THE SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY
ETHICS, ECOLOGY AND ECONOMICS
Many small groups of dedicated people have given their time and energy to try to protect the environment and to bring social and economic change in the world, but their efforts have faced almost insurmountable obstacles because of the materialism of this age. Not all of them have realized that the foundation of any future society must be spiritual, and so most of them have worked for specific, isolated changes in society, not seeing the whole picture, the interrelationships that exist in all levels of civilization, and the basic spiritual element, or lack thereof, in all we do. I have written this book to try to bring together the major aspects of human society and activity, to demonstrate our relationship to the earth and to one another, and how it is all governed by our spiritual development and conduct. The statistics in this book are not all current, but in the Appendix I have listed some of the current statistics concerning the distribution of wealth.
John Carre firstname.lastname@example.org SEE ALSO ___An Island of Hope, Spiritual Meditations at
TABLE OF CONTENTS
To go to a chapter, click on highlighted > (If you start at the end of this document the hyperlinks are, at times, slow, but if you work from the first chapters toward the end they pick up speed. Reason unknown to me, perhaps it has something to do with the length of the document)
At beginning and end of each chapter, return to Table of Contents by clicking on ^
> CHAPTER 1.
Time of Transition
> CHAPTER 2
New Understandings of the Interrelationships in Creation
> CHAPTER 3
The Interdependence of Mankind and the Ecology
> CHAPTER 4
The Land is for all Humanity
> CHAPTER 5
The World's Forests
> CHAPTER 6
Conservation and the Distribution of Mineral Resources
> CHAPTER 7
An Agriculture in Harmony with Nature
> CHAPTER 8
Energy from Non-Polluting, Sustainable Sources
> CHAPTER 9
Family and Education
> CHAPTER 10
The Return to Small Communities
> CHAPTER 11
Capital Working for Labor; The Age of Decentralized Industry.
> CHAPTER 12
Financial Institutions and the Redistribution of Wealth
> CHAPTER 13
Democracy and World Federation.
> CHAPTER 14
The Age of Unity
^ CHAPTER 1
TIME OF TRANSITION
"Religion is, verily, the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquility amongst its peoples. The weakening of the pillars of religion hath strengthened the foolish, and emboldened them, and made them arrogant. Verily, I say: the greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion. Hear me, O men of insight, and be warned, ye who are endued with discernment." Baha'u'llah
This book was written in 1991-93 with a few revisions in 2001, during the time of the disintegration of civilizations throughout the world, and the collapse of the communistic and capitalistic systems of economics. It is a time of materialism and the downfall of religious institutions, of anarchy and strife, of ethnic and racial hatred, of natural and man-made calamities, and the spread of war around the world. It is also a time when the promises of God will be fulfilled, and a new age of the oneness of mankind and world peace will begin, but only after this age has ended in a cataclysmic event. Then the Word of God will be revealed and the first signs of the new age will appear.
In this book I have attempted to describe the destructive effects of our materialistic civilizations so that we will not repeat the same mistakes in the future. For every problem discussed I have offered suggestions for the future society, proposals based on the spiritual values of love and justice. Although the subject matter discussed in each chapter has been described in many books by various authors, I have avoided prolixity and attempted to cover the main problems as briefly and as adequately as possible. The proposals for a future society represent the thoughts of many economists, scientists and philosophers, but the most important influence for what I have written comes from the Teachings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha. I have brought together these thoughts from many sources, along with my own ideas, in a new, coherent form, in a new, integrated thesis. I have not attempted to have this book published at this time because very few people can now appreciate the concepts presented herein. Perhaps this book will prove to be of value in the future, in the next century, and then, God willing, it will be published.
Humanity is said to stand between night and day, between the darkness of materialism and the light of spirituality. At this point in human history this is true as never before. In the past two centuries we have acquired vast material wealth and knowledge, while ignoring almost entirely the spiritual truths, and this has led to destruction and social regression. A very few have sought and acquired new awareness of our relationship with our Creator, but the vast majority have been preoccupied with material things. Scientific discoveries have led to greater understanding of material creation and of our own limitations, but pride in human intellect has prevented us from grasping the full significance of these revelations. We are faced with a choice; either we continue as we are and face the dismal consequences of continued regression and failures, or we turn to God and enter a new age of spiritual maturity.
Like voices crying in the wilderness, a few of the leading scientists, sociologists, philosophers and others warned of the consequences of our spiritual failures. In his book Questa a una Filosofia Carl Jung remarked: "A misunderstood development of the soul will inevitably carry a total psychological destruction. The actual situation is at this time so sinister that it is difficult not to see that the Creator is preparing another deluge to exterminate the human race." Albert Einstein also warned of the consequences of this spiritual failure: "The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our mode of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." The major work of Pitirim A. Sorokin, sociologist at Harvard University, was to warn of the impending collapse of this Western civilization. The essential question remains, well we arise to the challenge and establish an entirely new civilization based on the eternal spiritual values which have been so absent in our societies in the past?
The basis of human existence is spiritual and upon this foundation any future civilization must be established. We do not mean that the multitude of religious organizations should continue, quite the opposite. Through their own efforts, in the coming decades, the peoples of the world must come to realize that there is but one God and one Faith. Whatever differences we imagine to exist are due to our limited vision, and not part of God's Law and Spiritual Truth. The incredible spectacle of bloody warfare between sects of Christianity, between Muslim sects, or between peoples of different religions, is entirely alien to the essence of the spiritual teachings of any of the great religions. When conflict exists among the people they have ignored the Law of Life and the Faith of God, and they are acting against their own self-interest and survival.
At this crucial time in human evolution this matter must be given the closest consideration by every thoughtful person, because the future of humanity depends on individuals who are capable of changing and evolving intellectually and spiritually. A society of immature and self-centered people can no longer control the great powers we have achieved in the material and intellectual realms. There is no alternative left, we must seek the answers to our failures and strive to achieve an integrated and balanced psyche, with harmony and equilibrium between the powers of the body, mind and soul. This harmony and balance must be reflected in our relationships with all of creation and with all of humanity.
The controlling center of human happiness, tranquility and progress is the center of ethical and metaphysical ideas and beliefs that transcend the world of facts. From this center emanates all the great discoveries and progress in science, economics, government and religion. Those souls who most truly reflect the Light of God in that center attain the highest levels of intellectual and moral achievement; they are the motivating force in human evolution. When this center is active it prevents unseemly acts and crimes, leads to the use of human discoveries and wealth for the benefit of all peoples, inspires leaders to establish governments and economies based on justice and compassion in the nations, creates an awareness of our relationship to God and nature, and awakens us to the need to protect the ecology of the earth.
