by Derek J. Wilson
Forum on Proposals to the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes
Environment paper, 1 September 2004, by Derek J Wilson
Well-known New Zealand author Joy Cowley opened Conservation Week in August 2004 by emphasising what should be some of humankind’s most basic understandings.
The interconnectedness of everything. The universe is an organic whole. There is no separation. What we do to our environment, we do to ourselves. 
The following day, Lloyd Geering, Foundation Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University, Wellington, addressed the environmental crisis as “a challenge to classical Christianity.”
Today we are become increasingly aware of an environmental crisis. We are wastefully using up the earth’s non-renewable resources. We are polluting the air and water essential for life. We are rapidly eliminating many other forms of life by destroying the habitat on which they depend. The hit list goes on. 
Geering drew attention to a statement by Lynn White, Professor of History at the University of California.
Christianity in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions, has not only established a dualism of man and nature, but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends… Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt for the human attitude that we are superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim… We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man. 
Thus there developed the perpetual growth ethic — “the ideology of the cancer cell”  and an absolute impossibility on a finite Earth — the belief in the driving force behind today’s economy, where money became the primary source of value and meaning for many human beings, a substitute for the morality and spirituality that traditionally unified all. Just as a continuously growing cancer eventually destroys its life-support systems by destroying its host, this continuously expanding global economy is surely and mercilessly destroying its host — Earth’s ecosystems.  The political applications of this creeping death, whether Reaganomics or Thatcherism (and I would add Rogernomics, Ruthenasia, Birchitis or Jennycide), according to Peter Calvocoressi, editorial and chief executive of Penguin Books, “are forms of economic illiteracy derived from political ideology.”  (Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson were former NZ National and Labour government Ministers of Finance respectively; Bill Birch retired as the National Finance Minister in November 1999; Jenny Shipley was the Prime Minister of the National government which was decisively defeated in the November 1999 election.) This governing elite:
Reduces the functions of government to keeping the books and keeping public order (very necessary but far from all-embracing matters) and making life easier for money makers in the belief that their prosperity is a sufficient key to the creation of wealth and its dissemination.
This outlook is replicated in international affairs — the same calculation of crude gain, corporate or national; the same denigration of rules and legalities which get in the way; the same flight from reason at the slightest prompting of immediate emotions; the same shrinking of vision. All these are human failings which flirt with disaster…
While global and local disparities keep growing: “On average, the additional economic output in each of the last four decades has matched that added from the beginning of civilisation until 1950.”  I have italicised this reference to emphasise its significance. While this phenomenal growth has taken place, i.e., between 1950 and 1990 — over a 40 - year span:
Jenny Wright clearly indicates the fallacies of the growth paradigm:
Conventional economic wisdom, which is predicated on the everlasting growth of materialism at some three percent per year, is having difficulty with the concept of sustainable development. This is partly due to the facts that a large proportion of what passes for development is really ecological destruction and rape of the biosphere, and that much of what currently passes as investment is really consumption. More seriously it is due to the failure of economics to recognise that there is more to life than money, and a lot more to land than rent.
The practice of taking from nature can only be continued with impunity if planetary resources are infinite, or if Mother Nature is infinitely capable of repairing the ravages of man. Unfortunately, neither of these conditions is true… Total ecological demand is exceeding total ecological supply and will place an ever increasing overload on the biosphere. 
Wright is only one of many drawing attention to our worsening plight. As Bjorn Stigson, head of the Swedish engineering firm AB Flakt, put it in a 1991 UN publication, Notes for Speakers: “We treat nature like we treated workers a hundred years ago. We included then no cost for the health and social security of workers in our calculations, and today we include no cost for the health and security of nature.” Vandana Shiva points out that the continuous growth of economic activity guided solely by market economic forces ultimately can only lead to a situation,
where the total withdrawal of natural resources both for basic needs satisfaction and for sectoral growth, becomes more than the renewability of natural resources. At this point, the Gross National Product keeps increasing while the Gross Natural Product starts declining… If the process of decline in the renewability for natural resources is allowed beyond a critical point, the process of degradation becomes irreversible… The history of Roman and Mesopotamian civilisations is an example of total societal collapse due to the erosion of nature’s economy. 
The whole ‘growth’ syndrome — the major source of our worsening global problems — demands the closest scrutiny. According to Herman Daly, until recently senior economist with the environmental department of the World Bank in Washington:
It’s really been only in the last 200 years that growth has been really a part of our lives. Prior to that, on an annual basis, growth was negligible. The idea that we must either grow or die is just not supported by history and I think that the contrary is much more likely: if we continue to grow, then surely we will die. 
