Population, Environment, Globalization and the Survival of Civilization

By McConnell, R. A. | Mankind Quarterly, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Population, Environment, Globalization and the Survival of Civilization


McConnell, R. A., Mankind Quarterly


This article is based on two chapters of Professor McConnell's latest book, Joyride to Infinity,l which reviews 140 publications dealing with "scientific doomsday literature" - scholarly studies which predict the collapse of civilization under the pressure of over-population and environmental pollution.

Key Words; Population, migration, disease, internationalism, free trade, globalization, pollution, economic sustainability

Having become convinced that our civilization is in extremis, I welcomed the appearance of a book entitled Is the End Nigh? that might allow me to change my mind. This book, by Lyons, Moore, and Smith,' will not interest those who still sleep, but it will appeal to those who wish to know the future as fully as possible by language-bound reason.

Lyons, Moore, and Smith (hereinafter called LM&S) survey the optimistic and pessimistic literature of futurology. I found their book to be factual and balanced, although it is incomplete in that it ignores the most important determinant of the future of civilization, namely, man himself. his nature and his genetic heritage.

In their opening chapter LM&S present the major topics of the book as questions to be examined in later chapters. Their scholarly ambition is shown by 730 end notes and references, 200 pages of text and 143 blocked quotations within the text. The authors' procedure throughout the book is to present opposing opinions on each question. I shall recapitulate their conclusions, and add a few thoughts of my own?

Internationalism

The somewhat surprising thesis of this book is that internationalism is a crucial contributor to the present world crisis. The authors aim to show that the one-world aspirations that most of us share are foolish and that the geo-economics of transnationalism will not dominate geo-politics. Instead, in the years to come, civilization will battle civilization for dwindling land and natural resources, while culture will battle culture within those nations that are culturally divided.

The authors argue that modernization (i.e., the adoption of technology) does not imply Westernization. Present Australian foreign policy is mistakenly guided by the belief that Australia's future lies with East Asia. By and large, the East Asian cultures do not share Western values of individual equality, human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and freedom of speech. One sees already an emerging anti-Western Confucian-Islamic alliance based upon political as well as economic expediency. The West cannot hope to change ancient cultures to match its own. Indeed. what the West must accept is that, worldwide, the choice in many countries is not between totalitarianism and democracy but between totalitarianism and anarchy.

Nor are international disputes resolvable by a shared desire for peace. The Arab-Israeli conflict is about resources as much as it is about religion. For example, this conflict will not be resolved by yielding to the Palestinians the West Bank with its aquifer holding a large part of the water of the Jordan basin if the Israelis continue to drain most of that water from within Israel.

Although LM&S's book is international in its standpoint, its ideas speak to internal national problems as well. Many sense the loss of freedom and historical privilege when big government becomes necessary as a result of the complexity and crowding of our technological era, coupled with the cupidity and limited intelligence of most of those who attain great economic wealth - matched, of course, by the shortsightedness and hubris of most of those who attain great political power?

The Migration of Diseases

The authors examine disease epidemics, current, past, and future, and how they depend upon population movements. Attention is given first to the AIDS pandemic. Among the authors' more widely known conclusions: AIDS in the U.S. is transmitted primarily by anal intercourse and by the sharing of needles by drug addicts. …

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