We stand on the threshold of a new and wonderful age of spiritual maturity; the time for the unification of the peoples of the world has at last arrived. Even though at this time we enter the darkest period in human history, yet the potential now exists for the creation of a new world, vastly different from what we have known in past ages. In the nineteenth century Baha'u'llah said that the time has arrived for the unification of the world and the establishment of lasting peace; we now have the physical means to realize the fulfillment of that prophecy. Not only do we begin to understand the interrelationships of all parts of the universe, and of the organic unity of the ecosphere, but also the reality of the oneness of the human race.
"...All nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers . . . the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; . . . these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come . . .These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family . . . Let a man not glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind. . ." Baha'u'llah
Until now the newly awakened intellectual powers of mankind have been used for the progress of science and industry, with little concern for the spiritual values and the physical needs of humanity. Now we must carefully consider the results of our neglect of the spiritual laws of life if we are to gain an understanding of their central importance in all levels of existence. The high spiritual nature of humanity embraces all of creation, and when it is weak or ignored, disaster follows and civilizations disintegrate. The single-minded pursuit of wealth and material possessions, unless arrested, can ultimately lead to the depletion of the earth's vital resources and the destruction of the environment. This reality is apparent to the thinking people throughout the world. More technology is not the answer; the problem has, to a large extent been created because of the unrestrained development and use of technology.
"It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. Consider for instance such things as liberty, civilization and the like. However much men of understanding may favorably regard them, they will, if carried to excess, exercise a pernicious influence upon men." Baha'u'llah
Few people have ever understood the true meaning of civilization, thinking it to be no more than the accumulation of material wealth, the development of music and arts, the construction of cities and public works, the intellectual perfections and the ability to govern large cities and nations without undue disorder. Our proper relationship to God, our fellow beings and the rest of creation has never been considered as the real foundation of civilization except by a few enlightened individuals. In the main religion has consisted of observing the superstitions, forms and rituals established by the founders of the innumerable sects and religious organizations that have proliferated during the centuries; the spirit of true faith has almost been forgotten.
This weakness and immaturity of peoples' faith has led humanity to become enchanted by the attractions of materialism, misled by various forms of occultism, and to be overawed by the marvels of intellectualism, considering them to be the sources of happiness and salvation. Over and over again, throughout history, these false gods have ultimately led to wars, religious strife, the breakdown of families, poverty, disease, spiritual regression and the end of civilizations. Dorothy Sayers remarked that "war is a judgement that overtakes societies when they have been living upon ideas that conflict too violently with the laws governing the universe...Never think that wars are irrational catastrophes; they happen when wrong ways of thinking and living bring about intolerable situations."
The people of the industrialized nations, benefitting from the vast stores of fossil fuels, dream of a world of plenty, where the bounties of material wealth will bring happiness to all those fortunate enough to live in the favored nations. Not much concern is given to the plight of the have-not nations. The level of material prosperity of Japan, the United States and Europe cannot be attained throughout the world because of limited resources; nor can such material prosperity be the foundation of world peace, even if it were attainable. It can only be attained to a limited extent within the favored nations by cultivating such human characteristics as greed and envy, which destroy happiness and tranquility, and ultimately lead to war. The unfounded and unbounded confidence in the unlimited growth of the economies and in the miracles of technology, will be shattered as we experience, more and more, the results of our excesses.
The atmosphere poisoned by gasses from automobiles and factories, the ozone layer depleted; lakes, streams and seas polluted with toxic wastes from industries and farms; foods unfit to eat because of mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals from pesticides and herbicides; these are the final fruits of excess that the peoples of this world civilization are leaving for their children. Unsatisfied with the vast amounts f energy consumed from fossil fuels the people in most industrialized nations have relied on atomic power with its resultant wastes that will plague the world for thousands of years, for a time longer than any nation in human history has lasted. We can only pray to God that the natural cleansing forces of nature will ultimately purify the atmosphere and the earth in the not too distant future, after this world civilization has reached its end.
Like a body without a spirit, in their hopeless search for fulfillment and happiness they cannot find in material wealth, the people of the wealthier nations seek ways to escape from the reality of an empty life. Rather than search for the real meaning in life and for spiritual wisdom, they too often embrace degenerate forms of entertainment such as drugs, sexual promiscuity, gambling, and sometimes suicide. The terrorism, wars, famines, plagues and the collapse of economic systems, rather than to awaken people to the failures of their civilization, seem to cause them to become more intent on self-destruction. It is axiomatic that when a civilization is in the process of disintegration those who are living at that time seem generally unaware of what is happening.
In these dark and troubled times there are, here and there, in various nations, tiny groups of people who have awakened to the needs of humanity, those souls who have turned to the Center of Existence. Some of them will help form the core of a new world civilization based on the Word of God and a balance between our spiritual, mental and physical natures. The masses must awaken to the meaning of their relationship to God, which they have, until now, failed to do. The late Dr. Pitirim Sorokin, before the second World War, warned of the results of this failure of humanity to return to spiritual values.
"This unteachableness manifests itself in the current hope of extricating ourselves from the crisis by means of a variety of facile but shallow artifices, without any fundamental reorientation of our values, any thoroughgoing change of mentality and conduct, any persistent personal effort to realize man's divine creative mission on earth instead of acting merely as a 'reflexive mechanism', or an organism endowed with sex functions and controlled by its 'residues', 'drives', and 'prepotent reflexes'. Hence the crisis itself, and hence the inevitability of a fiery ordeal as the only available means of teaching the otherwise unteachable ... The more unteachable we are, the less freely and willingly we choose the sole course of salvation open to us, the more inexorable will be the coercion, the more pitiless the ordeal, the more terrible the dies irae of the transition. Let us hope that the grace of understanding may be vouchsafed unto us and that we may choose, before it is too late, the right road - the road that leads not to death, but to the future realization of man's unique creative mission on this planet! Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini." (From The Crisis of Our Age)
The economies of the great powers stagger and collapse under the burden of mismanagement and greed, wars erupt and nations disintegrate because of our failure to obey the Law of Life and the Word of God. Little or nothing is being done to stop the destruction of the natural environment other than needlessly protracted "studies" and "promises" of action to be taken ten years or more in the future. With open arms we rush to the embrace of our dark angel, while the wildfires of civil, racial, religious and ethnic strife or war spread from nation to nation across the face of the earth. The number of impoverished families increases day by day, while the people are burdened with the support of almost 25 million men and women in the military forces of the world's nations. In the industrialized nations the concentration of wealth is accelerated through mergers of corporations, tax breaks for the wealthy, lower incomes for the workers, and a rapid accumulation of land in fewer and fewer hands through home and farm foreclosures. Throughout the world, from 1960 to 1993, the gap between the rich and the poor more than doubled, and since 1993 that gap has increased even more. The disintegration and fall of civilizations of the world is clearing the way for a new age and a new civilization, and we must do whatever we can to prepare for our future with hope, determination and optimism, to create a new world order based on justice and love, obedient to the spiritual Law of Life.
