling and living conditions of those same animals prior to slaughter. It is in this area where human beings have failed the animals managed in their name. We have allowed large agribusinesses to open high production factory farms that use business practices that destroy any opportunity for a positive life experience for the animals in their charge. These factory farms treat their animals as commodities with no concern for their quality of life. In fact, with the existing laws when enforced and followed, we are treating the animals more humanely as we put them to death than they have been treated in life.

Examples of their common practices include:

  • Confining eight to ten egg laying hens for the duration of their lives in indoor wire cages, called battery cages, measuring no more than sixteen inches wide and 67 to 86 inches long, about the size of an average filing cabinet drawer. These cages are so small the hens do not have room to fully spread their wings. These cages are in rows and stacked several levels high in windowless buildings that contain up to 100,000 birds.
  • Debeaking chickens, turkeys and ducks by cutting through bone, cartilage and soft tissue with a blade to remove the top half and bottom third of their beaks. This is done to reduce excessive feather pecking and cannibalism seen in stressed, overcrowded birds confined in factory farms.
  • Forced molting where egg producers starve their hens for ten to fourteen days forcing them to lose 25% or more of their body weight in body fat, feathers, liver tissue, musculature, and skeleton. This is done to reduce the cost of feeding the hens and produce eggs more cheaply.
  • Producing Foie Gras where birds are force-fed enormous quantities of food three times a day via a pipe inserted in their esophagus. This leads to enlargement of the liver and sometimes causes a rupturing of internal organs leading to infection and a painful death. This process normally lasts four weeks until the birds are slaughtered.
  • Producing “White Veal” where dairy farmers take unwanted male calves in the first 16-18 weeks of life and confine them in two foot wide crates where they are formula fed an iron and fiber deficient diet that results in anemia. The lack of movement and anemia retards muscle development that results in pale, tender meat.
  • Confining breeding pigs for their nearly four-month pregnancies in “gestation cages” which are two feet wide and seven feet long concrete floored metal cages. Once they give birth and their piglets are weaned they are quickly re-impregnated. On average these breeding pigs spend a total of ten months a year in these cages. This cycle is repeated for three to five years until the sows’ bodies have deteriorated to the point it is no longer profitable to breed them, at which point they are sent to slaughter.

These animal cages and crates severely limit animal mobility. Intensively confined animals are denied the ability to exercise, fully extend their limbs, or simply turn their bodies. They cannot perform integral, instinctual, and natural behaviors. For example birds cannot respond to their basic nesting instincts. Cages with wire flooring deprive them of the opportunity to express normal foraging, scratching and dust-bathing behaviors. They also prohibit hens from perching and roosting and do not allow comfort behaviors, such as stretching and wing flapping.

It is not possible to imagine a world where people do not consume or need to consume animal protein in their diet. While we cannot envision a world of strict vegetarians, we can imagine one where each person significantly reduces their animal protein consumption. Nevertheless we have an imperative to increase positive life experience. The life experience of a significant portion of the animal kingdom has been allowed to deteriorate to an unspeakable and unacceptable level of sustained cruelty. We must end the torture of these poor, defenseless living beings.

There has been a small, dedicated group of advocates who have made steady progress in this fight to end farm animal abuse and give all animals a chance to have positive life experiences. These compassionate people have succeeded in passing the laws regulating the slaughter of animals. In addition they have made progress in a handful of states that have passed laws that variously eliminate veal crates, gestation and battery cages, and the production of Foie Gras.

A forward-looking piece of legislation was the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act passed in California in 2008. This law was to “prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.”137 It specifically protected all covered animals which meant “any pig during pregnancy, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen who is kept on a farm.” It passed in what can only be considered a resounding victory carrying a 63% majority.

The rest of us must join this small band of advocates to build the political will to extend this protection to farm animals everywhere. We must demand tougher penalties for violating animal cruelty laws. We must fund more pervasive monitoring of animal welfare to insure these standards are fully enforced. Finally, we must raise our children to understand the importance of creating a positive life experience for all living creatures. We must help them develop the empathy that will guide them to fight animal cruelty in all of its forms.

The fight against animal cruelty is as much about us as it is about the animals. Treating animals with the respect and care in life that they deserve is a significant way we can fulfill our responsibilities. Cruelty to another living creature is an example of the worst possible human behavior and is unworthy of the human species. As guardians of life and beneficiaries of the aggregate life experience, we must fulfill the imperative to enhance all life experience.


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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: Chapters 12 & 13 – Protect Life from Nuclear Weapons and Synthetic Biology

Posted on 09 May 2013 by Jerry

This posting continues the serialization of my book on this website.  As an incentive to readers to return to the site, each month I will post at least one Chapter of the book until the entire book is posted.  Scroll back over the last few months to read earlier “Beyond Animal, Ego and Time” chapters.  The book provides context for the blog, clearly explaining the underlying philosophy and identifying critical issues of our time. In the book Chapters 12 and 13 address the threats of nuclear weapons and synthetic biology.  These represent a very familiar threat to life on the planet (nuclear weapons) and one that continues to be largely unknown (synthetic biology).  Again I encourage those who read these chapters to comment or ask questions.





Protect Life Imperative — Nuclear Weapons

There is another first and continuing anthropogenic threat to humanity. It is the existence of large arsenals of nuclear weapons. On July 16, 1945 the United States led an unknowing world into the nuclear age with the Trinity test nuclear explosion in New Mexico. On August 6, 1945 the world first experienced the terror of a nuclear bomb used in war with the bombing of Hiroshima.90 This was followed in three days with the destruction of Nagasaki. Since those fateful days the world has labored under the threat of nuclear war.

Nuclear weapons have proliferated. On August 29, 1949 the USSR tested its first nuclear weapon at Semipalatinsk, aka Semey, in Kazakhstan near the border of China.91 The United Kingdom tested its first weapon in 1952; France in 1960; The People’s Republic of China in 1964; India in 1974; a suspected joint test of their first nuclear weapon by Israel and South Africa in 1979; Pakistan in 1998; and North Korea in 2006. At last count nine countries have acknowledged developing and testing nuclear weapons with one additional country, Israel, believed to have developed them but without confirmation.

In the intervening years of mushrooming deployment during the Cold War, the world has watched the ongoing chess game that has held potential nuclear combatants at bay.92 The present governing agreement binding the actions of the United States and Russia is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Signed on April 8, 2010, by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the New START is largely an extension of a previous agreement, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) also known as The Moscow Treaty. The SORT agreement was originally signed by President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin in 2002. This New START agreement limits each country to 1,550 launch ready strategic nuclear warheads and limits the number of deployed ballistic missiles and heavy bombers to no more than 700 on each side. It does not limit how many warheads are in “storage”, that is, available but not deployed or ready for immediate launch. Hypothetically warheads in “storage” and missiles not ready for immediate launch may mean they sit ready to receive targeting instructions electronically. Present estimates indicate that the United States and Russia each maintain an arsenal of between 5,000 and 10,000 weapons that are not launch ready.93

This treaty represents a reduction of an estimated 40,000 launch ready warheads from the peak armaments in the Cold War period. While it took effort to get both sides to reduce their weapons to this level, it was possible only because the level continues to represent effective “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)”. Mutually Assured Destruction was the official U.S. policy doctrine of massive retaliation first articulated in the 1950’s.

If you take the top 216 cities in the United States, those with populations over 200,000 people, you have a total of 150 million people or roughly one half of the total population.94 Even if Russia targeted four warheads at each of these cities it would still have a little less than half of its deployed strategic warheads available. A similar situation exists in targeting Russian cities. The loss of a sizable portion of its population in its 200 plus largest cities would be a crippling event for either country. For these reasons reductions in nuclear warheads up to this point are political illusions of progress. They are illusions because we have succeeded in reducing nuclear warheads of the two nuclear super powers from a level that can only be described as lunacy to a level representing absurdity.

The anticipated effects of a nuclear war between the two super powers have been well documented. Studies in the 1980’s estimated deaths from nuclear blasts and airborne radioactivity at hundreds of millions to over a billion people. To these we can add the effects of a “nuclear winter” with its attendant hardships for human survival. In addition, in 1973, it was established that high-yield atomic airbursts chemically burn the nitrogen in the upper atmosphere, converting it into oxides of nitrogen. We know these oxides combine with and destroy the protective ozone in the Earth’s stratosphere. If one assumed a nuclear exchange had occurred between the United States and the U.S.S.R. involving half of the arsenals at the time, Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen and J. Birks estimated destruction of between 30% to 70% of the ozone layer in the northern hemisphere and 20% to 40% in the southern hemisphere.95 This would have serious if not fatal consequences for the biology of the entire planet.

The possibility of such a calamity should be sufficient incentive for the U. S. and Russia to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. To explore why these deadly arsenals still exist, we must examine the reason we made and now store nuclear weapons. To do so we must first look at the histories of three countries, Russia, China, and the United States.  These have been the central characters in the nuclear drama. Their experiences with nuclear weapons, confrontations with each other, and reactions give insight about how we arrived at the present reality. This in turn can help us reach conclusions for what must now be done.