‘Sustainable growth’, much bandied about officially and unofficially, also produces wittingly or unwittingly a gross distortion of reality. As Stanford University ecologist Paul Ehrlich remarks:
Steady growth or sustainable growth is a non-sequitur. It simply cannot be done on a finite planet. You may be able to grow intellectually for a long time but you cannot grow physically for a long time. We are already past the limits of sustainable growth. So if you hear somebody saying that, you know again that they simply don’t understand the situation… There are certain rules of the Universe that humanity simply cannot repeal and the sooner economists, politicians, and businessmen begin to understand that, the sooner they will begin to have a future for their children and grandchildren. 
The blinding arrogance of most economists, politicians and businessmen deepens the crisis but should strengthen our ability to address it. But as long as the principal purpose of governments, mainly according to Washington’s consensus, is to facilitate international investment, not to use a nation’s wealth primarily for the benefit of its people, not to put the needs of its own citizens first, we shall continue to travel the wrong road with ever increasing speed. Without a major change — a change such as our civilisation has not previously experienced — we will repeat the tragedy suffered by earlier civilisations. (See Conclusion.)
One tragedy which is analogous to our present situation is that which took place on Easter Island prior to 1722 when Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen landed there. Of the thriving population who had built the elaborate stone statues, few people were left. Their ancestors over time had cut down all the lush forests thereby destroying the water supply and animal and bird life. The remaining people had become cannibals. As UCLA Medical School Professor Jared Diamond put it:
The islanders were isolated in the middle of the ocean with nobody to turn to for help, with nowhere to flee once the island collapsed. In the same way today, one can look at Planer Earth in the middle of the galaxy, and if we too get into trouble, there’s no way we can flee, and no people to whom we can turn for help out there in the galaxy. 
Continuous and unlimited growth in our finite situation is a gross contradiction or oxymoron — a pointedly foolish statement — and yet it has become a powerful catchphrase. We need reminding repeatedly of the words of economist Kenneth Boulding that “anyone who believes exponential growth can go on for ever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”  (This would make an excellent daily TV news flash.) Unfortunately with the latter, as Laurence Peter says, “an economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.”  As the old adage says — there are two laws of economics. Firstly, for every economist, there is an equal and opposite economist. Secondly, they are both wrong.
We should return to some important landmarks and list to start with the UN World Conservation Strategy of 1981, formalised two years later by the Brundtland Commission’s dictum: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  J W MacNeill, who served as Secretary General to the Commission, gave further meaning and direction to this challenge in 1988:
Sustainable development means the kind of economic development that lives off the Earth’s interest, without encroaching on its capital. It also means investing to sustain and even enhance our ecological capital, so that future dividends can be ensured and enlarged. 
This would have to be followed by the Preamble to Agenda 21 as adopted by the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, June 1992. It consists of seven paragraphs of which 1.1 is given here:
Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own; but together we can — in a global partnership for sustainable development. 
We must ask ourselves whether, in the intervening twelve years, our situation has improved. The disparities between and within nations have worsened, as have the states of poverty, hunger and ill health and the deterioration of our ecosystems.
Prior to this, in 1971, Barry Commoner in The Closing Circle, introduced the Four Laws of Ecology:
Twenty-seven years later, David Ransom, in concert with an ever-increasing number of international writers, again emphasised the critical nature of our situation.
Without any doubt, the two overarching political issues of our time are human inequality and environmental destruction, the consequences of which may be starkly visible in places like the Amazon but apply almost anywhere... It is, nonetheless, increasingly clear that inequality and destruction are directly linked. Indeed, it would be very much harder to demonstrate that they are not linked, given that they are both happening at the same time. They are also interacting in complex ways that accelerate their growth alarmingly.
This is because global consumer capitalism, unless it is restrained, grows faster and faster. Anything not devoted exclusively to the service of its immediate interests it seeks to destroy. The destruction is compounded because it must either grow or blow: it cannot contain itself. It is self-destructive, too, shot through with contradictions which make it blow precisely because it grows, like some force-fed hothouse vegetable. 