In the following chapters I will outline possible solutions for some of the problems that have existed in our economic systems, in governments, in our relationships with the environment, and in agriculture. The problems that exist in every nation differ somewhat from those in other nations, and the solutions I offer will have to be modified to suit the requirements of each state or nation. These propositions are based on the principles of justice and moderation, incorporating some of the best features of existing systems, the wisdom of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, as well as some of the outstanding ideas of economists and environmentalists of today. I propose an economy with what E.F. Schumacher called "a human face", based on human spiritual and physical needs, as well as the requirements for the health of the ecosphere. We are the stewards of the earth, and the proposals herein suggested have as their objective to make the earth a better place for those living and those yet to come, and to urge each generation to leave it in better condition than when they first took responsibility for its care and nurturing.
The people of this age have the tendency to go to extremes, either in capitalism or radical socialism, without making compromises or seeking moderation. As a result, economic systems and governments swing wildly back and forth, like a pendulum, with little regard for the basic needs of the masses. From the beginning of the industrial revolution up to the present, the foundation of Western capitalistic economies has been the teachings of Adam Smith; his "invisible hand" that was supposed to regulate the market place, has turned out to be an "invisible hand of greed". It was intended to mysteriously bring happiness and plenty for all, according to Adam Smith, and to lead to an equitable distribution of the fruits of our labor. Instead it has distorted our economies, brought about an incredible concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, and led to repeated cycles of economic depression.
Only on a limited scale have the systems of capitalism and communism been of benefit to society as a whole. One need only consider the plight of the poorer capitalistic nations of South America and elsewhere in the world, where millions are undernourished and homeless. The collapse of Western civilization now in progress, is partly the result of the materialistic, capitalistic economies, which reflect the spiritual regression and apathy of the people. In the United States the homeless number in the hundreds of thousands, and more than 30 million people live at or below the poverty level. The demise of communism and the disintegration of their society is another example of the failure of extreme economic solutions, and of the destructive effects of materialism and spiritual darkness. James Madison, one of the "founding fathers" of the United States wrote: "We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of this nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions."
We must adopt a new way of life, based on values of the spirit, involving every aspect of our lives and finding outward expression in our relations with our fellow-beings, in our economies and in our governments. Our economy must be based on moderation, cooperation, love, sharing and a new understanding of our relationships to people of every race and nationality. In this age there is no reason for anyone to be destitute, without land, or to be denied the right to life. We must forget the restricting names and schemes of political or social ideologies, and consider the realities of life and of human needs, so that all have the right to contribute to human progress, and all share in the bounties of the earth. We should no longer argue over the relative merits of liberalism, conservatism, capitalism, fascism or communism, but should forget their very names, and extract from such ideas whatever is useful and beneficial, and which will contribute to human well-being, happiness, security and progress. The extremes of wealth and poverty that now exist can no longer be tolerated, and no one must suffer alone and forgotten, without food or shelter. John B. Oakes of the New York Times:"The new era requires new leadership, new creativity, a willingness to evaluate new ideas and new concepts and new relationships with the kind of courage and conscience that our history and our heritage have bestowed upon us."
We live but a brief time on this earth, and we share in the responsibility for what is accomplished in our lifetimes and for what we create for future generations. The material possessions we amass will turn to dust, and the earth that provides our wealth is our grave. Our use of the land and the resources should always be governed by the present and future welfare of humanity. For example, it might benefit certain farmers to destroy the trees on their land, to create open fields for pasture or crops. However, such action might well contribute to a change in climate affecting vast areas, lead to erosion of the soil, destroy watersheds that provide water to people in the lowlands, and fill the reservoirs and dams with silt. The final results might bring quick profits to a few individuals and bring incalculable suffering to thousands of people in the future. Mere title to a piece of land, or temporary residence during our lifetime, cannot be considered license to do whatever we desire with the land. We have undeniable responsibility to care for the things of the earth and the land, with respect for the rights of those living and those yet to be born. Nor can our concerns be only for those of our own nation, but must embrace all humanity in all the nations of the world.
We must seek ways to improve the earth, in harmony with the entire ecosphere. We must create forests in desolate regions in cooperation with the requirements of the biosphere, and we must plant trees of all types to improve climates and the atmosphere, so as to hasten the day when all the earth will be like a paradise for mankind. Use of the land must be carefully considered and plans made to utilize the earth for the well-being of everyone, not just for a few fortunate and wealthy individuals, and all should freely cooperate in this expression of love and respect.
Because the entire financial structure of Western civilization has been defective, new concepts must be considered and an entirely new system devised. Existing financial systems now in the process of disintegration, must be simplified so that they are no longer unwieldy and uncontrollable, and so that a few individuals can no longer manipulate the world economy for personal gain. It means sacrifice of old concepts so that all will benefit, and a redistribution of the creations of our labor, without going to such extremes as can lead to the destruction of individual initiative.
Whatever solutions we use must always be subject to improvement and change when necessary. It is unwise to become so attached to any proposal for human betterment that we cling to in the face of change and progress that make it untenable and harmful. It is folly to develop a religious awe of any form of government or constitution, as has happened in the United States, so that a nation lacks the flexibility to adapt to changes, or to properly progress as human understanding and capacity evolve to higher levels. We must always remember that no system of government or economics, no matter how enlightened or well conceived, can long endure in a corrupt and unjust society. The future world civilization must be based on justice, honesty and love, dedicated to human spiritual and intellectual evolution.
^ CHAPTER 2
NEW UNDERSTANDING OF THE INTERRELATIONSHIPS IN CREATION
Limitations of Human Understanding
In this age of specialization and accumulation of information, people have confused intelligence with wisdom and insight. We have been continually subjected to the statements of "experts" and specialists, those who have memorized accumulated knowledge in certain fields. Too often "experts" in the same field contradict one another, and so we should listen with respect to all such opinions and then attempt to make a reasoned judgement on the basis of such biased information. Some people are like computers, with immense stores of information at their disposal, and if you press the proper "key" they can play it back to you. But like the computer they are often amoral and lack an understanding of humanity, or even of the interrelationships of the various fields of knowledge they have memorized. They are not wise, although they may certainly be considered to be intellectuals. In the Quran it speaks of such people as being like donkeys with loads of books on their backs.
George Bernard Shaw once remarked that if you laid all the economists of the world end to end, you still wouldn't reach a conclusion. People are worthy of respect for having attained their "masters" or "doctors" degrees, but it must be realized that until their training includes some degree of understanding of the interrelationships within the entire field of human knowledge, and a development of the spiritual characteristics, they are not truly wise. We must approach an appreciation of the creation in which we live with humility, love and respect, and with a realization of our own limitations.
