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Without any doubt the most significant issue in the world today is that the basic life-nurturing conditions of our once beautiful and bountiful planet are being threatened in extremely serious and unprecedented ways. This threat has at least three aspects.

Firstly around a dozen very serious environmental problems, perhaps led by but certainly not confined to climate change , often acting in collusion with each other, are fast assuming dimensions in which these acquire the capacity to disrupt the life-nurturing conditions of earth. The concept of critical tipping point applies to several of these problems, in the sense that having reached a certain level these problems can then quickly spin out of control and will then be not at all  as amenable to control as these were earlier. This concept also applies to overall life-nurturing conditions in their entirety. These related environmental problems may include the following—climate change, water crisis, pollution of oceans, air pollution, deforestation,  disruption of nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, space junk pollution, ozone layer depletion, biodiversity loss/species extinction, problems in access to safe food and others.

Secondly there is the threat from all weapons of mass destruction, which should be taken to mean not just nuclear weapons but also extremely destructive conventional weapons and emerging robot weapons. To this we should add banned chemical and biological weapons as, despite the ban, risks relating to them are increasing in several ways and there is high risk implicit even in the research taken up in the name of defense from biological weapons. Again space warfare may not have taken place yet, but the risk in some form or the other has been increasing. Extension of nuclear weapons to space is banned, yet the risk of this extremely dangerous possibility remains. The various ways in which the several very dangerous technologies of nuclear, robotic  ( or AI or autonomous weapons) or space or other warfare may inter-act with each other to enhance the overall threat is of course another area of serious concern.

Thirdly there is the increasing risk of very serious hazards of many existing and upcoming technologies which may also create serious and in some cases irreversible threats to life. This may be in the context of genetically engineered viruses, insects, crops, foods etc., or very high levels of widely pervasive non-ionizing radiation and a proliferation of highly hazardous, yet not properly investigated chemicals. These and several other serious hazards may lead to increasing and accumulating direct health threats, more to children, or else may more indirectly disrupt life by hindering access to safe food , by disruption of pollination and in other ways. The accumulation of increasingly toxic waste beyond a point also becomes a life-threatening issue.

All these three threats also mutually interact with each other and re-enforce  each other. In the real world, as distinct from much of the research  world, people and other forms of life have to face the combined impact of all or most of these factors at the same time.

All these three dangers are equally important, although they vary in terms of the suddenness of their impact.

It does not help to concentrate on one aspect while neglecting others. Extremely great efforts to check climate change, for example, may be squandered by just one-time big exchange of many nuclear weapons.

In the context of all three forms of serious threats, there have been very disturbing development recently.

In addition the high risks from all these are increased in conditions of weakening of democracy, increase of authoritarian trends, rapid increase of misinformation and use of high technology for this, serious manipulation of mass media, corruption and compromising position of increasing number of scientists and scientific institutions, overall decrease of integrity and honesty in public affairs. The overall trends in all these aspects have been worsening at world level.

The world leadership, at the level of leading countries and leading international institutions, have failed to evolve a comprehensive and holistic approach on this issue which could lead to a comprehensive effort to reduce all these threats at the same time with simultaneous efforts for prioritizing worldwide education and mobilization of people  on this issue, using the seriousness of this issue to give a big push for a future based on peace with justice as well as  protection of environment and all forms of life. The sad reality is that this is getting very less attention from world leadership. Only in highly fragmented ways various aspects get some attention, and even then these are often subordinated  to more narrow economic and political aspects, or even narrower career  considerations of leaders. The situation becomes even more difficult when some billionaires start coming up with absurd or even dangerous notions and use their money power  to muster great support for these.

Hence it is very important for all people and institutions firmly committed to peace with justice and environment protection to mobilize people around an agenda of getting together to protect the life nurturing conditions of earth before it is too late. This cannot be done by isolated or merely technological interventions but only by committing firmly and in democratic ways  to an overall agenda of peace with justice and environment protection.

In an humble and small way this writer has tried to contribute to this by initiating Campaign for Saving Earth with its SED Demand. SED here stands for the demand for declaring the next decade as the decade for protecting the life-nurturing conditions of earth. The Campaign statement states clearly that this task is to be attempted and achieved necessarily within a framework of peace, democracy and justice. As my contacts are mainly within India, I obtained support signatures of several eminent persons from India and sent a petition to the Secretary General of the United Nations for SED. I wrote seven books in English and Hindi to provide the base for this campaign and I have been writing articles, stories ,novellas on this theme. I hope that this will lead to some good results, perhaps within my lifetime.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man Over Machine, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth Without Borders. Web-site



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