Before this, in 1962, there appeared a seminal work - Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Wrote Carson, “…what we have to face is not an occasional dose of poison which has accidentally got into some article of food, but a persistent and continuous poisoning of the whole human environment…”  In a TV interview Carson summed up the problem: “Man is part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” But Carson was more prophetic than many imagined. Although she was specifically writing about “a persistent and continuous poisoning of the whole human environment,” the opening to her final chapter can now be read in a much broader context.
We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth super-highway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The fork in the road — the one ‘less traveled by’ — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our Earth. 
Forty-two years later, look over the horizon, over the edge, and our deteriorating position becomes clearer. We are engaged in a fight for survival while we continue to travel the wrong road, instead of the ‘one less traveled by’. 
But we need to go back beyond all these warnings — and there have been a great number — to 1854, when President Franklin Pierce made an offer for a large area of Indian land and promised a ‘reservation’ for the Indian people. Replied Chief Sealth, or Seattle as he is now known, from a combination of ‘notes’ and a ‘recreation’ of a long speech:
…Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap that courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man… One thing we know. Our God is the same God. This Earth is precious to Him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. 
For practically the whole time-frame of our civilisation — that tiny fraction which you can wipe out when you consider the history of Earth to be as long as the old measure of the English yard, which is the distance from the King’s nose to the very tip of his fingers on his outstretched arm, and you exercise one stroke of your nailfile on the end of the second finger — during that time-frame, humankind has lived in an agricultural society which produced the basic necessities to sustain life. Only in the last approximately 200 years — an infinitesimal spell on our time-frame — has this form been radically changed in selected parts of the world by the “Industrial Revolution combined with the earlier Scientific Revolution of detached research and inquiry” which, according to Robert Kennedy, “created a built-in upward spiral of economic growth and technology advance.”  This growth, as against a “stationary state” economy, has become a ruinous obsession, an unassailable mantra. On a finite Earth with finite resources and an already grossly overwhelming Ecological Footprint, such ideology is totally unsustainable.
In the minds of many, an already large and growing question mark hangs over the whole growth ethic. In direct contrast to the present world-wide growth thrust, Wolfgang Sachs argues with many others that this phase of history — the Industrial Revolution — has now run its course and most urgently needs to be replaced by an entirely different paradigm. As economist Herman Daly suggests: “The stationary state would make fewer demands on our environmental resources, but much greater demands on our moral resources.”  The adoption by the First World of ‘stationary state economics’ would at least start to change the shape of the champagne glass, for to try to alleviate the pressures by technical or economic ‘fixes’ without changing the underlying causes will not solve the basic problem.
The champagne glass is a UN Human Development diagram in which the wealthiest people reside in the top fifth, the poorest in the bottom fifth. The changing ratios between the incomes of the poorest and the wealthiest are revealing. In 1820 it was 1:3, 1948 - 1:10, 1960 - 1:30, 1980 - 1:45, 1991 - 1:61, 1997 - 1:74.
Possibly the most significant measure of man’s degradation of his one and only home is the ‘Ecological Footprint’, which should be read with the Living Planet Reports.  In 1998 the World Wide Fund for Nature produced its first report which presented a quantitative picture of the state of the world’s natural environment and the human pressure upon it. It showed a decline of the world’s natural ecosystems from 1970 to 1995 of about 30 percent. At the same time, Consumption Pressure, a measure of national pressures on these natural ecosystems amongst 152 countries had grown at about five percent annually. New Zealand was second only to Mauritius in the highest percentage of birds and mammals threatened by extinction.
The Ecological Footprint, coined in the 1990s by population ecologist William Rees, is defined as “the total amount of land and water ecosystems required to produce the resources consumed and to assimilate the wastes produced by a defined population wherever on Earth that land and water is located.” 
Earth has approximately 8.9 billion hectares of ecologically productive land, and a population now of about 6.4 billion. Simple mathematics gives everyone about 1.4 hectares of land. The 1997 Ecological Footprint for the United States was 10.3, Australia 9.0, Canada 7.7, New Zealand 7.6, and so on down to Ethiopia, India and Pakistan at 0.8 and Bangladesh at 0.5. Obviously, the imbalances, while grotesque, seem to be little understood. At the same time, it should be recognised that many people in the Western world live in poverty — in America’s case, something like 30 million in a population of just over 294 million. Poverty however is relative.
We now have a Faustian pact with technology that threatens the very survival of our natural assets. As an Oriental proverb has it: When a man’s science exceedeth his sense, he perishes by his ignorance.
The fact that Joy Cowley and Lloyd Geering are the most recent of many eminent writers to reiterate the warnings says much for a lack of real perception of our situation amongst officialdom and among the people themselves.
