Article excerpt

Economic Enlightenment

The Humanist is to be commended for publishing the article "A New Economy for a New Century" by Lester R. Brown and Christopher Flavin (May/June 1999).

Far too much of thinking about the next century is concerned with predictions of the benefits that we will get from new technologies. This is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees or, more precisely, of ignoring long-run problems while thinking only of short-term gains.

If we continue on our present course, it is certain that before the end of the next century humankind will suffer from fundamental disturbances such as overpopulation, global warming, and shortages of food and water. The sooner we take remedial actions, the easier it will be to make adjustments.

The article concludes by saying that the challenge is to mobilize public support for the economic transformation. Unfortunately, it says nothing of the opposition to any change. In the case of global warming, the fossil-fuel industries are spending millions of dollars to convince the public that we should do nothing about it. And our automotive industry is certain to resist any threat to its profits from gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. We recognize that we cannot depend on truth in advertising; we need to recognize that there is well-funded propaganda aimed at preserving short-term corporate profits while ignoring long-term disasters.

Humanists represent a portion of the public least susceptible to false propaganda. We should take the lead in understanding the prospects for the next century and in enlightening the public on needed actions.

John Burton Washington, NJ

Science Is the Way

I really disagree with Professor Mark Gibney's article "Missing the Forest for the Trees" (May/June 1999). This whole, very pervasive view that ethics is some sort of "balance" or "compromise" or "happy middle" between personal needs and social needs just has got to go. Society and social needs are nothing unless they arise directly from individuals. …