The original reason for development of nuclear weapons, beyond scientific curiosity to build them because we could, was the threat of world occupation and domination by Axis powers in World War II. The fear that Germany would develop nuclear weapons before the Allies was enough to justify our development of the weapon. It is clear the use of the weapon with Japan hastened Japan’s surrender and saved Allied and Japanese lives. Less clear was how we dealt with the morality of killing hundreds of thousands of human beings when we dropped nuclear weapons on Japanese cities. Many have suggested we should have first demonstrated their destructive power by showing the Japanese government an explosion over the open ocean. Many believe this would have caused an eventual surrender of the Japanese. Clearly these factors served as justification or the reason-for-being of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons survived the end of the war and served to neutralize both sides by creating a stalemate in the Cold War. The Cold War was the nonviolent worldwide struggle between Capitalism (and democracy) and Communism (and central control/totalitarianism). We should remember that in 1848, long before World War II, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto that opposed the excesses of capitalism at the time. Communism achieved legitimacy almost 70 years later with the October Revolution of 1917 when Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Party, took power in Russia.

The communist ascension to power in a major country stimulated excitement about revolution and provided impetus for the rapid political organization of communism around the world. Between 1917 and 1920 communist party organizations were founded in 17 countries; Finland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Greece, France, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Mexico, Argentina, Palestine, Australia, and the United States of America. The next decade saw communist organizations begun in 18 other countries; Norway, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, South Africa and New Zealand.

The governing establishments in all of these countries were shaken by the rapid spread of communism as a political force and the scary talk of revolution that came with it. This was especially true in the United States that saw itself as the champion of capitalism and democracy. U. S. reaction in the early 1950’s generated the 1953-54 Army-McCarthy Senate hearings seeking to identify communist infiltration of the U. S. Army specifically and American society generally.

Given the worldwide struggle between capitalism and communism, and democracy and totalitarianism, nuclear weapons inevitably served to maintain the balance of power. We must question whether nuclear weapons are still necessary. Over 15 years have passed since the end of the Cold War, fifty years since it’s beginning. It has been ninety years since the establishment of the communist Soviet Union and one hundred and sixty years since the publishing of The Communist Manifesto.

Many of the excesses of capitalism and the exploitation of workers cited in the last two hundred years have been greatly reduced in the industrialized world. Laws have been passed and regulation initiated to eliminate many of the more offensive abuses of capitalism. Unionization, minimum wages, elimination of child labor, pensions, holidays, paid vacations and leaves, prohibitions against and regulation of monopolies, and laws against price fixing represent some of the more obvious changes. Arguably the European Union with its strong historic influence of socialism and its universal healthcare now leads the world in protection of its workers and citizens. There has also been a significant rise of a middle class and the entire economic demography of the developed world has changed. The last 160 years has also seen an almost complete reversal of colonialism.

Communism too has changed. It moved from a challenging intellectual alternative to the governing philosophy in several countries with a full opportunity to prove it could succeed. The world watched as early leadership in the U.S.S.R. and the Peoples Republic of China established totalitarian states whose actions were responsible for the deaths of millions of their own citizens. The excesses of Joseph Stalin’s consolidation and maintenance of power and Mao Tse-Tung’s programs of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution displayed a disastrous dimension of communism.

In intervening decades all three countries have had many experiences changing their relationships and perceptions of each other. Following World War II, the United States and the U.S.S.R. initiated the Cold War that included the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. These hostilities lasted into the 1990’s, until the disintegration of the Soviet Union. With the Cold War as a backdrop and a “domino theory” as justification, the United States participated in the Korean War facing North Korea and The People’s Republic of China (PRC). During that war tension grew dramatically when General Douglas MacArthur publicly called for the use of nuclear weapons against China. President Truman subsequently fired General MacArthur.  This war was fought to a stalemate maintaining the bifurcation of the two Koreas at the 38th parallel. The U. S. fought the war in Vietnam against the communist North that was assisted by the Chinese. This war was the United State’s first experience of defeat and its first lesson of the limits of its unilateral military capability.

The People’s Republic of China was a major force opposing the United States in two of its hot wars during the intervening decades. China was an active participant in the Korean War and a critical supply ally of Vietnam in the Vietnamese War. As a nuclear power, however, China side-stepped the runaway arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States believing instead that, in the absence of any missile defense capability, its suspected 20-24 strategic nuclear weapons and 390 tactical weapons would suffice as an adequate deterrence against an attack by either of the two nuclear super powers.96

The Soviet Union was the principal adversary of the United States during the more than four decades of the Cold War. In subsequent decades, the Soviet Union also experienced the limitations of its military capability with the failed military action in Afghanistan. Of particular interest during this period was the meltdown of the Chernoybl-4 nuclear reactor that released nuclear radiation over a wide area of the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia as well as over many countries in Western Europe. This tragedy afforded the U.S.S.R. and the world a unique experience of the threat that even a relatively small nuclear incident could represent. Reportedly the release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere necessitated the evacuation and resettlement of an estimated 336,000 people within the Soviet Union.

Undoubtedly the most profound change occurred in the U.S.S.R. when its union dissolved giving birth to 15 newly independent states. In March of 1985 the Politburo elected Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Soviet Union. His reform policies of glasnost or political openness, perestroika or economic restructuring and uskoreniye or accelerating economic development were announced in 1986.  They presaged the seismic change the U.S.S.R. would experience. Perestroika in 1988 included one of his more radical reforms, the Law on Cooperatives, which permitted private ownership of manufacturing, services and foreign-trade businesses. Glasnost gave much greater freedom of speech and loosened restrictions on the press.  It led to an inevitable nationalism from within the 15 constituent republics of the U.S.S.R. This was fueled by the continuing failure of the Soviet economy that prompted widespread discontent among the Soviet citizenry. These and other changes significantly reduced authoritarianism and centralized control. These reforms started a process that once begun could not be stopped.

In August 1991, alarmed by signs the U.S.S.R. was crumbling, leaders within Gorbachev’s government, the vice president, prime minister, defense minister, KGB chief and other officials staged a coup.  They put Gorbachev under house arrest. Boris Yeltsin, the first popularly elected President of the Russian Republic, the most prominent of the 15 Soviet republics, condemned the coup and called for street demonstrations in Moscow to protest. After three days the coup failed with its organizers arrested. Gorbachev was released. On August 23, 1991 Yeltsin decreed the suspension of the Russian Communist Party charging that the party had supported the illegal coup thereby violating Soviet Union and Russian Republic laws.

The seeds of the disintegration of the U.S.S.R had been sown. One by one, the 15 republics declared their sovereignty. On December 25, 1991 Gorbachev officially accepted the dissolution of the Soviet Union and resigned as its president. This marked the end of the Soviet Union as the world had known it and in large measure the end of the Cold War.

The radical changes that have taken place in Russia have led to a reevaluation of the Russian threat. In June 2001 Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin met for the first time in Slovenia. The dramatic changes in both countries in the previous decades prompted Putin to say, “I want to return now to what the President (Bush) said very recently – that Russia and the United States are not enemies, they do not threaten each other, and they could be fully good allies.”97

President Bush was asked if Putin was a man that Americans can trust. President Bush responded, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”

Five years later, at a press conference with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Czech Vice President Mirek Topolanek, President Bush declared, “The Cold War is over. It ended.”98

Communism in the People’s Republic of China has also changed. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s China opened trade to the outside world. To solve food shortages it implemented a plan of Township-Village Enterprises where food produced over the government quota could be kept and sold or traded in an open market.99 In the 1980’s diversified enterprise ownership emerged in special economic zones that were created throughout China. Private investment from outside China was encouraged. Four types of businesses are recognized in China today. There are wholly owned government businesses, stock businesses where public shares have been sold but the government retains part ownership, private businesses with no government ownership, and foreign funded enterprises that includes joint ventures and wholly foreign-owned businesses.

These decades of Chinese reforms have had a very significant impact on China’s economy. At a basic level, the growth of the Chinese economy has been credited with China’s accomplishment of lifting over 200 million of its rural poor out of poverty. China is now the world’s second largest economy and trade between the U. S. and China has grown from an estimated $4.9 billion in 1980 to over $298 billion in 2009. The expansion of trade between the two countries has created a large Chinese dollar reserve with estimates of their holdings at somewhere between one and three trillion dollars.

Changes in all three countries have not calmed all fears. A weakened Russia will inevitably attempt to grow its power and prestige to regain its influence in the world. It may also attempt to informally re-annex some of the former soviet republics. The strength and speed of growth of the Chinese economy will frighten the developed world and cause Americans to recall their historic xenophobic fears of what they called the “yellow peril”.  In this case they would fear the Chinese people rather than the Japanese.

By the same token the world will continue to be wary and distrustful of the United States. Putting aside past accusations of excessive use of power, many would point to its behavior since the attacks of September 11, 2001, as an example of its total lack of restraint in the use of its power and a declining commitment to historic American values. Cited is the initiation of two wars, one proven to be based on completely false information, wire tapping and abusing the civil liberties of its citizens, and the torture of its prisoners. This coupled with the perception of an American led global financial crisis casts significant doubt on American credibility. Russia, China, and the United States of America will never be perfect. They do however have aspirations for a better life for their citizens.

It is doubtful the world will eliminate all nuclear weapons in the immediate future. Tens of thousands of weapons exist in multiple countries, the technology is generally understood, and the belief that possession of nuclear weapons bestows power is widely held. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. The challenge is to best manage humanity’s relationship to these weapons to assure they do not spread and will not be used until they can be eliminated.