The evidence stares us in the face. The list is daunting and lengthening. It demands recognition, especially in official quarters. Three indispensable tools are Vital Signs: The Environmental Trends That Are Shaping Our Future; World Disasters Report and The State of the World, all published annually.
It is impossible here to deal fully with the many ecological problems which continue to worsen. So I propose to briefly cover three — climate change, water and energy.
Leaving aside the scores of reports from official bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other unofficial prognostications, in February this year the Pentagon issued a statement saying that the climate could change radically and fast for it had been pushed to the ‘tipping point’. This would be the mother of all national security issues.  The White House immediately instructed the Pentagon to be very circumspect in anything else it said. Just prior to this, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, in an analysis of Atlantic ocean currents from pole to pole, announced “the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments.” 
Apart from mankind’s discharge of vast quantities of detritus into the oceans, it has been established, following the analysis of 72,000 seawater samples from 1,000 different ocean sites since 1989, that they have absorbed about half of the CO2 (the main cause of global warming) emitted by human activities over the past two centuries. The resulting acidification is causing dramatic changes “which could have significant impacts on the biological systems of the oceans in ways we are only beginning to understand.”  Why has this happened and who is responsible?
Among Americans, the answer is clear: political leaders and media personalities have, at the behest of corporate sponsors who feel threatened by environmental controls, lied to the public about the problem, promoting the fallacy that the situation was a matter for debate when, in fact, nature had already cast the die. Worldwide, various governmental and private entities have mistrusted the threat of environmental disasters as a means of imposing a level of planning on all human activities that they found unacceptable… Instead of facing the real problems responsibly and practically, instead of through the crazy lens of ideology, governments and the corporate world stand accused of doing too little, too late, with results that promise to be devastating beyond imagination. 
It is to such impending disasters that the Precautionary Principle (prudent foresight) should be applied — something we seem not to have yet comprehended. Unfortunately, once any potentially dangerous juggernaut starts rolling it is extremely difficult to stop.
It’s worth recalling a few words from the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal of 1950: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience… Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”
The world is facing rapidly worsening water problems with the scale and pace of human impact on fresh-water systems accelerating along with population and consumption growth. Water tables the world over are falling with some people having to walk nearly 10 kilometres daily to procure this basic life support. Many streams and rivers — including large ones such as the Amu Dar’ya, Colorado, Ganges, Indus, Rio Grande and Yellow — now run dry for portions of the year. Large inland lakes, notably Central Asia’s Aral Sea and northern Africa’s Lake Chad, have shrunk to shadows of their former sizes. World-wide, freshwater wetlands — ecosystems that do a remarkable job of purifying water — have diminished in area by about half. At least 20 percent of Earth’s 10,000 freshwater fish species are at risk of extinction or are already extinct. 
Not only are rivers low or dry globally, but most are polluted. Forty percent of these in the US have lost all fish, and are unsafe for drinking and swimming. Fish have disappeared from 80 percent of China’s rivers. Only three percent of Earth’s shrinking water supplies remain drinkable. 
Aquifers — stores of water deep below ground — containing some 97 percent of global fresh water, are mankind’s most precious asset. Yet they are being plundered to the point where water tables are dropping by up to three metres annually. In the US prairies, for example, 1,500cms depths of ground water are commonly extracted yearly, while nature restores one cm.  Aquifers in Australia and the US are expected to run dry in about 30 years; the water table below Beijing has dropped 59 metres since 1965; in China, in 1947, just three provinces had 2.6 million wells, of which 100,000 have run dry and been abandoned. 
As if water depletion was not truly disturbing, the pollution of the world’s remaining supplies is a time bomb. World-wide, lethal chemical cocktails are either deliberately or negligently allowed to enter the soil and waterways. Globally, only two percent of human excrement and toxic wastes receive some form of treatment, the remaining two million tons daily is simply dumped. Deep ground water aquifers are at risk from seepage of pesticides, fertilisers, heavy metals, nuclear wastes and a host of industrial discharges. 