We learn about and understand (to a limited extent) the world around us through physical senses and intelligence, and beyond that, intuition. Expressions such as "scientific truth" must be taken in a very limited sense, with the realization that we do not know any "absolutes", and that our knowledge is relative to our capacities and human limitations. As Leo Daudet observed:"The biological sciences ... intoxicate, by affording the swift, ephemeral and exquisite illusion of understanding what we observe . . . Between observation and understanding lies the whole expanse of conjecture." We create scientific theories and laws, and then, as our comprehension of the universe grows, we change the "laws" and theories to suit our new discoveries. Heisenberg the physicist observed that it is extremely difficult for scientists raised under one paradigm relating to the science of their day, to accept new theories because they feel as if the ground is pulled from beneath their feet.
Huxley and Dawkins remarked that once a theory, such as Darwin's theory of evolution, has been accepted by scientists and the general public as a "self-evident truth" its defense becomes irrelevant, and there is no longer any point in having to establish its validity by reference to empirical fact. That is to say that such theories become like dogma in any religious organization, based on blind faith and the desire for it to be true in the face of facts proving it to be wrong. Up to now students in most universities are conditioned by their instructors to accept certain ideas as absolutes, and except for a few exceptional, original, independent thinkers, such methods of instruction are a barrier to real progress. Instruction should be honest, impartial, presented with humility and free of prejudices based on atheism, materialism or religious superstitions.
We often hear of "reductionist" and "holistic" thinking in recent years. When the term reductionist is used herein, I refer to those who try to understand the meaning of the whole through the qualities of the parts. In biology it would refer to those who believe that all the qualities of the living organism can be explained by what we consider to be the laws governing the elementary particles, chemicals, molecules and genes. Thus the attributes in humans of love, compassion and self-sacrifice are to them no more than the results of chemical reactions at various levels of complexity. The reductionist who is also an atheist will go even further and deny the existence of a Creator, or any intelligent design in the universe. Holists, on the other hand, recognize the laws governing the component elements and parts of an organism, but see the whole as greater than the sum of its parts. Holists, as I use the term, also see the interdependence and interrelationships in all of creation, and recognize a design and purpose in creation.
We have, for example, developed the new field of bioengineering without really understanding the relationship of the microcosm to the macrocosm, how the alterations and mutations we make will affect the biosphere. The majority of geneticists are, no doubt, responsible and conscientious scientists; it is those few who are primarily concerned with personal fame and financial gain who are dangerous. We must learn the relationship between a phisico-chemical phenomenon and the pnenomena pertaining to life, and the psychology that accompanies it. We see and theorize about the surface of reality, but we are unable to comprehend the essence, and only intuitive faculties give a fleeting glimpse of the essence of things. We are like the people in Plato's cave, we see only the shadows of reality. Albert Einstein said:"One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike."
At this time, after most scientists have for years ignored questions of purpose and design in creation, we see more and more biologists, physicists, and other scientists admitting that all creation does have a purpose, a goal, and an intelligent design. The end of this civilization and the beginning of a new age will mark the turning point in all fields of knowledge, and a new attitude towards God and spiritual forces. There have always been scientists who believed in God and an ordered creation, but they have been largely ignored in this century by most of their fellows, out of the mainstream of accepted scientific opinion. If they were too well known to be ignored, their spiritual beliefs were often dismissed as an eccentricity. The fear of mentioning God and spiritual values among scientist in general has been slowly changing to a more open discussion of such realities, and how they relate to scientific observations. In his book Quantum Questions, Ken Wilbur has compiled portions of articles, books and essays written by such famous physicists as Heisenberg, Einstein, Prince de Broglie, Schroedinger, Jeans, Planck, Pauli and Eddington expressing their belief in God. They acknowledge that the way to mysticism or spiritual development is not through scientific discoveries, even though such discoveries clearly point to the existence of a Creator, and offer proof of His power and wisdom.
Intellectual man creates his own scale of observation. In nature different scales of observation do not exist. Creation is one immense, harmonious phenomenon which escapes our understanding because of our finite nature, our tendency to break things down into arbitrary compartments, isolated components more suited to our intellectual scale of observation. The reality of the gestalt of life can never be understood by observation of its isolated parts alone. Albert Einstein observed that "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." Bertrand Russell wrote: "Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because know so little; it is only its mathematical properties we can discover." It is only through our intuitive faculties and spiritual natures, powe4rs of the spirit which have been much neglected, that we begin to dimly comprehend the meaning, and to slowly achieve a harmony with the whole of creation, and to attain this harmony requires a love of God and humanity.
Logic and statistics can be manipulated to prove almost anything, a fact well known to politicians, governments and "con-men". The "logic" of yesterday may not be the "logic" of today. For centuries philosophers have been using logic to prove opposing points of view, and some scientists, lacking empirical evidence to prove their claims, have done the same. Reductionists, attempting to convince people that life is merely the product of chemical reactions and DNA codes, have promised that "some day", in the distant future, their ideas will be proven; not a scientific approach to truth, but more of a blind faith in the powers of human intellect, an almost metaphysical belief. In a handful of chemicals lie the secrets of intelligence and life, they say, but understanding the chemical aspects of life, even the cause of morphogenesis (which remains unknown), cannot explain life by any stretch of the imagination.
The fact is that theories, and hypotheses abound explaining the existence of life; materialistic-reductionists taking one approach, and those who believe in continuous creation by God, taking another. However, neither one nor the other can explain the essence of life, nor the source of human intelligence and spiritual qualities, except by falling back on the "unknown" which is either the Creator Who is known only by His qualities and His creation, or on undiscovered "laws of nature" which exist in the fertile imaginations of the materialistic-reductionists. We will have to accept the fact that there will always remain certain realms of knowledge and laws of creation forever beyond our understanding because of our limitations, limitations which some "technician-scientists" are loathe to acknowledge, but which leading "creative-scientists" and other spiritual people readily admit.
In 1929, Szilard, a Hungarian physicist discovered a limit on empirical knowledge which was later formulated as an information theory by Claude Shannon, John von Neumann and Warren Weaver. This theory shows that the idea of perfect knowledge suggested by Laplace, is an illusion, and that every observation obscures at least as much information as it reveals. This particular theory of information (other "information" theories exist) says that the acquisition of knowledge about one part of the world requires an equal sacrifice of knowledge about other parts. This does not mean that we cannot acquire useful knowledge important to our progress and civilization. It does imply that we must begin to recognize our limitations, and develop a sense of humility before our Creator.
In 1927 a world conference of physicists in Brussels, Belgium agreed on what became known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. This Copenhagen Interpretation says, in effect, that quantum theory is about correlations in our experience, and what will be observed under specified conditions, but that there is no substantive physical reality, as we understand it, in the world of elementary particles, but with our mathematics we can make relatively accurate and useful predictions about its effects. Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum mechanics wrote that "elementary particles are no longer real in the same sense as objects of ordinary life," and physicist Henry Stapp wrote to the Atomic Energy Commission that "...an elementary particle is not an independently existing, analyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reaches outward to other things." Professor G.F. Chew, Chairman of the Physics Department of the University of California at Berkeley said: "Our current struggle [with current aspects of advanced physics] may thus be only a foretaste of a completely new form of human intellectual endeavour, one that will not only lie outside physics, but will not even be describable as 'scientific'."