We began this chapter on nuclear weapons by considering the reason for their existence. We identified three justifications: World War II, the Cold War, and the ideological confrontation between communism and capitalism. The result of our review of the intervening decades and the experiences of the three major antagonists should have shown that nuclear weapons and especially the nuclear arsenals of the size and scale of those in the United States and Russia have lost their reason for being. World War II ended with the Allied victory, the Cold War has been over for more than 15 years, and the ideological and military confrontation between communism and capitalism as manifested in the U.S., Russia, and China has ended. The three antagonists have all moderated their worldviews and the differences between them have largely diminished.

Nations in practice tend to follow a policy of proportionality, which is to say their weapons are proportionate to the degree of threat they perceive. In time of peace they have small standing armies. In time of war they build up forces. Internationally, there has been a practice of proportionality, where military response to aggression has been proportionate to the aggressive act. Examples are when a military incursion across a border is met by a sufficient force to repel the invader or when a full-scale assault is met by a full-scale defense. In today’s world there is no practical threat that would require the use of over 3,000 nuclear weapons. There is no nation that deserves nuclear annihilation. The only proportionality of the largest arsenals is that there are two of them.

We have allowed ourselves to think of nuclear weapons as one more tactical element of foreign policy. They are viewed myopically as bargaining chips, a pressure point, and a means of leverage in international negotiations. They have become a tool for dominance, the ultimate threat. Proliferation results from their threatened use by the nation-state bullies of the world and the jealousy with which others view them. But they are unique and far more sinister. The next human being that authorizes their use will be vilified as the worst mass murderer in human history. There will be no honors, no accolades, and no patriot status for the most notorious genocist humanity has produced.

We would assert the fear we feel is no longer of the intentions of an adversary but a fear of the existence of the arsenals themselves. As long as the weapons exist, there is a threat and fear, as improbable as it might be that there will be a change of mind or in regime, actions of a breakaway group, or weapons falling into the hands of terrorists that will once again threaten use of the weapons. All sides now fear that eliminating their weapons while those of others continue to exist makes them vulnerable. For this reason, a sound disarmament process and a means of verification are critically important.

It is now time to take the steps necessary to move the decision to use nuclear weapons from the realm of unilateral action to the diffused focus of a larger community. The world can no longer tolerate the egotism and immorality that would allow a single nation or individual to make the fateful decision to use nuclear weapons. It is also time for nations of the world to unequivocally declare they will not permit nor tolerate any nation that asserts a right to first use of nuclear weapons on any basis whatsoever. In addition, nations must declare that actual first use by any nation would be punished by a united world.

All civilized human communities eventually vest a third party with the responsibility to enforce the law within the community. Vigilantism gives way to a police force that enforces a legal system administered by courts. This offers a number of obvious benefits. It inserts neutral, uninvolved third parties in the middle of disputes. It provides for collective financial support of the police capability. It removes each citizen from threat of personal injury in the enforcement of the community’s laws. Most of all it isolates potential aggressors forcing them to confront an entire community and the epitome of peer pressure that community represents.

In an absolutely analogous way the nations of the world led by the United States and Russia have to embrace this tradition with respect to nuclear weapons. Russia and the U.S. must disarm by turning over preferably all of their nuclear weapons to a third party organization. This could be the United Nations, it could be NATO or it could be a new world body constituted specifically for nuclear disarmament. What matters is the arsenals are put in the hands of neutral, uninvolved third parties who can act as the disarmament agent managing their progressive elimination while at the same time verifying every step of the process for all parties.

A broadly based, worldwide community of nations would be an ideal neutral party. It would spread responsibility and accountability to the widest extent possible. In a same way foreign embassies are created, existing missile sites could be designated international territory with the disarmament agent assuming joint control of them. In a transition, they could be given the second key and control of a portion of a launch code to eliminate any further possibility of unilateral action and yet still give the host country a measure of participation and control in the process. Ultimately, full control would change hands and the progressive elimination of the arsenals could be completed.

Soon after the end of World War II, over 60 years ago, there was discussion of placing nuclear weapons under the control of the United Nations. Those discussions occurred too soon. The United Nations was too young, the weapons too new and the relationships among nations too fragile. This is no longer the case. We are experiencing a relative period of peace where the global nuclear threat does not come from nation states, excluding Iran and North Korea, but rather can be found among terrorist organizations. This time of relatively peaceful relations offers the world’s nation states a singularly unique period in which to begin a process of total nuclear disarmament.

This should not be interpreted to mean we should minimize or ignore the threat from terrorist organizations. Nor can we ignore nation states that are committed to another country’s destruction or believe they can advance their beliefs and protect their cultures through their own martyrdom. Both must be prevented from achieving their ends. Most importantly the world must safeguard its nuclear materials and weapons keeping them from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations or rogue states.

Most people would credit the development of nuclear weapons as the tipping point where human beings moved from being incapable of destroying all life on planet Earth to fully capable. We have three examples of imminent threat to humanity and life on our planet. Destruction of the ozone, global climate change, and nuclear weapons are all problems that are here and now and are the result of human actions. Protection of the ozone appears to be underway, although continued use of dangerous chemicals in developing countries may slow further progress. Global climate change has now been recognized and accepted as a clear and present danger that will require effort from all of humanity on an unprecedented scale. It awaits leadership and commitment from Homo sapiens to begin a resolution. Nuclear weapons represent an ongoing failure and may in the final analysis require a unilateral act, disarmament, from one of the two antagonists to prevent another unilateral act, a nuclear attack, from the other.

All three of these challenges will involve a long term commitment that will, at a minimum, take decades to fulfill and at a maximum will involve centuries of effort. Only we have the capability to undo what we have done. Only we can take action to counter our earlier mistakes, setting right the chains of events that, if left unchecked, continue to threaten our existence. Life must have time to fulfill its potential. Only by our actions can we give it the opportunity to complete its process. We need but act.




Protect Life Imperative — Synthetic Biology


The first three risks to life on Earth, the ozone hole, global climate change, and nuclear weapons are now apparent to most. When U.N. scientific panels resolved questions about the science of climate change the need for action was accepted by most of the world’s leadership with early first steps identified. Ultimately we need to repair and reverse the damage we have caused.

Humanity is in a different situation when facing the next threat, the successor science to genetic engineering, synthetic biology. At present there is little public knowledge of the differences between genetic engineering and its benefits and synthetic biology and its risks. Genetic engineering is a largely cut and paste technology using techniques and tools to move naturally occurring segments of DNA from one organism to another. Synthetic biologists are attempting to use the knowledge from genetic engineering to assemble life that would not and could not occur in nature or an attempt to build new alien life forms from the bottom up. Synthetic biology, having begun after the year 2000, is new enough that thoughtful human action may still alter the future course and limit risk.

Maturing over three decades, genetic engineering represents efforts to alter the genetics of life. It is a cut and paste technology using techniques and tools to move naturally occurring segments of DNA from one organism to another. Its processes are referred to as recombinant DNA splicing. While genetic engineering has been controversial because of instances of contamination of the food supply100 and because genetic modifications are seen as unpredictable, its proponents can argue with some credibility that so far it has been managed responsibly.

The impact of the science of genetic engineering is significant. For example, natural barriers have evolved to prevent the wholesale merging of genes between unrelated species. Genetic engineers, however, have overcome all barriers and can now create new recombinant DNA, intermixing genes from completely unrelated species almost at will. For example, natural life processes that would normally prevent the breeding of a sheep and a human to produce a new variation of life have been breached. Genetic engineer, Esmail Zanjani, University of Nevada-Reno, has now combined genes from the human species with those of a sheep.101 The motivation for these experiments was to create organs in a sheep which could be transplanted to a human body without rejection because the organs contain human DNA. Sheep that were produced in these experiments had 85 percent animal cells and 15 percent human cells.

Other examples of genetic engineering include breeding a variety of mice that have no fear of cats to shed light on the behavior of mammals and the nature of fear.102 Consider experiments that injected human embryonic stem cells into the brains of fetal mice.103 According to researchers, the experiment proved human embryonic stem cells will apparently grow to look like mouse cells in the brain and communicate normally with other cells within the skulls of living mice. This followed earlier research where brain cells from aborted human fetuses were injected into the brains of rodents and survived and migrated to various regions within the rodent brains.

While representing arguably beneficial ambitions, these experiments demonstrate the unlimited array of genetic combinations that can be accomplished. In these examples, the research organizations were reputable and well respected. The sheep-human chimera (\kī-‘mir-ə\), or an animal containing genetic material from two unrelated living species, was engineered at the University of Nevada’s School of Medicine. The fearless mice were engineered at the University of Tokyo. The human brained mice were engineered at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

Putting aside questions of the legitimacy of these types of experiments or their potential benefits let’s acknowledge they were conducted under deliberate conditions with explicit precautions. In the case of the Salk Institute these experiments reportedly had advance review and approval by scientific panels following voluntary guidelines produced by the National Academy of Sciences and guidelines that have been made mandatory in California for state grant recipients. We can also assume strict precautions were taken to insure the strict captivity of the genetically modified animals to prevent their escape.

