Most Critical Yet Most Neglected Aspect of 21st Century

climate planet
(Photo: FridaysForFuture/Flickr/cc)

There is one critically important aspect of human life in the 21st century which is unique to this century. This highly significant factor was not present in any other century but is certainly present in the 21st century as perhaps the most important aspect of our life. What is it?

In all previous human history, no matter how big the mistakes made by humanity, there was always the consolation for humanity that while certainly very serious and regrettable mistakes may have been made, but there is always the possibility and the hope that these will be corrected later. This consolation, this hope is no longer available to humanity in the 21st century. If humanity, or rather its leadership, continues to make very serious mistakes even now, then humanity is simply doomed as after this there will be no more opportunities for corrective actions. If humanity persists in making making serious mistakes relating to more important issues, then the stage for correcting these actions would simply have passed, bringing unprecedented distress and ruin to humanity. In addition most other forms of life, without having contributed to this crisis, would most tragically also suffer a similar fate, and in fact, being denied several protections available only to humanity, several of these species are already being wiped out or badly threatened at an unprecedented rate.

As is well-known and widely recognized, the world has entered a phase of survival crisis, comprising on the one hand of a dozen or so serious environmental problems led by climate change, and on the other of accumulation of weapons of mass destruction (including possibilities of space warfare). Although this was well-recognized in the last years of the 20th century, this became most clear only in the beginning of the 21st century. If the problems comprising the survival crisis continue to increase beyond a point, the life-nurturing conditions will be destroyed or transgressed in ways that life as we have known it since the advent of humanity will no longer be possible and corrective actions beyond certain tipping points will also not be able to restore these life-nurturing conditions.

Keeping in view this most important feature of the 21st century, from the very first year, from the very first day of this century humanity should have accorded the highest priority to resolving the survival crisis, apart from emphasizing the other basic priorities of justice, peace and democracy which are also important for resolving the survival crisis in a satisfactory way. Unfortunately, things have gone horribly wrong from the very first year of this century and the world’s most powerful leaders have been behaving in even more irresponsible ways. Hence instead of being resolved or moving promisingly towards resolution, 23 years into the 21st century the survival crisis appears to be in a worse position than at the start of the century.  The last year 2022 has been perhaps the worst in terms of the escalation of dangers and the heights of irresponsibility. In terms of war-mongering and alarming disregard for the real tasks and very big responsibilities staring them in the face, the behavior of some of the top leadership of the world’s most powerful and agenda-setting countries, led by the USA, was incredibly irrational and dangerous. These same terribly dangerous trends have continued into 2023 so far. While scientific knowledge is supposed to have peaked in these times, the sheer irrationality of world’s top leadership has also peaked around the same time, resulting in highly dangerous actions on their part which can seal the future of coming generations. It is difficult to recall any previous time when what was happening had differed so vastly from what was needed, when the gulf between need was deed was higher, and with more dangerous implications than ever before.

Amazingly, while the world political leadership has been most at fault, the intellectual community has also failed badly, except perhaps at the level of scientists issuing periodic warnings regarding the extent of harm already caused to life-nurturing conditions. However in several other areas the scientific community too has fallen far short of real needs of humanity. The tendency of intellectuals to align themselves to powerful interests and behave in accordance has been shocking beyond words.

One hopes that an adequate number of thoughtful and caring young people are able to recognize well in time the very serious dangers being irresponsibly allowed to accumulate for their generation, and then mobilize many more to check these highly dangerous trends, and complete the journey, with the help of equally thoughtful and caring elders, to protect basic life-nurturing conditions and create a world based on peace, justice, protection of environment and biodiversity.

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


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