Disparities in use are grotesque as shown by the year 2000 estimated annual water withdrawals per capita (cubic metres per person per year): 
Ethiopia 42 Bangladesh 578 Nigeria 70 India 640 Brazil 348 France 675 South Africa 354 Peru 784 Indonesia 390 Mexico 791 China 491 Spain 893 Russian Federation 527 Egypt 1,011 Germany 574 Australia 1,250 United States 1,932
In the late 1990s, a handful of corporations began to quietly acquire control of the world’s systems. As the value of this life-giving liquid began to soar, multi-billion-dollar firms such as Vivendi, Suez, Enron and Bechtel scoured the world in the pursuit of lucrative business opportunities. “Under corporate control, water fees inevitably rise, pushing those least able to pay them to try to make trade-offs between their water and other basic needs, including food, clothing, medicine and ‘extras’ like education.” 
The fundamental problem is the failure of politicians to accept a world of finite resources and the need to live within their hydrological means. 
A measure of this deteriorating situation is that the world’s population used three times as much water in 1995 as it did in 1950,  while the supply of water per capita in 1994 was only one third of what it was in 1970.  Understandably, the world’s dwindling water supplies (as is the case with oil depletion) could easily lead to wars.
In 1973 President Richard Nixon commented on his country’s global energy situation:
There are only seven percent of the people of the world in the United States, and we use 30 percent of all the energy. That isn’t bad; that is good. That means we are the richest, strongest people in the world, and that we have the highest standard of living in the world. That is why we need so much energy, and may it always be that way. 
In the intervening 30 odd years much has changed, but the world still relies on fossil fuel — oil mainly, with coal and gas — for most of its energy. So what can be made of George W Bush’s statement of 23 September 2002? “We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.” The skyrocketing sales of gas-guzzling SUVs and the even more wasteful Hummers will greatly help Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism’.
We continue to behave as though Earth’s finite resources will last for ever. Our civilisation cannot live off non-renewables unless our numbers are below the environment’s carrying capacity, which some suggest as being about 500 million, as opposed to the present 6.3 billion. 
“Between 1850 and 1970, the number of people living on Earth more than tripled and the energy they consumed rose 12-fold. By 2002, our numbers had grown another 68 percent and fossil fuel consumption was up another 73 percent.” 
Society, being addicted to oil, is not prepared for shocks and doesn’t want to hear that oil supplies are running out. But as Aldous Huxley stated: “Facts do not cease to be facts simply because they are ignored.” So it is worth recognising some facts which have been known for some time, although they do not seem to be in the general public domain. The salient fact is well put by Colin Campbell, the world’s recognised leading authority on this issue:
Oil and gas are finite fossil fuels from the geological past and are inevitably subject to depletion. Eventually we must run out, but what matters more is the inevitable peak of production when growth gives way to decline. The wider implications of this historic discontinuity are colossal. 
Let’s take on board the following additional energy facts.
Hubbert noted that exploration in all its forms follows a bell curve with production plotted against time. In the ascending curve exploration and production are easy and cheap, but in the descending curve it becomes progressively more difficult and expensive.
The New Zealand energy situation, as at 2000, was as follows:
In the last 100 years New Zealand’s use of energy doubled every 22 years, while our CO2 emissions increased 22 percent from 1990 to 2000, and are projected to increase by 45 percent from 1990 to 2021 if growth in energy continues unchecked. 
One doesn’t have to be an Einstein to agree with former British environmental minister Michael Meacher when he says that we are facing “the sharpest and perhaps the most violent dislocation (of society) in recent history.” 
Few people seem to appreciate the gravity of our situation, where almost every current human endeavour — especially in our growth-orientated, materialistic world — from transportation, manufacturing, electricity, pesticides, fertilisers, plastics and particularly food and water production is inextricably dependent on oil, coal and natural gas supplies somewhere along the line. There are no combinations of energy sources within sight that will support a small fraction of the style of life that the Western world in particular has grown accustomed to.
Simply put, we can expect economic collapse, war, widespread starvation and a mass die-off of populations. It’s been reported that George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Al Gore each have state-of-the-art solar-powered homes with numerous energy-conservation devices. Do they know something we should know, or is it simply a case of money?
Perhaps the Saudi Arabians will be able to cope better than the Western world, for they have a saying: “My father rode a camel, I drive a car, my son flies a jet aircraft — his son will ride a camel.”
We are living in a dysfunctional world. Failure to address our fundamental problems — as many other people have pointed out — can only lead to a worsening of them, as has in fact continued to happen. This is a particularly bad time to be an ostrich. So, what can we do about the deep trouble our civilisation is in?
