Destroying the World for Profit


John Scales Avery – TRANSCEND Media Service

Does it make sense to destroy the world for the sake of profit or personal advantage? This is exactly what our governments and business leaders are doing today. This is what very many ordinary people are doing. But does it make sense?

Does it make sense to saw off the branch on which you are sitting? Does it make sense to jockey for a place at the Captain’s table on board an iceberg-struck Titanic?

Whoever contributes to the destruction of the world has to live in the world that they have destroyed. Perhaps a short-term advantage can be gained; perhaps a small private Utopia can be created by acts that harm the general future; but all individual fates will sink like stones in a deep sea, if society as a whole sinks. There will be no protection for anyone, if the world as a whole goes to pieces.

Our economic system is built on the premise that individuals act out of self-interest, and as things are today, they do so with a vengeance.There is no place in the system for thoughts about the environment and the long-term future. All that matters is the bottom line. The machine moves on relentlessly, exhausting non-renewable resources, turning fertile land into deserts, driving animal species into extinction, felling the last of the world’s tropical rainforests, pumping greenhousue gasses into the atmosphere, and sponsoring TV programs that deny the reality of climate change, or other programs that extol the concept of never-ending industrial growth.

At the moment, there is a particular plan that has a good chance of completely destroying the world.

The government of Israel, lead by Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, seems to be planning to attack Iran militarily, perhaps as soon as the autumn of 2012, at the height of the US election, despite opposition from the people of Israel. If this unilateral attack takes place (violating international law) it will lead to a general war in the Middle East. Although the consequences of such a war are unpredictable, it might escalate into a nuclear war, since the United States would probably support Israel, while Pakistan, Russia and China might enter the war on the side of Iran. At the very least, such a war would lead to an great increase in the price of oil, and thus to a general collapse of the world’s financial system, which is already in deep trouble.

It is certainly not in Israel’s interest to attack Iran. As it is now, Iran seems not to have weaponized it nuclear program, but an attack by Israel might provoke it to do so. Furthermore, the damage done by a general war in the Middle East would make life in the future problematic for all the peoples of the region, including citizens of Israel.

Should a general war in the Middle East escalate into a nuclear war, it would be an ecological catastrophe that would affect all the peoples of the world. Recent studies have shown that in a nuclear war, the smoke from firestorms in burning cities would rise to the stratosphere where it would remain for a decade, spreading throughout the world, blocking sunlight, blocking the hydrological cycle and destroying the ozone layer. The effect on global agriculture would be devastating, and the billion people who are chronically undernourished today would be at risk. Furthermore, the tragedies of Chernobyl and Fukushima remind us that a nuclear war would make large areas of the world permanently uninhabitable because of radioactive contamination.

Our incredibly beautiful world is our common heritage; we must cherish and protect it. It is the only place where we can live, and no amount of profit or personal advantage can make the risk of damaging the earth worthwhile.


John Scales Avery, Ph.D. is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is “Crisis 21: Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.”


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Aug 2012.

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