Abraham Maslow taught that both science and religion have become too narrow in their thinking, too exclusively dichotomized. "Science for the sake of science" is amoral and non-ethical, no more than a technology. It becomes no more than a collection of tools, techniques, instrumentalities and information to be used by anyone, good or evil, for any purpose, harmful or beneficial. To some science has become like a religion, its adherents, in blind faith, believe that "science can do anything and that technology will solve all the world's problems. Science can become a blind application of power when in the wrong hands, without compassion or understanding.
Religion, as generally understood during past centuries, too often consists of superstitions, organized rituals, and a fanatic adherence to beliefs that contradict reason and the laws of creation. Such a religion shuts out the benefits of the discoveries of science, just as an amoral science is unable to benefit from the spiritual and intuitive powers of true religion.. Such a religion holds up human progress, and spiritual evolution, leading to inhumanity and incredible unhappiness, as we have seen throughout the world in this century.
This dichotomy between the spirit and the intellect has a disastrous effect on humanity. The young no longer respect wisdom, seeing intellectual knowledge as the ultimate goal in life, and technical know-how as the purpose of education. Whey they have acquired a little information at schools where the educators themselves teach knowledge unbalanced by its spiritual component, they no longer respect the wisdom acquired by spiritual understanding, age and experience. Left with a life limited by an amoral intellectual foundation, unenriched by the deeper intuitive-spiritual qualities, they have, in recent decades, turned to drugs, suicide or other forms of escape from a life of materialism and unfulfiled longings. It is clear that true religion and true science are like the wings of one bird, both are necessary for flight. The physicist Heisenberg wrote: "We have come to see how compellingly the individual also has need in his self-consciousness or self-understanding for the prootection of the spiritual pattern. . . If there is much unhappiness among today's students, the reason is not material hardship, but the lack of trust that makes it too difficult for the individual to give his life a meaning." In the words of Baha'u'llah:
"Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, so that the Promise and the Threat, recorded in the Books of God, may prevent them from the things forbidden, and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry."
The new race that is emerging from the fires of the disintegration of this present civilization will awaken to the oneness of creation, seeing that knowledge and spirit are essential parts of an integrated and sane human being. The science of the future will be governed by the spiritual forces of humanity, freed from the fetters of superstition, rituals and dogma, whether in science or religion. The science and religion will come together in harmony, reinforcing all the best attributes of the human spirit. It will not be a science or a religion as we have lived them in the past, but a unification leading to a way of life that is at once intuitive, spiritual, informed and eternally progressing to greater understanding of existence, in harmony with all of creation.
The Oneness of Creation
In Wholeness and the Implicate Order, the theoretical physicist David Bohm states that we are all expressions of a "whole", and that we can no longer think of things as "inherently divided, disconnected, and 'broken up into yet smaller constituent parts." with "each part essentially independent and self existent"
He says that we must now realize that humanity is the "basic reality, whose claims come before before those of individuals or groups.". If we begin to think of things as being coherent and harmonious parts of an overall "whole", without divisions or borders, then we can begin to overcome the manner of thinking that breaks all creation down into separate, unrelated parts, and we will awaken to the reality that we are parts of one humanity. We do not imply Pantheism, but rather that this creation is one, with one Supreme Creator. This will establish, for each of us, a new relationship with all humanity. This is the manner of thinking that will assure the establishment of world unity and lasting peace, where everyone will share in the responsibility for the welfare of one another and for the planet earth.
Abdu'l-Baha said, (c. 1905): "...this limitless universe is like the human body, all the members of which are connected and linked with one another with the greatest strength. How much the organs, the members and parts of the body of man are intermingled and connected for mutual aid and help, and how they influence one another ! In the same way the parts of this infinite universe have their members and elements connected with one another, and influence one another spiritually and materially."
When the above quotation from Abdu'l-Baha was written such a concept was considered unrealistic and "unscientific". Recently Bell's theorem and the EPR experiment demonstrated that at a deep and fundamental level the separate parts of the universe are connected in an immediate and intimate way. David Bohm states that "One is led to a new notion of the unbroken wholeness which denies the classical analyzability of the world into separate and independently existing parts....The inseparable quantum interconnectedness of the whole universe is the fundamental reality."
Baha'u'llah wrote: "The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light are these words:'Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye with one another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Day Star of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. The One true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words."
Religious teach us that we are all one family, brothers and sisters under one God. Biologists and sociologists now tell us that we are bound together in an interdependent relationship with all living creatures on this planet, and with the earth and the atmosphere; our fortunes depend on the well-being and health of the entire ecology. Today physicists have discovered that the very atoms of our bodies are interwoven ion an instantaneous, superluminal relationship with all parts of the universe. If we wish to continue to progress materially and spiritually we cannot ignore these realities of creation.
Everything we think or do has some effect on other people, then on the environment, ultimately on the entire planet, and finally to some degree, on the universe. The effects on the environment and the people closest to us are often immediate and apparent; in our city, state and nation to diminishing degrees. However, as entire communities and then nations think and act in certain ways, other nations are influenced, and the physical environment itself is affected. Not only our words and deeds, but our very thoughts and inner spiritual development have an influence on the people of all the earth, and on the planet itself. Our effect on the universe may be unnoticeable and dispersed, but on this earth the results manifest themselves sooner or later, either in a positive, constructive way, or in a negative, destructive way. We are "judged" by our words, deeds and inner life, and we create our own punishment or rewards under the laws of creation.
At the beginning of this chapter we mentioned how we are inclined to break things down to our intellectual scale of observation, to suit our limitations, . Because we are finite and cannot grasp the concept of infinity, we tend to reduce God and the universe to limits we can encompass with our minds. The same is true of our theories about the so-called beginning of the universe. The generally accepted theory by astronomers of today is that the universe began from a lump of matter (which cam from nowhere?) Which exploded for some unknown reason in a "big bang", and formed the universe we think we know. Despite more and more anomalies that arise in the theory because of recent astronomical observations, a very large number of astronomers and astrophysicists still cling to the Big Bang theory, patching it up with new hypotheses springing from their fertile imaginations. Robert Jastrow, an astrophysicist who headed the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, remarked on the inability of scientists to explain the origins of their Big Bang - did the original matter appear from nothing, and if not, who put the original matter and energy into the universe?
