Modern day residents of the U.S. and probably Europe seem to believe that the human species is fairly advanced. After all, we have designed marvelous machines that can do all sorts of miraculous tasks -- to entertain us, to keep us comfortable and to create wealth.
Moreover, scientists have made numerous inroads in the understanding of the physical universe in which we exist. Furthermore, modern psychology analyzes human motivation, human pain, and human maladjustment. We have artists, musicians and authors who have created wondrous works.
Thus, the human species is advanced -- is it not? Notwithstanding the making of war, which is a negative, foul sickness plaguing humanity, we have done some amazing things. It is safe to say that the human species is fairly technologically advanced, while socially we seem to be lagging. We have not yet learned how to peacefully coexist.
Human immaturity, our lack of development as aware individuals, accounts for most of the problems that today plague the human species. For example, global warming is caused by the irresponsible, excessive use of fossil fuels.
Our planet cannot sustain the number of human residents and our tremendous consumption of resources. If we don't drastically reduce the number of human beings on the planet via widespread use of contraception, the alternative is worse than merely for all of us to have a lower standard of living.
Billions already live in conditions that most Americans would consider intolerable. This is in addition to us decimating the Earth's environment. Thus, in the future, because of the damage we are doing, there will be a sharp reduction in the number of human lives that our planet can support.
These are things experts have warned us about for the last 50 years -- yet governments and corporations (that effectively control most or our society) have continued to take us on the same course.
And yet there are additional shortsighted things we are doing that could lead to a worsening of conditions.
Nuclear reactor meltdowns, such as the recent one in Fukushima, Japan, triggered by a tsunami, the meltdown at Chernobyl, and the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, are the result of the foolish use of a very dangerous and problematic technology.
This technology has proved itself unreliable and unsafe, yet it continues to be in wide use.
The Cold War was a time period when the human species flirted with universal planetary death. Now we seem to be embarking upon a new Cold War.
Atomic weapons are more of a problem when and if they get into the hands of an insane dictator. There is also the ever-present possibility of a nuclear holocaust being started by human or computer error. As time passes, the probability of either of these happening only increases.
The vaunted missile defense technology doesn't prevent the dispersal into the atmosphere of radioactive materials -- it only, in the short term, provides some protection for military targets so that we will not lose our missile-launching capabilities.
(NASA is attempting to design a system that would protect Earth from being destroyed by a meteor from outer space. However, the likelihood is far less than that of us creating our own demise.)
These are all things that our political and corporate leaders are well aware of, and their actions are those of securing their own personal future situation so that they personally will not suffer when things get worse. What we can realistically do is to get as much enjoyment as we can of today's level of comfort, and we should be aware of the possibility that this will not continue within a few more decades.
Jack Bragen is a resident of Martinez.