Getting Priorities Right in a Dangerous World

Nuclear Test

If the single most important feature of the present phase of human history is to be identified, then clearly it is that this phase is   the most dangerous in human history. The year 2022 appears to be confirming this more than several previous ones.

Several serious human-made environmental problems led by (but by no means confined to) climate change threaten to disrupt the basic life nurturing conditions of our planet like never before. Some of these have tipping points, beyond which these may be out of control, or almost so. The very adverse conditions that climate change threatens to bring over a few decades can be brought within a few days by the actual use of less than five per cent of the weapons of mass destruction that already exist. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the warheads on a single nuclear armed submarine now have seven times the destructive power of all the bombs dropped during World War II, including the two atom bombs. A B83 gravity bomb is more than 80 times destructive than the one dropped on Hiroshima.

The biggest nuclear weapon powers appear to be increasingly more antagonistic, something which has aggravated much more this year when prospects of World War III have been discussed more than in any recent year.  Apart from the mutually hostile biggest powers, other potential theatres of nuclear weapons use exist in Asia.

This extremely dangerous situation has been created by this and the previous few generations; its worst impacts may have to be borne—unless urgent remedial actions are taken soon—by the next few generations, by our children and grandchildren.

This overwhelming reality should guide the agenda of humanity in the days, months and years to come, overriding any other factors, the aim being to protect the life life-nurturing conditions of earth and avoid possibilities of unprecedented destruction and loss of ( human and other) life.

This can be achieved only in conditions of peace and stability and increasing international cooperation and trust. Precisely the reverse of this has been seen since the start of 2022.

At this critical juncture a very important choice is still available to humanity. After a few decades, or perhaps an even shorter time span, this choice may not even be available. The time to choose is now—whether to continue to condemn future generations to unprecedented dangers, or to opt very clearly and strongly for a different paradigm based on peace, non-discrimination, justice, democracy, transparency and environment protection which is able to give the topmost priority to protecting the basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet from all the most serious threats.

The enormity of the real challenges we face is now clearly beyond the realm of various blame-games, it is beyond all narrow-mindedness. The world leadership has to grasp the bigger, overwhelming reality of protecting the future of humankind, coming out of the cocoon—at last and belatedly– of all narrow thinking.

Will this be the American century or the Chinese one, the Asian century or the western one, such much-debated questions are not worth a penny, in fact entirely useless and irrelevant, compared to the real task of providing a safer future to the entire humanity, without any discrimination, and in fact to all forms of life.

An important reference point for history  has been the year 1945, when a new world order of sorts was introduced, coming out of the flames of World War II. The next crucial reference point often considered is the end of this century, the year 2100. If so, the world today—in 2022—is right in the middle of these two major reference points of human history. This is the crucial mid-point for deciding the future path—shall we choose a path of continuing wars for dominance and ecological ruin spiraling out of control, or shall we choose a path of no wars, co-existence of all with peace, ensuring essential needs of all people and being largely protective towards all other forms of life as well.

This calls for major steps to be taken for a path-breaking agreement involving all sections of world leaders. This would be possible only by highly dedicated, unbiased preparatory actions on the part of scientists, diplomats, activists, academics, media-persons, women and youth organizations. The first step is to at least reach agreement on what the world’s top priorities should be, and then to launch history’s most extensive campaign on this, particularly involving the youth and adolescents. The highest hope for bringing the most desirable and essential changes now rests with the young.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include A Day in 2071, Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders.

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