Contamination of long grain rice crops in the U.S. by genetically modified herbicide resistant rice, taco shells containing genetically modified corn approved only for use in livestock feed, and accidental release of crops engineered to make a vaccine to control pig diarrhea, while alarming to many, were identified and are being addressed.104, 105,106,107,108 While illustrating the difficulty of controlling the spread of genetic modifications, they apparently did not pose an immediate threat to humans or life itself. Nevertheless detractors cite a 2011 Canadian study at Sherbrooke Hospital that found herbicide/insecticide toxins from genetically modified plants in the blood streams of non-pregnant women, pregnant women and their fetuses.109

Use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture and the food supply is relatively new. Having only begun on a wide scale in the mid 1990’s it has grown rapidly. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) estimated that in 2003 over 167 million acres worldwide were planted with genetically engineered crops.110 These crops have flourished in the United States in an environment of little regulation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that of approximately 160 million acres planted with corn, soybeans, and cotton in the U.S. in 2007, over eighty percent or 130 million acres were planted with genetically modified varieties. Further, some years ago the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of the processed foods U.S. consumers buy in their grocery stores contain oils or ingredients derived from genetically engineered corn and soybeans.111   This percentage is significantly higher now.

The United States has experienced considerable excitement over genetic engineering. This excitement is expected given many of the scientific discoveries opening the field were made by Americans. Compared to other countries that closely regulate or have banned genetically modified organisms in their food supply the U.S. is unique in its relative lack of restraint. Unfortunately, this same absence of restraint is now being applied to synthetic biology; an area where many believe far greater caution and regulation is warranted.

While genetic engineering works with existing DNA to produce novel combinations, synthetic biology is an attempt to build new life forms from the bottom up. Through knowledge that goes deeper than DNA, RNA, base pairs, genes, enzymes, and amino acids, synthetic biology seeks to work below the level of the gene down to the codon level (a series of three chemical bases linked in a specific order that determines which amino acid is produced in a cell). Synthetic biology merges techniques from genetic engineering, nanotechnology that manipulates matter at the atomic level, and high-speed computers with sophisticated software. Synthetic biologists believe they can now engineer new life forms much as a circuit design engineer builds a new computer chip.

Unlike genetic engineers who work with elements of life that occur naturally, synthetic biologists are attempting to assemble life that would not and could not occur in nature. Detractors argue that these self-sustaining forms of life threaten our existence unlike any other danger we have faced in the past. They point to the unpredictability of what would happen should completely foreign and alien organisms gain access to our environment. This is why they are so concerned about the inherent dangers.

Numerous approaches are being pursued in synthetic biology. A successful approach has been to take a bacterium and “knock out” or disable its genes until it has the smallest number of genes necessary for its survival.112 Bacteria used in these experiments include Mycoplasma genitalium, which often causes urinary tract infections, Bacillus subtilis, some strains of which are resistant to antibiotics, and E. coli which is naturally occurring in the intestines of warm blooded animals. All chosen for their small genomes, these bacteria, in a stripped down form, would then be used to serve as a host or platform in which to insert artificially constructed genetic material to form new synthetic organisms.113, 114

Another approach is to assemble an inventory of discrete DNA parts or modules that could then be put into bacterial hosts such as yeast or E. coli to create new organisms. Companies have been formed to fabricate DNA to order.115 These companies have joined an increasing number of academic labs established to perform the same service. In these cases, the objective is to have a researcher specify the genetic sequence they want created and the companies or academic institutions will construct it and insert it in a bacterium delivering the customer a living cell culture.

Some research teams are trying to build a living cell completely from scratch. In this case, they are attempting to construct a living cell without use of DNA. Rather they have constructed a double helix molecule that uses a peptide nucleic acid, PNA, rather than DNA. The backbone of the molecule is made from peptides instead of sugar-phosphates. Peptides naturally occur in proteins. This is a case where the resulting genetic material and resulting living organism would not and could not occur in nature.

Still others have stated they are trying to synthesize genes that together create chemical processes found in isoprenoids or compounds that naturally occur primarily in plants. They are attempting to create new metabolic pathways to turn various microbes into miniature chemical factories to produce the isoprenoids. They ultimately see themselves as able to modify enzymes in living organisms to produce or grow a number of different molecules, even some that don’t exist in nature. In their minds, these different manufactured and grown molecules could include commercial drugs, plastics or biofuels.

Finally, other companies are creating genetic models that add artificial nucleotide bases beyond the four that naturally occur in life as we know it. They seek to produce new synthetic organisms that have six or even twelve nucleotides. These companies have demonstrated synthetic biological molecules that can be chemically synthesized so they reproduce and pass their genetic information on to successive organisms the way DNA does. These companies do not believe their organisms could survive outside the laboratory but see them as possibly useful in creating life on other planets. They have designed a genetic system that is unlike any living system on our planet. Their objective is within a few years to have an artificial life form that can reproduce, evolve, learn and respond to environmental change. Again, this life form will be totally alien to all life that exists on earth.

People want to be at the forefront of their fields. Professional optimism and ambition about breakthrough technologies always generate excitement. Most commonly there is a race to apply the latest technology and be the first to bring it to market. This assumes there is no risk to the immediate application and wide scale adoption of the technology as has proven to be the case with products from computers, to cell phones, to the internet. Most do not pose the risks seen with synthetic biology. What is happening in synthetic biology and to a large extent with genetic engineering is thousands of people are pursuing a genetic land rush by staking claims to own the genetics of life.116 Two questions for humanity are should we think about synthetic biology the same way as genetic engineering and should we let scientist-entrepreneurs and venture capitalists own life? 117

Given the progress to put genetic tools at human disposal at the molecular level and the clear possibility of constructing completely foreign living organisms, it is not surprising there are countless numbers of public and private organizations around the world viewing synthetic biology as a new commercial frontier.118 Companies have been formed by venture capitalists, large multinational conglomerates are heavily investing, and governments and non profits are providing multi-million dollar grants to genetically create alien life for someone’s profit.119 On an international level, governments view competency and leadership in this new scientific area as an opportunity to advance their position in competition with the rest of the world. This excitement is at one and the same time the promise and peril represented by this new area of science.

The life process is arguably the most powerful process in the universe. Experimentation has shown the genetics of life is flexible and remarkably malleable by human kind. Having survived for billions of years, life had to have inherent flexibility allowing mutation to produce variations that proved crucial to survival. These naturally selected variations insured life would overcome threats in its environment. Life’s points of vulnerability to bacteria and viruses, and processes it developed allowing modification, variation, and repair of its genetic code are the tools of synthetic biologists.

The science is vulnerable to missteps and miscalculations as humans make wholesale modifications to genetic code which evolved through trillions of small incremental changes over billions of years.120 Detractors claim the attempt to create alien forms of genetic material with which we have no experience has potentially more risk than any other single area of science. They charge that experimentation is proceeding before we have a full understanding of the implications of what is being created. This is because entrepreneurs are rushing to be first to create a billion dollar monopoly by patenting and creating a new life form.

It is useful to pull back from the details of the genetic sciences and look at the processes at work that brought us to this point. Life has existed for billions of years. Evolution has been the organizing process under which species have developed, survived, and prospered. Natural selection has been sorting and sifting genetic changes to favor organisms with characteristics that are necessary for survival. Natural barriers and protective mechanisms have formed within cells and species to protect them from the invasion of detrimental and harmful organisms and their genes that would threaten not only the individual, but the species as well. Life forms with these barriers and protections survived and were naturally selected, those without them died.

Some of the organisms that life has produced are natural parasites that have unique abilities to invade cells and hijack their reproductive processes to insure the parasite’s continued existence at the expense of the host organism. These include viruses and bacteria. Both are being used as vectors to transport genetically modified DNA from one cell to another or as hosts to house alien genetic material. This is not because the bacteria and viruses are beneficial but because as organisms they have the ability to compromise barriers and protections that have developed over billions of years. In short, human genetic engineering and synthetic biology represent the discovery of the means to compromise or bypass life’s natural defenses.

Humanity has considerable experience with the risks of bacteria and viruses. The world spends much effort dealing with infections caused by bacteria that wreak havoc with human beings such as Lyme disease and cholera. Naturally occurring viruses have given man the West Nile virus and numerous variations of flu virus including the Spanish, Asian, Swine and Avian flus. One of the deadliest viruses infecting humanity occurred when a virus jumped from one species that developed immunity to another with no immunity. This is the HIV virus. Scientists believe HIV, the precursor to AIDS, first evolved from a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in chimpanzees and an SIV virus in a sooty mangabey monkey.121

Most AIDS researchers theorize that the “bushmeat trade” or slaughter of monkeys for their meat, allowed the HIV-1 virus and HIV-2 virus to enter the human bloodstream through cuts, bites, or scratches on the hands and arms of those who killed and butchered infected chimps and monkeys. Others believe the virus may have crossed over to human beings as a result of the large scale culturing of a polio vaccine using simian cells which was subsequently administered to thousands of human beings in Africa.122 The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimated in 2007 that over 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981 with 2.1 million dying in 2007 alone. An estimated 33.2 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2007.

We also have recent experience with the use of the tools of genetic engineering and synthetic biology to reproduce proven pathogens. These are living microorganisms such as a bacterium or fungus that cause disease. Genetic engineers and synthetic biologists have created pathogens in the laboratory that had previously been completely or nearly completely eliminated from the face of the earth.

