World Watch

This bi-monthly magazine focuses on current issues in energy, population, biodiversity, agriculture, climate change, the economy, politics and sustainability in general.

Articles from Vol. 15, No. 4, July-August

A Landmark Issue. (Note from a Worldwatcher)
It may be "the single greatest battle environmentalists have ever fought," writes Bill McKibben in the concluding pages of this issue. He's referring to the approaching storm of scientific and bioethical controversy which is the subject of our provocatively...
A Medical Geneticist's View. (the Risks of the Rush)
Unexpected outcomes, chance and serendipity have always been significant in scientific progress. Science is such a hopeful enterprise partly because we cannot know or control everything beforehand. Something new or surprising may emerge from any...
A New Racism: Just When We Thought Apartheid Had Been Banished for Good
Last spring World Watch interviewed South African writer Nadine Gordimer on her concerns about human genetic engineering. World Watch: Last year, in Durban, you gave a speech at the U.N. conference on racism, and you suggested that human engineering...
Beyond Cloning: The Larger Agenda of Human Engineering. (Introduction)
Advances in human engineering are moving ahead largely without public debate. Industry proponents have hyped the benefits, but a growing number of experts are now warning that the risks may be substantial. How do you feel about altering human...
Biopirates and the Poor
The promise to cure disease through human genetic engineering has moved faster on Wall Street and in the media than in basic scientific knowledge of how genes work and how genetic manipulation affects whole organisms as well as their relationships...
Court Case against Shell Can Proceed. (Environmental Intelligence)
A U.S. federal court ruling has cleared the way for a human-rights abuse lawsuit against petroleum giant Shell to proceed. Judge Kimba Wood ruled in February that the company can be held liable in the United States for collaborating with the Nigerian...
Deceptive Promises of Cures for Disease: The Great Majority of the World's Diseases Are Caused by Environmental, Not Genetic, Conditions. A Frenzied Search for Genetic Therapies Could Steal Resources from Billions in Order to Serve Only a Few
Billions of public and private dollars are now being poured into genetic research. Even some critics of new human genetic technologies seem to concede that these massive investments may be worthwhile. The Catholic theology professor David Tracy,...
In Defense of Nature, Human and Non-Human. (in Defense of Nature)
If the problem of unintended consequences is severe in the case of non-human ecosystems, it will be far worse in the realm of human genetics. GMOs are ultimately only an opening shot in a larger revolution. People who have not been paying close...
Larsen B Ice Shelf Breaks off from Antarctic Peninsula. (Environmental Intelligence)
Over a five-week period ending in March, an ice shelf 200 meters thick and bigger than Luxembourg broke off from the Antarctic Peninsula and fragmented, releasing approximately 720 million tons of floating ice into the Weddell Sea. Scientists estimate...
Making Well People "Better". (the Risks of the Rush)
The strategy of the biotech firms is to use sympathy for the sick to get genetic modification techniques approved, then go for the real profits--selling traits to people who aren't particularly sick. When heads of state gathered for the Earth...
Send in the Clones? (Editorial)
"But it does move!" Galileo is said to have muttered, just after church authorities pressured him into "confessing" that the earth did not revolve around the sun. Events proved him right, but this episode became famous in the annals of science corrupted...
The Genome as a Commons: Through All the Trials and Tribulations of Human History, What Binds Us in the End Is Our Common Humanity. (the Risks of the Rush)
The atmosphere. The oceans and fresh waters. The land itself, and the fruits and grains our forebears bred and cultivated upon it. The broadcast spectrum. The attention spans of our children. Does such a list adequately evoke "the commons,"...
The New Eugenics: It Used to Be Forced Sterilization, and the Experiments of Dr. Mengele. Now It's Genetic Technology and the Free Market. the People Who Dream of Creating a Superior Race Are Back
On a not too distant horizon, advances in human biotechnology may enable us to engineer the specific genetic makeup of our children. Only a few months ago, the headline-making Italian doctor Severino Antinori claimed to have implanted cloned embryos...
The Science and Politics of Genetically Modified Humans: Will New Genetic Technologies Be Carefully Controlled for Their Benefits-Or Will They Inadvertently Destroy Civil Society? Say Hello to the Post-Human Ideology
The new human genetic technologies are arguably the most consequential technologies ever developed. Many applications have great potential to prevent disease and alleviate suffering, but others would open the door to a new, high-tech eugenics that...
The War of Words and Images: Some of Civilization's Most Powerful Art Has Sprung from Humanity's Most Anguishing Crises, and the Pending Crisis of Human Genetic Modification Is No Exception. (the Risks of the Rush)
Investment analysts are raving about a company on the verge of going public. This firm (whose name cannot yet be released) plans to help other companies improve the ability of their employees to work long hours, help employees better conform physically...
U.S. Computer Waste Is Poisoning Asia. (Environmental Intelligence)
Up to 80 percent of U.S. recycled computers and electronic equipment is sent to China, India, and Pakistan, where "huge quantities" of toxic components now threaten the health of workers and the environment, according to Exporting Harm, a new report...
Views from around the World. (the Risks of the Rush)
Ethiopia Formally, the human genetic engineering project is expected to identify our genetic peculiarities so that our ailment particularities can be precisely targeted. But, as an African whose ancestors suffered for 500 years being targeted...
What Human Genetic Modification Means for Women: Supporters of the New Eugenics Want It Framed as an Issue of "Choice." but Feminists Know We Can Support Abortion Rights and Still Oppose Eugenics. (the Risks of the Rush)
Supporters of the new eugenics want it trained as an issue of "choice." But feminists know we can support abortion rights and still oppose eugenics. Seduced by the medical promises of genetic science or fearful of losing reproductive autonomy,...
Why Environmentalists Should Be Concerned: Humans Have Dangerously Destabilized the Earth's Ecological System. If We Now Begin Altering Our Evolved Interdependence with Nature, We Will Only Accelerate the Destabilization. (Environmentalists)
It's not as if environmentalists really need something new to worry about. The planet's temperature is set to rise four or five degrees--every glacial system is already in rapid retreat, and icebergs measured in units of U.S. states (the size of...