Survival Crisis Has No Technological Fix; Resolving This Needs Changes in the Way People Live and Think


Although there is increasing recognition among many eminent scientists and learned scholars ( and of course many environment and disarmament activists )  that the world is now faced with a very serious human-made survival crisis, which has no comparison in  the  history so far, no credible road-map has  yet emerged to avoid this many-sided, very serious crisis. We have some sort of world agenda for checking climate change and related serious  environmental problems, which is increasingly being revealed to be very inadequate and full of holes. We have some sort of world framework to limit weapons of mass destruction, which is becoming weaker and less effective than  before even though threats are increasing. As for a world plan to bring together the various life-threatening problems together and resolve these in a holistic way, such a plan simply does not exist.

It is perhaps the most serious reflection of the glaring inadequacies of existing world leadership that a holistic plan to resolve the survival crisis simply does not exist, and the patchwork plans or preparations that exist to resolve some components of the survival separately are increasingly found to be full of gaping holes.

Due to the absence of such planning and the failure of world leadership to prioritize this above anything else, two very dangerous new trends which can aggravate the existing very serious situation are emerging. Firstly, new components of the survival crisis are fast emerging ( such as possibilities of space warfare and space ‘junk’ pollution increasing in a big way, the likelihood of robot/AI/autonomous weapons increasing in dangerous ways  that can even get out of human control etc.), which add new dimensions to the survival crisis. Secondly, in the absence of any clear and credible thinking on resolving the survival crisis, all kinds of dangerous high tech. fixes are being pushed, often in the form of giant geo-engineering interventions, which can actually aggravate the existing problems in many predictable and not-so-predictable ways. While these geo-engineering interventions have already faced a lot of criticism , these also have strong backers, being rooted in the very widespread thinking that ultimately technical fixes can be found for all sorts of problems. This commonplace thinking is itself fraught with problems, as it draws attention away from the most basic task of changing human thinking and living patterns.

Of course technology can be of great help as an integral part of much wider efforts and plans to resolve the big crisis. Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy is itself a very important task with vital technological component. Who can deny the importance of such obvious tasks? But problems arise when change is seen mainly or predominantly in the technological sphere and the extremely important social aspects are neglected. If someone says technology has an important role in resolving this big crisis then this is absolutely correct and in fact no one will deny this. But if someone says that while all the serious social distortions exist technology alone will resolve the big crisis then this is absolutely wrong and in fact even dangerous.

In fact human capabilities in terms of technology are relatively advanced and sophisticated and with proper guidance of what is rally required and with proper planning can contribute much in a relatively short time. It is in the social sphere that there is the most glaring failure as the easier solutions have been neglected and are not even conceptualized properly . The relationships of desired social changes to the wider plan  of resolving survival crisis is an issue of the greatest importance which has suffered from the most glaring neglect.

Let there be no doubt about this. Beyond all the harm done by the rapid increase of  fossil fuels or the proliferation of military use of nuclear power, it is the terrible distortions in social life and thinking which have brought humankind to this terrible stage of a survival crisis, apart from inflicting so much suffering all through human history.

While there are several aspects of these serious social distortions in human life, we may mention here just  two  of the most basic ones. Perhaps the most predominant feature of life on earth is that while there are millions of species living on this planet, humankind is clearly the most capable species, one which is capable of providing the most protection as well as the most destruction depending on how it chooses to behave. Hence it is of the greatest importance for protecting all life on earth that the protective role of human beings should be carefully nurtured all through a human being’s life ( particularly in the formative childhood and teenage years) while the destructive tendencies should be carefully curbed. But despite its obvious importance  this most basic task has been generally neglected.

Secondly, a related social aspect is that the most basic human relationships ( with fellow human beings, with nature, and with other forms of life ) should be based on cooperation and compassion, but quite often have been based instead on domination, or efforts for domination. This single social distortion is responsible for much of the distress and destruction in history.

Clearly challenging such serious, long-persisting social distortions and replacing these with protective thinking and living need to be a very important component of any credible plan for checking the survival crisis before it is too late.

The writer is Co-ordinator , Save the Earth Campaign with its SED Demand and author of some recent books on this subject including  ‘Survival Crisis– Planet in Peril, People’s Response the Only Way Forward’ and ‘Protecting Earth for Children—Crucial Role of  Next Decade.’



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