In 2005 a team led by Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the U.S. Center for Disease Control in Atlanta recreated the 1918 Spanish Flu virus.123 The Spanish Flu is credited with killing as many as 50 million people worldwide in 1918. Working with a tissue sample from a flu victim buried in the Alaskan permafrost, these teams identified the virus’ gene sequence that was used as a template as researchers genetically engineered an identical DNA strand. The constructed genetic material was incorporated into a bacterial plasmid and then inserted into human kidney cells where the virus assembled itself into a virulent form.124

In 2002, Dr. Eckard Wimmer, leading a team of researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, genetically engineered a poliovirus.125 Of interest was that they specified the genetic sequence necessary to create the virus and then successfully ordered genetic fragments from a mail order biofab company which produced and delivered the synthetic DNA strands to them. With these strands Dr. Wimmer’s team was then able to inject the de novo virus into mice successfully infecting them. It was the unchallenged mail order nature of the production of the genetic material that was most troubling.

Similarly, in June of 2006 James Randerson, a science correspondent at The Guardian, a British newspaper, announced he had ordered and had delivered to his home a fragment of synthetic DNA for the smallpox virus.126 Commercially produced at VH Bio Ltd., this strand would have been sufficient to create the smallpox virus. Smallpox is estimated to have been responsible for between 300-500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. In the early 1950s an estimated 50 million cases of smallpox occurred in the world each year. Smallpox is a virus that was eradicated from the planet by the World Health Organization in 1977.127

Life processes are insistent and persistent and just as life has proven remarkably resilient and tenacious in its quest to survive and procreate, synthetic life forms may prove equally determined. The scientists who are engineering them do not know how resilient they are nor does the government that refuses to regulate them or entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that are funding them. The general human population that has never even heard of them also does not know. We do know that living organisms mutate, change and adapt. We have no idea, should any of these synthetic biological organisms gain their freedom, what humanity will be facing.

The full extent of the potential benefits and risks of synthetic biology are beyond the scope of this analysis. It is clear, however, that while some benefits may be significant, the risks are great.128 In light of the significant risks, is it responsible to allow synthetic biology businesses to be unregulated and uncontrolled with only their profit motive to guide their actions? 129 Putting aside significant risks of conscious efforts to construct biological genetically engineered organisms which can be used as weapons or individuals working to consciously create hazardous life forms, the greater risk may be one of unintended consequences.

The risks of release of these synthetic organisms may derive from the well meaning but ill informed and ill considered researcher in a $10,000 laboratory.130 As was the case with genetically modified rice, the contamination may come from a large multinational conglomerate assisted by a trained and professional educational institution. Or the release of a synthetic organism may come from venture capitalists denying further funding to a startup whose personnel in closing down will simply discard dangerous organisms in their local trash bin. Under these circumstances it may take months, years or a decade or more for a surviving synthetic organism to communicate its existence to us. At that point it may be too late. Can we run the risk of release of a synthetic organism?

The progress of the genetic sciences illustrates almost any set of imagined circumstances can now be accomplished given available tools. The genetic genie cannot be put back in the bottle. There will be ongoing research. Humanity must exercise great caution with how it allows synthetic biology to progress. Unlike what we faced with the ozone hole, global climate change or nuclear weapons, we have the opportunity to preemptively assert management of the science to insure we at least minimize the risks.

We must insure that allowed experimentation is supervised and conducted with rigorous safety precautions. We must assert humanity is not prepared to accept the significant risks an entrepreneur or corporation is willing to take for the sake of their profit. As discussed in the section on the ozone hole, when humanity thinks about synthetic biology we should assume we would err. We will never be exactly right in our timing or our efforts. We will always be too soon or too late and will always do too much or too little. Ours is to decide how we want to err.

In the past we have not had the option to be too early. We had to react to threats that were perceived after they were already upon us. With synthetic biology we can choose to be early. We can decide to slow the pace of this scientific progression and take steps to allow us to better manage future effects. The following are steps we must take consistent with our conclusions if we are to discharge our responsibility as custodians and guardians of life.

Only an informed citizenry should decide to consume genetically engineered food. We must insist genetically or synthetically engineered food, plant or animal, be clearly identified through mandatory and detailed labeling. The world has unfortunately passed the threshold of informing its populace. In many countries, most notably the U.S. and Canada, people have not been told they are consuming grains that have been altered to resist a company’s manufactured poisons, herbicides or pesticides. With labeling we could be equipped to decide what we are willing to allow to be put into our bodies and the bodies of our children. Further there should be periodic and rigorous testing of crops whether intended for planting to produce seeds, for animal feed or for human consumption to insure that unanticipated or intentionally motivated genetic contamination has not occurred and is not allowed to spread.

Finally we need to recognize that life’s gene pool is its most commonly shared asset. The collective owner of the gene pool is life itself. It is the basis of all living things and determines success or failure of each succeeding generation of all of the world’s species. Given the universally shared nature of the asset, we should assert that no individual, corporation or government could own the genetics of a living organism naturally occurring, genetically engineered or synthetically created using knowledge of existing life forms or life processes.  It was after all, the study of the processes used by viruses and bacteria that taught us how to do what is now being done.  These processes must be viewed as naturally occurring and not human invention.

While some may argue such a step would dramatically halt investment and hence progress in synthetic biology, others would suggest removing the profit motive slows the precipitous rush and returns this science to the scientist. Basic science has always been pursued where potential benefit can be seen. Given the risks posed by synthetic biology a deceleration to a more deliberate pace may be how humanity manages the risks of the science. We can develop other means to provide incentive and reward the scientific community for continuing the basic research and science. We can use new mechanisms to encourage businesses to bring advances to market. Our intent must be to continue to allow the advancement of knowledge and human benefit while consciously protecting life’s most precious assets, its genetic code and life processes.

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Beyond Animal, Ego and Time: Chapters 10 & 11 – Protect Life Imperatives – Ozone Hole and Climate Change

Posted on 10 April 2013 by Jerry

This posting continues the serialization of my book on this website.  As an incentive to readers to return to the site, each month I will post at least one Chapter of the book until the entire book is posted.  Scroll back over the last few months to read earlier “Beyond Animal, Ego and Time” chapters.  The book provides context for the blog, clearly explaining the underlying philosophy and identifying critical issues of our time. In the book Chapter 10 begins four chapters which identify the four threats to life that we have created.  This installment contains Chapters 10 & 11.


Protect Life Imperative — Ozone hole


No species in history has been more successful than humans in imposing order on its environment. Human beings have organized and exploited the assets of our planet to serve our existence. We have built the physical infrastructure of cities, factories, and transportation and communication networks. We have harnessed sources of energy by mining the planet’s resources, damming the world’s rivers and splitting the atom. We have created industries to feed and nourish us through agriculture. In addition, we have established social, financial and governmental institutions to manage our interactions with each other. We have done these things and much more largely in the name of what we call progress.

For most of our existence our individual and collective impact on our planet was insignificant. We were few in number, the planet’s resources were plentiful and the ecology was resilient. Eras of plenty led to an inevitable expansion of our population to a point at which our impact went from inconsequential to consequential. The twentieth century was a tipping point when human capability became potentially catastrophic. Our actions and inventions became so powerful and global that we are able to threaten the existence of life itself. In some cases the growing threat posed by our actions was not obvious, in others it was.

We have had near misses that were the result of inadvertent action as opposed to conscious decisions. Tim Flannery in his book, The Weather Makers, while discussing the present issue of global climate change, describes the earlier threats faced in understanding the effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which destroy ozone in the atmosphere.69 A CFC is an organic compound containing chlorine, carbon, and fluorine. It is produced as a derivative of methane and ethane. A related subclass is the hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which also contain hydrogen and are typically marketed by DuPont as Freon. Also of concern is bromofluorocarbon compounds known as halons.

Flannery, an Australian professor and climate change activist at Macquarie University, relates how in the 1920s Gordon Dobson, an Oxford University lecturer in Meteorology, and his collaborator F. A. Lindeman, a professor of experimental philosophy also at Oxford, recognized the importance of ozone in the atmosphere and began measuring it as a matter of scientific curiosity.70 Ozone in the upper atmosphere prevents dangerous ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet light’s most familiar affect is sunburn. Prolonged exposure is linked to the development of skin cancers. In two successive measurements of ozone concentrations in the stratosphere above the Antarctic in 1975 and 1995 ozone levels fell from historic levels measured at 320 Dobson units in 1955. Ozone above the Antarctic fell to 280 units in 1975 and 90 units in 1995. A Dobson unit is an arbitrary measure of the density of atmospheric ozone in a column of air over a specific point on the planet under a standard temperature and pressure. This dramatic reduction in ozone over the Antarctic was in contrast to very stable levels of ozone measured on the rest of the planet during the same period.

Obviously something serious was taking place in the stratosphere over the Antarctic. We now know our collective use of chlorofluorocarbons had created a hole or an area of significant reduction in the concentration of ozone above the South Pole. In 1995, Paul Crutzen, F. Sherwood Rowland, and Mario Molina were awarded a Nobel Prize for their pioneering contributions to explaining how ozone is formed and decomposes through chemical processes in the atmosphere.71 According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in awarding the prize to Paul Crutzen in 1970 he “showed that the nitrogen oxides NO and NO2 react catalytically (without themselves being consumed) with ozone, thus accelerating the rate of reduction of the ozone content.” Further, “The next leap in our knowledge of ozone chemistry was in 1974, when Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland published their widely noted Nature article on the threat to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases – “Freons” – used in spray bottles, as the cooling medium in refrigerators and elsewhere and plastic foams.”