Fred Hoyle, who along with T. Gold and H. Bondi, proposed the Steady State theory of the universe, in his book The Intelligent Universe, says that astronomers will ultimately have to modify their theories to take account of intelligent control of the universe. In 1930 Hannes Alfvan, a plasma physicist, began work on his theory of plasma fields in the formation of the universe. Simply stated it says that the universe is 99 percent plasma, crisscrossed with gigantic electrical and magnetic fields, which create magnetic vortices which draw the plasma together by the "pinch effect" -- forming planets, stars and galaxies. According to this theory the Big Bang never happened, and the universe has existed for an infinite time, without beginning and without end in sight. This theory is more in accord with religious teachings, that God's existence is without beginning or end, and because He is the Reator, there has always been a creation. Since His attributes are essential to His Being, and never change, there has always been a universe, infinite and eternal. It is a universe interrelated physically and spiritually. Humanity is one of God's creations, and out of all His creatures we are the ones capable of knowing His attributes and of loving our Creator. Just as creation has always existed, so have spiritual and intelligent beings, similar to humans, on other planets circling other fixed stars existed, in this endless universe.
Darwinists and neo-Darwinists, materialist and atheists, have believed that this perfection in creation, in humanity, animals and plants, which we now see, was the result of gradual evolution which started in an accidental combination of elements formed in a chaotic "soup" of chemical "nutrients". Then, through a series of further improbable accidents, called natural selection, or accidental genetic mutations, this perfection which we see today gradually "evolved".
Even the concept of gradualism has been proven incorrect through recent discoveries of paleontologists. Paleontologist David Kaup:"Different species usually appear and disappear from the fossil record without showing the transitions that Darwin postulated." A major feature of the fossil record is repeated mass extinctions. Evolutionist Norman Newell wrote: "Widespread extinctions and consequent revolutionary changes in the course of animal life occurred roughly at the end of the Cambrian, Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous periods." Herbert Nilsson of Lund University, Sweden, writes: "It is not even possible to make a caricature of evolution (Darwin gradualism) out of paleobiolgical facts. The fossil material is now so complete that ...the lack of transitional series cannot be explained by the scarcity of material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled."
If life were simply a property of matter, why is it not as pervasive as the physical law of gravity, and why are the unique characteristics of life only present when the organism is alive; why does the organism die? Augros in The New Biology writes: "What cause is responsible for the origin of the genetic code that directs it to produce animal and plant species? It cannot be matter because of itself matter has no inclination to these forms, any more than it has to the form Poseidon or to the form of a microchip or any other artefact...nature is God's handiwork, Divine art - that is nature -is more profound and more powerful than any human art because it constitutes the very essence of things."
Abdu'l-Baha speaks of the impossibility of an accidental creation in this quotation: "Now formation is of three kinds and of three kinds only; accidental, necessary and voluntary. The coming together of the various constituent elements of beings cannot be accidental, for unto every effect there must be a cause. It cannot be compulsory, for then the formation must be an inherent property of the constituent parts and the inherent property of a thing can in no wise be dissociated from it, such as light that is the revealer of things, heat that causeth the expansion of elements and the <solar> rays which are the essential property of the sun. Thus, under such circumstances, the decomposition of any formation is impossible, for the inherent properties of a thing cannot be separated from it. The third formation remaineth, and that is the voluntary one, that is, an unseen force described as the Ancient Power, causeth these elements to come together, every formation giving rise to a distinct being."
We cannot understand the essence of life, we can only observe its effects. The miracle of life on the smallest scale surpasses the complexity and ingenuity of the greatest creations of humanity. The biologist Jacob marvels at the operations within a bacterial cell which... "...carries out some two thousand distinct reactions with incomparable skill, in the smallest space imaginable. These two thousand read5ions diverge and converge at top speed, without ever becoming tangled, and produce exactly the quantity and quality of molecular species required for growth and reproduction, with a yield close to one hundred percent."
In Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, M. Denton expresses his wonder at the miracle of creation. "It is the sheer universality of perfection, the fact that everywhere we look to whatever depth we look we find an elegance and ingenuity of an absolutely transcending quality, which so mitigates against the law of chance...Alongside the level of ingenuity and complexity exhibited by the molecular machinery of life, even our most advanced artefacts appear clumsy." Our bodies are composed of tens of billions of cells, all coordinated and working together in perfect harmony.
Abdu'l-Baha sums it up in this statement; "...We maintain...that these infinite beings, these necessary relations, this perfect arrangement must of necessity have proceeded from a Source that is not bereft of will and understanding, and this infinite composition cast into infinite forms must have been caused by an all-embracing Wisdom. This none can dispute save he is that is obstinate and stubborn, and denieth the clear and unmistakable evidence, and becometh the object of the blessed Verse: 'They are deaf, they are dumb, they are blind, and shall return no more.;'"
Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain how the potential for life, which is expressed in creation, actually operates. Henri Bergson's idea of vitalism posits a vital spark, an elan vital, that is within all of us, and is the force that impels life onward and upward. This elan vital, he believed, impelled us through evolution as in the river of time, always becoming, always drawing nearer to God. More recently Rupert Sheldrake in A New Science of Life proposed a hypothesis which he calls "formative causation." He believes that there might exist morphogenetic fields for every organism, even for crystals and inorganic compounds. These fields contain morphic units, "virtual forms", which are "actualized" as appropriate component parts come within the range of their influences and fit into their appropriate relative positions. These morphogenetic fields are creations existing outside this dimension, and which might be described as metaphysical forces. The ideas of Sheldrake are, more or less, in harmony with those of David Bohm, whose explicit order exists in the wholeness of "that which is", the potential implicate order for the creation of all things is always present in "that which is". These concepts of orthogenesis and others can be traced as far back as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and are attempts to explain the ordering principles of evolution and life. It becomes clear that even though we can speculate about the creative forces released by God, we cannot fully comprehend the essence of the reality of things. If we cannot penetrate the essence of the realities of creation, how can we approach any real understanding of the Essence of the Creator?
If we begin to understand that the same oneness and interrelatedness of all aspect of the ecology is also the characteristic of evolution and of the universe itself, we begin to see that there have been no accidental developments in evolution. Those mutations and developments that we fail to understand are not accidental events just because we fail to grasp their significance or to understand their connections with other events in evolution. It is our ignorance, not their lack of purpose that makes some evolutionary developments seem accidental, or "trials that failed."
The new discipline of bioengineering was launched with widespread, exaggerated publicity, and glowing promises in the press of endless miracles for humanity. It reminds one of the promises of early nuclear energy enthusiasts who foretold-"electricity too cheap to meter." With hopes of millions of dollars in profits, and little concern for the long-range dangers of the new ventures, old and new firms rush into production of engineered bacteria and modification of genetic codes. A very few, more irresponsible "scientists", have claimed that planned mutations by man will improve on nature and make the world a better place. This is similar to the refrain for technological solutions for all the world's problems that we have heard for so long, which has led to world-wide pollution of the land, the air and the water, and to death for humans and other living organisms. The United Nations environment program on World Environment Day 1989, listed five new threats to the environment, among them was the potential damage caused by biotechnology.