First of all, the kind of thinking that got us into this mess certainly won’t get us out of it. Einstein said it all nearly sixty years ago: “We shall require a new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”  So start thinking outside the square. Take on board Makere Harawira’s plea of sanity:
In a time of rampant global capitalism gone mad, there is nothing on, above or beneath the planet that is protected against the blatant theft, exploitation and misuse of knowledge and resources. Whether it be within the bowels of the Earth or in space above, the economic interests of insanely greedy business interests and power-hungry war mongers ride roughshod over any moral, ethical, spiritual, social or environmental accountability. Human rights are blatantly ignored and indigenous peoples are used as objects in the nuclear experimentation of imperialism gone berserk. Even the right to clean water, so scarce and so precious in lands thronged with the poor and dispossessed, has become reinvented as a source of economic gain for those whose wealth would feed the hungry of the earth many times over. 
What has happened is that the materialistic consumer approach, which is money-centred, as against the humanistic conserving approach, which is life-centred, has become grossly dominant in our civilisation. In spite of the loud and constant outpourings of the ‘good news machine’, the New World Order has rapidly diminished our social capital and led to the kind of global poverty described by Christopher Richards as “characterised by feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, shame, depression and despair as well as disillusionment and sometimes aggression and violence.” 
The whole Western system of colonisation, globalisation and corporatisation is indeed dysfunctional for it is based upon the exploitation of Earth and human beings. Political solutions cannot humanise the faulty economics at its centre, for being inhuman they are unresponsive to reason.
Remember the Nigerian tribesman’s view of the breadth and continuity of civilisation: “I conceive that land belongs for use to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are still unborn.” 
In Before It Is Too Late Aurelio and Daisaku Ikeda wrote:
The time has come to make a thorough reappraisal of our present outlook and stance, even if this shakes to the very foundations our trust in the material revolutions and the concept we have built of progress, wealth, welfare and civilisation in this epoch. New guidelines for our thinking and action are indispensable if we are to march safely and serenely into the future. And essential among them is the consideration that no other problem can be properly approached, let alone solved, no economic or social development is possible, no plan can be realistic and no heritage we wish to bequeath to our children can be effective, nothing can indeed be lasting until and unless we succeed in re-establishing peace and harmony with Nature. Together with that of human development, this is the basic imperative of our age and one of the foremost conclusions to be drawn from our reflections on the ascent of modern man to a position of exalted power and unparalleled responsibility on our small and vulnerable planet. All other considerations can only be ancillary. 
In my confirmed view, the avoidance of war — conventional, chemical, biological and especially nuclear — through learning to manage conflict effectively and non-violently; the creation of an infinitely more meaningful level of equality between peoples; a radical change away from our present destitute economic system which is based primarily on growth, consumption and profit before peoples’ welfare; a drastic slow-down of population expansion; and the prevention of further ecological/environmental destruction, are now our greatest challenges. I maintain that we will not achieve these essential changes without a total transformation from our present inequitable, egocentric, unsustainable, anthropological paradigm to a fully co-operative, egalitarian, ecocentric and thus sustainable one.
This will not take place unless and until sufficient numbers of peoples world-wide take “the fork in the road” onto “the one less traveled by”.
At the end of the Forum a number of presenters of papers were asked to comment on their subjects. Instead, I read the main parts of a statement by a 12-year-old girl delivered 14 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio. It is even more relevant today.
I am here to speak for all generations to come.
I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard…
We can’t afford not to be heard.
I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone.
I am afraid to breath the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.
I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers.
And now we hear about animals and plants going extinct ever day — vanishing forever.
In my life, I have dreamed of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, and now I wonder if they will even last for my children to see.
Did you have to worry about these things when you were my age…?
I am only a child and I don’t have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!
- You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
- You don’t know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
- You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
- And you can’t bring back the forests that once grew where there is now desert.
If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it…
I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, 5 billion strong [now 6.4 billion], 30 million species strong, and we all share the same air, water and soil — borders and governments will never change that.
I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal…
At school, even in Kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:
- Not to fight with others.
- To work things out.
- To respect others.
- To clean up our mess.
- Not to hurt other creatures.
- To share — not to be greedy.
Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do…?
Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying “everything’s going to be alright.”
But I don’t think you can say that to us anymore.
Our planet is becoming worse and worse for all future children…
My dad says you are what you do, not what you say.
Well, what you do makes me cry at night.
You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you: Please make your actions reflect your words. 
Excerpt from Tell the World. by Severn Cullis-Suzuki. Doubleday, Toronto, 1993.
The full text may also be read in Five Holocaust by Derek J Wilson.