Flannery describes how close we came to making a fatal choice out of ignorance. Ozone, a particular form of oxygen, was discovered in laboratories in the early 1800’s. The oxygen we need for life consists of two oxygen atoms bonded together. Ozone consists of a three-oxygen atom molecule, which is created in the stratosphere through the interaction of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation of sunlight and oxygen. Because it can block more ultraviolet radiation than the two oxygen atom molecule, it keeps 95% of UV radiation (at wavelengths shorter than 0.4 microns) from the sun from reaching the surface of Earth. As a result of ozone’s instability, it is continuously losing its third atom degrading to normal oxygen while sunlight replenishes it by creating new three atom molecules. This process is normally in balance to maintain a reasonably consistent level of ozone in the stratosphere.

Chlorofluorocarbons, CFC’s, invented by industrial chemists in 1928, were used in the making of Styrofoam, as propellants in spray cans and for refrigeration and air conditioning. Their failure to react with other chemicals and resulting chemical stability at the surface of the planet always made them thought to be environmentally safe. Released into the atmosphere, however, they make their way to higher elevations in the atmosphere where they break down when subjected to ultraviolet radiation and release their chlorine atom. Chlorine atoms are very destructive to ozone, each atom of which can destroy 100,000 ozone molecules. Their destructive capacity goes up in colder temperatures which is why the ozone hole was found in the stratosphere over the South Pole which at minus 80˚ Fahrenheit is far colder than the minus 44˚ Fahrenheit found in the stratosphere at the North Pole.

The world clearly decided to do something about the problem caused by CFCs by signing the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985 and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. Fortunately they were not facing the hopeless situation we would have had if industrial chemists of the 1920’s had constructed their fluorocarbons with bromine rather than chlorine.

Tim Flannery states, “Although bromine lasts just one year in the stratosphere as compared with chlorine’s five, bromine is forty-five times more effective in destroying ozone than chlorine, and so swiftly would it have torn asunder those precious ten parts per million of ozone, that Earth’s sunscreen would have been destroyed even before F. Sherwood Rowland made his Nobel-winning discovery of the CFC threat to the ozone layer.”

Flannery continued, “Just how close the world came to such a fate can be seen in the uses to which industrial chemists had already put bromine. In the 1980’s, bromotrifluoromethane and bromochlorodifluoromethane – their trade names Halon-1301 and Halon-1211 respectively – came into widespread use in fire-suppression systems, particularly in art galleries and museums, where using water might cause damage. Because these chemicals are ten times as potent in destroying ozone as CFCs, they were banned under the Montreal Protocol … .”72

There are a number of conclusions to be drawn from this discussion of depletion of the ozone. The first conclusion, while not wanting to take anything away from the seriousness of the effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), is that life serendipitously benefited from early industrial chemists’ selection of chlorine as the more cost effective and less reactive chemical when compared to bromine. This choice of chlorine gave us an ozone deterioration we had an opportunity to perceive and attempt to address rather than a catastrophe we were too late to avoid.

Aristotle defined a tragedy as “The change to bad fortune which he (the character) undergoes not due to any moral defect or flaw, but a mistake of some kind.” Ozone depletion would have made for a classic tragedy if human beings had destroyed life in the pursuit of air conditioning and hair spray. We must also observe even the smallest effects from minor day-to-day activities multiplied by our number can now have global impacts far beyond our localized actions. We will bear an increasing responsibility to accurately assess the potential effects of our actions. We cannot afford to rely on serendipity to save us from unintended consequence or catastrophe.

It appears that collectively the world has acted swiftly enough to avoid the worst possible outcomes of ozone depletion. The Montreal Protocol of 1987, as amended in 1990, banned the most dangerous gases from 1996 forward. There was no instant fix however. Quoting again from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, “Since it takes some time for the ozone-destroying gases to reach the ozone layer we must expect the depletion, not only over Antarctica but also over parts of the Northern Hemisphere, to worsen for some years to come. Given compliance with the prohibitions, the ozone layer should gradually begin to heal after the turn of the century. Yet it will take at least 100 years before it has fully recovered.”

At least a century for full recovery provides a graphic measure of the damage. And that assumes that we follow through on our healing endeavors. In naming our species, the word “sapiens” was selected. A derivative of the word sapience, it connotes wisdom and sagacity or keen and farsighted penetration and judgment. Our history indicates that as in the case of ozone depletion or other worldwide phenomena, we will seldom have perfect timing in coming to the realization of a problem and initiating the appropriate actions. We will always err. We will always realize and act too soon or too late. We must pose the question with grave issues like ozone depletion, if we are to err, do we want to err on the side of being too early or too late? Given the risks associated with being too late, the answer should be obvious that we need to be too early.

As is always the case, for at least a decade after Messieurs Crutzen, Rowland, and Molina published their findings, there was active political and public relations resistance from the chemical producer companies, of which DuPont was the largest stakeholder, to suggestions of banning the offending chemicals. The argument consisted of inconclusive scientific evidence of a connection between CFCs and ozone destruction and of serious economic loss that would come from seeking substitutes.

As usual, this industry resistance led to political inaction and almost a decade and a half passed before twenty countries decided to sign the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985, which was largely a symbolic act. While the Vienna Convention brought a measure of legitimacy to the issue, it fell well short of specifying meaningful action to be taken. The signatories essentially agreed to meet and confer, share information, conduct their own research and promised to try to make further progress on the issue.

Countries did not commit to tangible action until signing the 1987 Montreal Protocol that became effective in 1989. In 1990 participating countries committed to phase out the offending chemicals and in 1992 they accelerated the phase out schedule. This represents a twenty-year lag between initial identification of the ozone problem and tangible action to solve it.

Further complicating our progress on replenishment of the ozone however, is a provision of the Montreal Protocol that was necessary to secure agreement and support from developing countries. This provision allows developing countries like China and India to continue using the offending CFC refrigerant HCFC-22 (hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22) through the year 2040. A further agreement in 2007 however, accelerated these requirements by specifying elimination of 97.5% of HCFC-22 in developing nations by 2030.  This chemical was eliminated from production in the European Union in 2004 and in the United States in 2010. Its use is mushrooming, however, in the developing countries with large populations such as China and India that are experiencing significant economic growth.

A news report stated, “The latest estimate from technical experts is that the chemical’s output in developing countries is rising 20 to 35 percent each year and could continue at that pace for years. Slightly over 2 percent of Indian households currently have air conditioners, according the LG Electronics of South Korea, a giant maker of air conditioners. In China, ownership soared to 87.2 air conditioners per 100 urban households in September (2007), from 24.4 seven years earlier. The countryside, home to two-thirds of the nation’s population, is poised for even greater growth. In 2005, there were 6.4 air conditioners per 100 rural households, a 35-fold increase from a decade earlier.”73

This report coincided with a re-expansion of the size of the Ozone Hole in 2006 to a level matching its record size achieved in 2001. This unanticipated record use of these dangerous chemicals in the developing world has surely lengthened our 100-year ozone problem. While the problem continues, we are once again put at risk by the failure of the world’s leaders to act. It may be we are losing ground on ozone depletion rather than making progress. Only time will tell if the ozone hole over the Antarctic begins to widen once more or depletion of ozone over the Arctic, where a new hole appears periodically, becomes problematic or whether ozone density is reduced as a result of the anticipated global climate change.

This highlights the difficulty faced in fixing the ozone layer and demonstrates the inertia encountered when issues of major impact are left to scientists, industries, politicians, and governments. The scientists inevitably have insufficient power to propel the issues forward. Politicians are successfully lobbied by industries with their bottomless resources and support that keeps politicians in office. Industries are motivated by protecting the status quo and the continued growth of earnings. Governments of the developed nations, which created the problem, are lobbied by developing nations to postpone corrective action until after their development. What is typically missing is the citizenry who ultimately has the political muscle to move governments to overrule industries. Absent the world citizenry, life could die waiting for action.

This then is another observation to be drawn from our experience with the ozone issue. People must be knowledgeable and must be involved if humanity is to react in a timely way to issues that threaten our existence. We must err on the side of early action to give ourselves the benefit of as much time as possible to enact a remedy. We must demand our governments act, recognizing we can make amends for economic dislocations which we cause and which we can reverse if the future contradicts our present view.



Protect Life Imperative — Climate Change 

The prolonged threat of the ozone hole leads us to the present issue of global climate change. Climate change is not as simple as the ozone hole because it has no ozone hole. There is not just one phenomenon with obvious chemical causes where incidental human behavior is a major contributor. Everything about global climate change is complex, diffuse, and central to post industrial society. It is complex because it requires understanding of the planet’s atmospheric, oceanic, and weather systems. It is diffuse because every human being in the developed world contributes greenhouse gases to the environment. It is central to society because dependence on carbon based energy sources, coal, oil and natural gas, and agricultural processes are essential to our modern civilization. In developing countries carbon based energy sources, deforestation and agriculture are viewed as critical to catching up with the developed world.

Issues of global climate change began in the early 19th century with investigation of the causes of the ice ages.74 Joseph Fourier in 1829 hypothesized atmospheric gases would permit the sun’s radiation to penetrate to the surface of the planet but would keep heat from escaping upward. In 1859, John Tyndall, a natural philosopher, conducted experiments that identified multiple gases including water vapor and carbon dioxide that trap heat rays, blocking their escape in the atmosphere. This was followed by Svante Arrhenius of Stockholm who mathematically demonstrated reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by 50% would lower European temperatures sufficiently to approximate an ice age, or a reduction of between 4-5°C and 7-9°F. While demonstrating the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a reduction of CO2, it did not prove that such a change had actually happened or was possible.