The introduction of creatures genetically modified by man, into the evolutionary stream, could cause unforeseen problems. In his book Cosmic Blueprint, theoretical physicist Paul Davies observes:"In the case of organisms, even minute tinkering with the constants of nature would rule out life altogether, at least of the terrestrial variety." Since those who are doing the tinkering do not know what all the "constants" actually are, they walk on dangerous ground. Those who believe in a universe that works as a harmonious whole, and an earthly ecology where the inanimate environment works in intimate relationship with living creatures, will urge that we give very careful thought to bioengineering before we go too far.
It is simple arrogance and ignorance for-anyone to believe that we can improve on an evolutionary process we don't even understand, despite claims to the contrary. Rather than use bioengineering to modify living creatures, it is perhaps reasonable to use it for the prevention of genetically transmitted diseases, and other very carefully thought out goals. with great respect for God, for the ecology, and for the evolutionary process, with moderation and foresight. Even using genetic engineering to this limited extent presents the possibility of very great danger because there is still so much that is unknown in the fields of genetics and morphogenetics.
Spiritual and Intellectual Evolution
In The Evolution of Living Organisms, Pierre Grasses, one of the-world's leading biologists, speaks of our role in human evolution.
"For the last 100,000 years, Homo sapiens ... has remained physically stable. Ruler of the earth and of his own evolution, because among all living beings he is the only one capable of assigning an end to his fate; he progresses or regresses at will, hesitating between further 'hominization' and reversal to animal ism."
Just as there has been physical evolution, human beings have also, alone among all the creatures of earth experienced an intellectual and spiritual evolution. Humans are the highest expression of creation, and through obedience to the Word of God, and our own individual efforts we can become capable of "reflecting" (within limits) the spiritual attributes of God. Over countless centuries, for the age of civilization is far older than presently believed, we have been slowly evolving spiritually, guided by the progressive Revelations from God through perfect Beings, called Prophets, Apostles or Manifestations of God. Because of our brief life-span 100,000 years seems to be a long time, but compared to the age of the earth it is but a brief moment in evolution.
The Manifestations of God have appeared about every thousand years, more or less, according to the needs of human spiritual evolution. Human progress has always been cyclic, that is, in waves, with the crests always higher and the troughs never as low as before. The spiritual teachings have been gradually augmented according to the requirements of the time and place, and the ordinances governing physical life have been annuled when necessary and upgraded as humanity slowly approaches maturity. Abdu'1-Baha wrote:
"The world of humanity has heretofore been In the stage of infancy, now it is approaching maturity. Just as the individual human organism, having attained the period of maturity, reaches its fullest degree of physical strength and ripened intellectual faculties, so that in one year of this ripened period there is witnessed an unprecedented measure of development, likewise the world of humanity in this cycle of-its completeness and consummation will realize an immeasurable upward progress; and that power of accomplishment whereof every individual human reality is the repository of God, that outworking universal spirit, like the intellectual faculty, will reveal itself in infinite degrees of perfection."
The dichotomy between,, the. conventional-materialistic-intellectual thinking that has prevailed during the last two centuries, and the intuitive-ideational-spiritual thinking is aggravated by our educational system and the mass media controlled by the national and multi-national corporations. Both glorify and promote a materialistic, profit motivated, sensual approach to life and the future. Scientists and religious leaders alike, whether they realize it or not, are influenced in their thinking and conclusions by their cultural background, their environment and this materialistic civilization; hence they are not nearly as "objective" as some might claim. We must change our entire outlook on the purpose of life, and break the chains of materialism. A person whose sensual, intellectual and spiritual powers are in balance, who obeys the laws of life given by God, who lives in harmiy with all of creation, and in peace with all humanity, we call an "integrated person", who represents the next level in human evolution.
As we have seen, it is a fallacy to believe that intellect alone can solve all problems. Pitirim Sorokin in The Crisis of Our Age speaks of three aspects of truth through which civilizations have passed. They are the three dimensions of faith, reason and sensation; or ideational, idealistic and sensual. In the past we have exaggerated each aspect, passing through the three one after the other, though they shade into one another, until today we are at the end of the sensate phase, where the senses and the intellect hold sway. Scientists and religious leaders as well as the general public have unwittingly become captives of the general mode of thinking that surrounds them, except for the few unusual souls. None of the three systems of truth can, by itself, embrace the whole truth. They must be integrated to make the "whole person", a rational being who approaches life spiritually, intuitively and intellectually. Dr. David Starr Jordan, past president of Leiand Stanford University, once said that "Abdu^l-Baha walked the mystical path with practical feet"; we must develop that quality of spirit.
The higher educational Institutions of the future will no longer be oriented solely towards a "practical" education, devoted to knowledge and crafts primarily useful to industry. Instead there will have to be a balance, with both the-practical and spiritual qualities being taught. Spiritual values must be taught without being burdened with superstitions, prejudices, fanaticism, or any dogma from religious organizations. There will be specialization, but scientific disciplines will not be isolated to the degree that exists today, and students will be taught to think in terms of process, interrelationships, organic unities and of a harmonious creation,
Such an education must be made available to everyone throughout the world, regardless of sex. race or financial standing. One language and one script should be adopted for all nations, to facilitate the exchange of information and education, to remove misunderstandings between people of different races and nationalities, and so that no matter where one travels in the world he or she will be understood and welcomed.
In his book Entropy, Jeremy Rifkin suggested that in the future low entropy or steady state society, high schools will teach both manual and mental skills, teaching everyone to be self-sufficient. In a low-energy, more labor intensive society which seems the most likely development in the future, a generalized education in the lower schools will be vital to future communities, which will be smaller and self-sustaining to a certain degree. All levels of education will teach students how to think, what relationship they have to the whole of society, and the ability to judge between truth and error. Students must learn that they are part of one world, and that their every act has some effect on the rest of the world, however indirect and seemingly unimportant.-They must learn about and assume their share of responsibility for the general well-being of mankind; they must become integrated personalities, understanding the importance of character development, intuition, and intellectual accomplishments. To establish lasting world peace and some form of world federal government, we must realize the oneness of all creation and our interrelationships with other people and with the environment, -
^ CHAPTER 3
THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF MANKIND AND THE ECOLOGY
Some geologists are among the first of the new "intuitive scientists". I see -the science of ecology as deeply grounded in a spiritual respect for the whole of creation as a harmonious unity, a gestalt of interrelationships. Beyond an awareness of the organic oneness of nature, an appreciation of the ecology implies an intuitive awareness of its inner and outer links to humanity and of our place in the universe. An understanding of the ecology encourages a way of life that teaches respect -for the rest of creation based on knowledge, and a deeper appreciation of our relationship to God, to humanity,and to the universe, based on love, moderation, gentleness and prudence. The created world is like a tree, and a spiritual person is the fruit of that tree, the ultimate goal and highest expression of creation when he or she finally recognizes his or her relationship to God. Some say that this is conceit, but it is simple truth if one consider spiritual values, saintliness and a purified relationship with our Creator as the highest expression of creation.
