Magazine article Tikkun

Millennial Dilemmas

Magazine article Tikkun

Millennial Dilemmas

Article excerpt

As we enter the last year of the second millennium, there are two dilemmas that I fear the new millennium may fail to resolve. I write as someone who, on no scriptural or other arcane grounds, is pessimistic about the prospects of the human species.

The global conflict between ecology and economy. Of the world's 6 billion inhabitants, 2 billion are still hewers of wood and haulers of water. That is, they do all their cooking with wood or "biomass," and they have no electricity or motorized transportation. Understandably, many of them are desperate to leave the world of subsistence agriculture and village barter and join the world of industrialization, world trade, health, and comfort.

As they do this, their birth rate tends to go down. Unfortunately, their consumption of fossil fuel invariably goes up, and with it the already serious threat of global warming. If China could reduce its population by onequarter but in so doing were to increase its energy consumption from one-twelfth to one-quarter of the American level, its overall energy consumption would more than double, and the planetary consequences of that doubling would be dire indeed. India, with further to go, is about to overtake China in population. How can this dilemma be resolved? How can per capita energy consumption grow in these countries without making the global ecology a ship that takes on passengers until it sinks? I know of no answer to this question and perceive no effective global movement to find one. …

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