Debate about causes of ice age climate change continued into the 1900’s. Carbon dioxide got little attention because of a highly regarded experiment in the early 1900’s performed by Knut Ångström of Sweden.75 Ångström filled a tube with enough carbon dioxide to approximate the level that could be found in a column of air extending up to the top of the atmosphere. He then projected infrared radiation through the tube and measured how much successfully passed all the way through when he doubled and halved the CO2. He found the radiation getting through did not vary significantly with a change in the density of the CO2. He concluded significant climate change could not result from increases or decreases in carbon dioxide.

There were problems, however, with his results. Using a spectrograph of the time, he could not detect differences in absorption because there is hardly any absorption in the solar spectrum, causing him to conclude the CO2 spectrum was saturated. He did not know absorption of CO2 increases in parts of the spectrum he could not observe. He and other scientists were unaware that absorption at sea level air pressure and temperature produced a different result than was found in the much colder and lower pressure upper atmosphere. In addition, water vapor, which also blocks infrared radiation and is far more prevalent in the atmosphere than CO2, overlapped the smeared out bands of the CO2 in the spectrographs. As a result, more CO2 in the overlapping bands would have no effect since water vapor coupled with the CO2 in the tube, was already blocking all of the potential radiation. These results were widely published and caused several decades of neglect of CO2 and its effects by the world’s scientists.

While other research provided key insights into global climate change, two efforts deserve mention. Roger Revelle, an oceanographer who headed the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California refuted the long held scientific view that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels would not stay in the atmosphere for long but instead would be absorbed by the huge mass of water represented by the world’s oceans. Revelle’s research in the late 1950s showed that increasing numbers of CO2 molecules added to the atmosphere would wend their way into the world’s oceans within a few years. However most of the increase in additional CO2 would be evaporated back into the atmosphere in a short period of time. This contradicted the long held belief that the oceans were an immediate and natural, long term repository for greenhouse gases. It could take thousands of years for a new equilibrium to be established between the air and sea water.

Other research commissioned by Revelle through the International Geophysical Year, was undertaken by Charles David Keeling beginning in 1959. Keeling established a baseline of atmospheric CO2 values around the world that could be used for future comparisons. Using equipment in Antarctica and at the top of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, Keeling performed painstaking measurements of concentrations of CO2 for many years. His results showed an increase in carbon dioxide that could only be predicted if the oceans did not absorb the continually increasing industrial emissions. They showed a relentless year-over-year increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.

For many decades there were four main obstacles to demonstrating the contribution of human activity to climate change. The first was insufficient historical information on the temperature variation of the planet. This was overcome by studying the chemistry of ice core samples extracted from drilling in the Soviet Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. These samples contained tiny air bubbles from various geological periods and made it possible to measure past CO2 concentrations when the samples were cleaned, crushed in a vacuum and measured for what came out. These two ice core studies looked back some 150,000 years to produce dramatic conclusions. They showed CO2 in the atmosphere went up and down corresponding closely to the rise and fall of temperature throughout the relevant periods. This indicated a direct correlation between carbon dioxide and climate change.

Another obstacle to progress was the need for computing power to perform the millions of calculations required by large scale modeling of the weather.76 For decades scientists built simple models based on limited assumptions and variables to predict large scale weather effects. All of these efforts failed. Only with the advent of big digital computers in the 1980’s could one construct sufficiently complex models to accommodate the required computations of a convincing weather model. And the availability of powerful and fast desktop computers provided speed and computational power required to make even simple models more productive. These two enhanced levels of computing were necessary to move global climate models to the descriptive success they have achieved today.

The third obstacle was the global nature of our planet’s weather and oceans and the lack of worldwide measurement data. Only continuous collection of accurate weather and temperature information from thousands of locations worldwide could supply large-scale models with enough data to support accurate modeling. Obtaining this data involved painstaking daily efforts from thousands of scientists. Sharing the information involved the close cooperation of research institutions and governments around the world.

Time was the final requirement for progress in demonstrating causes of climate change.  Computing models became more complex because of higher numbers of variables.  This meant more time was required for refinement of the models.  With all large statistical models, increased accuracy is a result of countless reruns with selective additions and modifications of variables to insure continuous and steady improvement. There are now numerous sophisticated large-scale weather models at research and educational institutions that have gone through three decades of refinement to improve the statistical predictability of their results.

These models include atmospheric phenomena such as the behavior of updrafts carrying heat from the surface of the planet to the upper atmosphere, the role the layers of atmosphere play in the overall climate, wind currents and quantities of heat carried from the tropics to the poles, how snow and ice reflect sunlight into the atmosphere, and the formation and effects of clouds. Factors concerning the oceans include the interaction of evaporation, storms, and clouds. In addition they include the water currents that carry heat from one part of the globe to another and the oceans’ ability to act as a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it. In addition the models must account for airborne particulates in the atmosphere such as chemicals and dust from volcanoes and aerosol sprays. Other elements to be added to the models are greenhouse gases produced by human beings and other forms of life, such as CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels and methane, which is released into the atmosphere by livestock and microbes in wetlands and rice paddies. We also have to include variables from beyond our planet such as radiation from the sun, its angle of impact on the earth and shifts in the planet’s axis and magnetic fields. You can now begin to appreciate the sheer complexity of factors that needed to be considered.

The history of climate change has been fraught with controversy. As could be expected with burgeoning interest in the issue by scientists, governments, industries, and finally an aware citizenry, there has been much acrimonious debate. Confusion has arisen over conflicting findings, criticism of research methodologies and questions about individual motives. Mainly we become frustrated by our inability to make complex issues more simple and straightforward.

There have been numerous opinions, some of which are more informed than others, and numerous participants in the debate. One organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), received worldwide endorsement of its findings. The IPCC was chartered by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).  Since its charter, the IPCC has issued four major world assessments of climate change, in 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2007.77 The due date of the next assessment is sometime between the end of 2013 and 2014.  Along with former Vice President Al Gore, the IPCC received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.78

The IPCC has three working groups that deal with different aspects of the global climate change issue; the scientific basis of climate change, its consequences, and remedies the world has for slowing the rate of change. The process for review and consensus of the IPCC’s reports is extensive and involves collaboration and review by thousands of scientists from the developed and developing worlds, research institutions, industry, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The reports are issued only after several layers of authorship, review, and negotiation.

Conclusions that have emerged from the reports of the three working groups are as follows:79,80,81

  • There is a greater than 90% probability that the increase in the world’s average temperatures since the mid-20th century is due to greenhouse gas concentrations as a result of human activity.
  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
  • The “best estimate range” for an increase in global temperatures is from 3.1 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century. More pessimistic estimates identify average temperature increases as high as 11.5 degrees.
  • There will be increasingly severe weather including fewer but more intense hurricanes and typhoons, greater rainfall in higher latitudes with decreases in precipitation in the more subtropical areas.
  • Fresh water resources will diminish affecting one sixth of the world’s population living near rivers with water from glaciers and snow cover. An early increase in available water as the glaciers melt will be followed by a steep decline as glaciers disappear.
  • There will be a potential shrinkage of fresh water resources by an estimated 30% by the middle of this century.
  • Disappearing glaciers, melting Arctic and Antarctic ice and melting snows will cause a most likely 7 to 23 inch rise in sea level by the end of this century.
  • Some researchers believe the forecasted increases in temperature will initiate an irreversible melting of Greenland’s ice sheet. This would cause a rise in sea level as great as 23 feet.
  • Global climate change threatens up to 30% of plant and animal species with extinction if the global average temperature rises more than three to five degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet, no single step that can be taken that will slow or reverse the climate change that has begun. A wide array of recommendations have been made which would have major impact on numerous industries including the seven sectors of Energy Supply, Transport, Buildings, Industry, Agriculture, Forestry/forests and Waste. Unfortunately recommended changes would require development and adoption of many new technologies and would initiate wholesale replacement of infrastructure in multiple industries. These changes would necessitate large societal investments and would take many years to accomplish.

Prominent among steps identified for Energy Supply, Transport, Buildings and Industry sectors are:

  • fuel switching from coal to gas
  • nuclear power and use of other renewable sources such as hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy;
  • production and use of more efficient vehicles including hybrids and cleaner diesel vehicles
  • more efficient building lighting, heating and cooling systems
  • use of passive and active solar design for building environmental systems
  • more efficient use of electrical equipment in industry
  • increased material recycling and substitution and
  • greater control of non-CO2 gas emissions.

In the longer term in these sectors, the IPCC is suggesting:

  • technologically advanced nuclear power and alternate renewable energy sources including tidal and waves energy and solar power
  • more advanced and efficient vehicles and batteries and
  • Carbon Capture and Storage for cement, ammonia, and iron manufacture.

In the agriculture, Forestry/forests, and Waste sectors they called for:

  • increased crop and grazing land management
  • livestock and manure management to reduce CH4 emissions
  • dedicated energy crops to replace fossil fuel use,
  • reduced deforestation and reforestation
  • landfill methane recovery
  • greater composting of organic waste and
  • recycling and waste minimization.

Global climate change is an urgent, long-term problem facing the planet and all of its inhabitants. In an article entitled The Physical Science behind Climate Change, which appeared in the August 2007 issue of Scientific American, five noted scientists, William Collins, Robert Colman, James Haywood, Martin R. Manning and Philip Mote, conclude “One result of global warming is certain, however. Plants, animals and humans will be living with the consequences of climate change for at least the next thousand years.”82

As we observed part of the difficulty of dealing with climate change is that it is complex, diffuse, and central to post industrial society. Numerous industries will have to make significant changes and their responsibility is unfocused. Suggested remedies will take considerable time, effort, and money to accomplish. The two most significant challenges to begin the task of addressing global climate change are a sense of urgency and finding strong leadership.

The issue now moves from the scientists to the politicians, industries, and the individual citizen. Unfortunately the country that ostensibly leads the world, the United States, is the largest contributor to global climate change by any measure and has been the most intransigent on the issue. And the science is conclusive. The Editor-in-chief of Science magazine, Donald Kennedy, observed in an editorial “The scientific consensus is clear … political judgments are in, and the game is over.”83 It is now time for the United States to mobilize the needed action including ambitious and aggressive legislation to begin addressing the problem.

Following a “Politics as usual” approach to the problem, the motivations and actions of various participants will be as follows. Politicians in response to public pressure know they must sponsor and/or vote for one or more global climate change bills that at minimum give the appearance of taking action. Representatives of affected industries will proclaim leadership of and commitment to the “Green Revolution” in their advertising while attempting to negotiate the least required change that will spread over the longest period of time. They will also claim costs are too high, needed technology is non-existent, and as a result their business will be less competitive. Finally, they will argue that conversion costs should be borne by the government, in other words, the taxpayer.

The collective tendency will be to postpone the hard work for future generations of business leaders and politicians who will be forced to act. Citizens will look to politicians to demand that offending industries change and yet themselves will take largely symbolic acts to show support for resolving global climate change. The bottom line is everyone will wait for someone else until it is clear we are out of time. The risk to humanity is huge. Future generations will lose because they were left with no chance to win.

A number of bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress in the last few years that proposed various plans for greenhouse gas reductions in the United States. These bills identified when the emissions limitations would go into effect, set percentage targets for annual reductions of greenhouse gases, and fix a maximum target for a specific year in the future. They were variously entitled the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, Safe Climate Act, Global Warming Reduction Act, Climate Stewardship Act, Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act, American Clean Energy and Security Act, and so on. None of these bills have passed both houses of Congress. None were expected to.

The starting years for proposed laws ranged from 2010, which has been missed, and later. The arguments and lobbying continue. The original measurement milestones called for emissions reduction from 8% at the lowest end to 17% at the high end by the year 2020. They further specified a final milestone ranging from a total emissions reduction of 42% at the low benchmark to 83% emissions reduction at the highest level by the year 2050. Now that we have experienced a significant economic downturn, it is unclear when the United States will muster the will, energy, or resources to attack the problem.

The question is, are any of these proposed laws aggressive enough? Some perspective would be useful. If we use other human undertakings as a benchmark we have a frame of reference with which to evaluate proposed legislation. Let us use three human accomplishments for comparison; the construction of the great pyramid at Giza, the making of the first nuclear weapon, and putting a man on the moon. The Great Pyramid of Khufu in Giza, Egypt sits on an area of thirteen acres.84,85 It is composed of approximately 2,300,000 stone blocks, each of which required 112 men to lift and move into place. It is estimated to have taken 20 years to build.

The phenomenon of a chain reaction initiated by the splitting of atoms was articulated in 1933 by a Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard. He patented the idea. In October of 1939 Szilard wrote a letter, which Albert Einstein signed, to President Roosevelt advocating the building of a bomb. The first atomic explosion was conducted on July 16, 1945. Two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. From conception in 1933 to use in 1945 took twelve years.

On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech declaring the United States was going to put a man on the moon. Eight years later Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon.

These three human accomplishments took 20 years, 12 years, and 8 years respectively, and yet the most aggressive proposed legislation to deal with global climate change allows a time frame of over forty years. The author of this legislation was the Speaker of the House who was born in 1940 and will be 110 years old in 2050. The Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, the largest power generating company in the United States, was born in 1947 and will be 103 years old in 2050. Both will certainly be retired by the time the first measurement milestone in that proposed legislation would have been due in 2020.

Humanity must accept the urgency of our situation and summon the resolve to aggressively slow and ultimately reverse global climate change. Unfortunately, humanity does not have a good track record in following through on goals which span decades. Our continuing failures to close the ozone hole and eliminate nuclear weapons serve as examples of our inability to follow through. Present proposed global climate change legislation in the United States Congress is inadequate and will not accomplish our objectives.

We do not know if we have run out of time to reverse global climate change. It may be that climate change is analogous to the AIDs epidemic. People do not die of AIDs. AIDs weakens the human immune system so its victims are susceptible to any number of other infections. Other infections, which we should survive, prove fatal because of the crippled immune system. Assuming we take appropriate action, global climate change may not be fatal, but it attacks the equilibrium of the surface environment of the planet.

James Lovelock, a noted scientist, environmentalist and writer, developed the concept of Gaia or that all elements in the environment on Earth work synergistically to regulate the overall system and rebalance the ecology as a protection mechanism.86 Once the planet’s ecological system has been overburdened with human pollutants, its self regulating and synergistic mechanisms may have been compromised to the point that they cannot absorb further shocks and can no longer respond. Once the relative stability of the world’s temperature has been compromised, we may find we have initiated a sequence of events that reinforce each other into a spiral of escalating effects and deterioration.

As an example, consider the greenhouse gas methane. Methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that is emitted from a variety of natural and human initiated sources. Human sources include landfills, natural gas and petroleum systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial processes.

What makes methane a source of concern is it is the most likely greenhouse gas to cause catastrophic change. Methane is over 20 times more powerful and destructive than CO2 but it remains in the atmosphere for only about a decade. Methane occurs naturally all over the planet and in significant quantities. It is frozen into hydrates, or crystalline structures, under sediments on the ocean floors and in frozen tundra.87 If the tundra and permafrost melt or the temperature of the ocean increases over the next couple of decades a significant release of methane could occur which would accelerate climate change. Seafloor methane hydrates, especially those deposited on continental shelves, are also susceptible to earthquakes and underwater landslides which can trigger immediate significant releases of the methane gas.88

Climatologists and geologists have created many variations of a hypothetical series of events that would indicate “a methane runaway is possible, sustained by three mutually reinforcing sources, one Arctic, one tropical, and one global.”89 Most of these hypothetical series begin with an initial methane release, that is the crucial triggering event that causes other events negatively reinforcing each other establishing a series of effects that spiral out of control. For example, Nisbet (1989, 1990) points to a release of gas from an Arctic gas pool while Paull et al. (1991) suggest a submarine landslide could release large amounts of methane triggering a rise in the planet’s temperature which causes melting of frozen tundra which releases more methane that increases the temperature even more, and so on. “An important factor is the possibility of mutual feedback between submarine landslips, Arctic hydrate releases, and tropical wetland emissions (Nisbet 1992).”

Some years ago, in the midst of the U.S. and Soviet cold war, there was recognition in the scientific community and the government that an enemy could avoid detection in a nuclear attack by exploding a weapon off the coastline. This would trigger a tidal wave that would devastate coastal cities. Such an attack or for that matter, an explosion by a sizable meteor hitting the ocean near a methane rich continental shelf could trigger a release of methane with catastrophic consequences. Such an event could cause a weakened planet to enter a methane runaway that would overwhelm human responses.

A generation is usually measured as the time from birth of a parent to the birth of their first child. This varies from generation to generation and most recently has become longer as people have their first child later in life. At present the length of a generation in developed countries is approximately 30 years. A global climate change problem that lasts 1,000 years will affect over 30 generations. We are dealing with a problem that even under the best of circumstances will threaten our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand children and all children in between.

We all know that since the beginning of the industrial age, human industry has looted the resources of the planet. Businesses and governments have considered those resources in economic terms a relatively free good available for plunder. Everyone in the civilized world has benefited from their extraction and use even as we have polluted the environment. As time passed, many people began to suspect that at some point we would have to pay a price for our exploitation. It is now clear the time has come to fix what we have done. Climate change and the ozone hole join nuclear weapons as the three creations of human kind that threaten life’s existence on Planet Earth.

While climate change is uncertain in its future severity, we humans cannot afford miscalculation. We cannot rely on serendipity. The risks of being wrong and failing to respond in an aggressive and conclusive way are unacceptable. We must insist our political leaders discard a “politics as usual” philosophy. We must demand that instead of requiring progress from our industries on the back-end of the time allowed, urgent progress must be front-end loaded. We will fail with plans that offer 83% reduction after 40 years. We must demand the 80% in the first 15 years. Only in this way can we give ourselves any substantive chance to avoid catastrophe.

Yes, our effort will cost money and require we move forward with technologies as they are, while we develop others. Yes, our actions may be wasteful as yesterday’s solutions are immediately replaced by the next generation of technology in short order. This is how humanity will succeed and how progress will be made. This is how we will win against global climate change. Unfortunately, it appears we will not react in time to permit an orderly and systematic, well planned response. Every month of delay increases the severity of the steps that must be taken and the human cost of future suffering.

There is nothing sacred about how we live presently. Cities can be changed. Transportation can be changed. Economic policy can be changed. Everything can change. We must not hold on to failing processes, technology or institutions. We cannot let our grasp on the familiar keep us from reaching for the future. We must do as only we can do. We have identified this problem, absorbed large amounts of information about it and are clear on its consequences to our existence. We must identify available options, decide on a course of action, and implement those actions.


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