Ecology evolved slowly as a new realm of human understanding, as scientists gradually accumulated enough knowledge to realize that living organisms, the atmosphere and the earth function in an organic unity, a truth long known intuitively by sages, some philosophers, poets and primitive peoples. Just as the air, the land and the seas are the environment upon which living creatures depend, so is life itself the conditioning force for the air, land and seas. Oxygen was gradually injected into the atmosphere by living organisms, which led to the formation of the ozone layer, which in turn reduced the intensity of ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth's surface, permitting the multi-cellular creatures to rise from the protection of the seas onto the land. The intimate interdependence o-f living creatures and the inanimate environment makes it difficult to draw a sharp distinction between the two. It appears that life regulates and maintains the chemical environment of the earth in a manner to insure its own health and survival, in a relationship of incredible complexity. In the words o-f Abdu'1-Baha:
'. . . There is no doubt that this perfection which is in all beings, is caused bx the creation of God from the composing elements, by their appropriate mingling and proportionate quantities, the mode of their composition, and the influence of other beings. For all beings are connected together like a chain, and reciprocal help, assistance, and influence belonging to the properties of things, (which is) the causes of' the existence, development, and growth of created beings. It is confirmed through evidences and proofs that every being universally acts upon other beings, either absolutely or through association."
All of the millions of living species are linked to one another and the ecosphere in a web of bewildering variety and complexity; when one part of this chain of interrelationships is broken the structure can usually compensate for the loss and repair the damage. When the destruction is massive and continuous, as we have witnessed in the world during recent years, through the works of humans, it would, if long continued, destroy the capability of the environment to support a reasonably civilized-humanity. Those who could survive such a catastrophe would be reduced to a life of extreme simplicity and hardship. We must stop and never repeat the excesses that threaten the world today, and work constantly to preserve and restore a healthy world environment.
Everything we do has some effect on the total ecology. If, for example, we throw away a simple dry-cell battery which contains mercury and other chemicals, we must consider the final destination of the chemicals. The battery goes to the rubbish which might then be incinerated, producing mercury vapor which is toxic. Eventually the mercury vapor comes back to earth in rain or snow and enters a stream or lake where it sinks to the bottom until it is converted bv bacteria to methyl mercury. Methyl mercury is.soluble and can be taken up by fish where it accumulates in the flesh and organs. The fish is then caught by someone and eaten and the mercury becomes deposited in that person's organs, where it is very harmful when in sufficient quantities,
We must recognise that all economic systems are within the realm of ecological interdependence and they must conform to the physical constraints o-f the ecosystem. In the development of our economic systems we have failed to appreciate these constraints because until recent years the results of this neglect were not too apparent, or at least not apparent enough to frighten the public. Three of the major problems that have attracted public attention in recent years have been the increase o-f carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the hole in the ozone layer and the-destructive force of acid rain on lakes, streams and forests, products of burning fossil fuels and the release of chloro-fluorocarbons into the atmosphere.
When nature is undisturbed* the carbon dioxide o-f the atmosphere is Kept constant by. simple reactions with sea water and some organisms in planKton* as well as by the vegetation on land. I-f the carbon dioxide content o-f the atmosphere should -fall* the normal level could be restored by the release o-f some o-f the ocean's enormous reserves. Because o-f human activities the carbon dioxide in the air has increased? and it is now established beyond the slightest doubt (according to some "experts") that increased tarbon dioxide levels in the air have contributed to a warming o-f the world's climate since the 1970s. The average temperature o-f the -first -five months o-f 1988 in the United States were the highest recorded since meteorological records were -first Kept 130 years ago. The temperature increases were a contributing -factor to droughts that reduced corn production by about 17 percent in 19SO* 28 percent in 1983 and almost 35 percent in 1938. This indicates that unless we give this problem close attention -from now on? and taKe action to maintain the balance* the natural controls regulating the carbon dioxide content o-f the atmosphere could be Increasingly overloaded* and serious climatic alterations could ultimately occur. It is possible that the erratic weather o-f recent years is related to this change in the average temperature o-f the earth's atmosphere.
There is another problem in our economic system that has affected the climate. Besides the heat build-up from increased methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, our widespread use of fossil fuels for power generation and industry release heat into the atmosphere. When this heat release, called thermal pollution, reaches some appreciable fraction of the energy normally absorbed from the sun, there could be worldwide climatic effects. This augments the effects of carbon dioxide and methane buildup, increasing the danger of the destruction of ecosystems, because life processes are regulated by temperature. One solution is to utilize solar energy, tidal-forces, etc. which I will discuss in the chapter on energy. -
Of course these illustrations do not, by any means, give more than a small indication of the interconnections and interrelationships that exist in the ecosystems. The world-wide destruction of forests is another cause of imbalance in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and of local climatic changes, a problem covered in a later chapter. The detail and complexity involved are so great that we are unable to really appreciate the full effects of our failure to care for the ecology. This is why an apparently innocent technical advance that is not carefully utilized, with painstaking analysis of all possible harmful effects may, after a time, produce more harm in the long run than the good it might offer in the short run. The automobile is a good example of this failure to use foresight and restraint, to exercise the spiritual values of moderation and concern for the welfare of others.
The exhausts of a few automobiles add. only a few cubic centimeters of carbon monoxide and lead to the atmosphere. The exhausts of countless millions of vehicles threaten the health of vast segments of the earth's population and contribute to the alteration of the climatic patterns of the earth. In State of the Nation, in an article by Marcia Lowe:
"Car-induced air pollution does damage far beyond city limits. Vehicles are a major source --indeed in the United States, the largest source -- of the nitrogen oxides and organic compounds that are precursors to ozone. Ground level ozone, believed to reduce soybean, cotton and other crop yields by 5 to 10 percent, takes an estimated toll of $5.4 billion on crops in the U.S. alone. Nitrogen oxides can be chemical\y transformed in the atmosphere into acid deposition, known to destroy aquatic life in lakes and streams, and suspected of damaging forests throughout Europe and North America."
Elimination of public transport and reduction in the use of bicycles in the United States make the use of automobiles imperative for most people, although they presently make excessive use of automobiles, either because of a lack of understanding or lack of concern for the effects they have on the environment. Valuable land is also taken up by highways, and in the U.S. there is about one mile of 'road for every square mile of land; 3.6 million miles of highway which could otherwise be largely covered with plants which improve the atmosphere. In addition to the ecological damage, there is the loss of life attributed to automobile accidents. The National Safety Council estimates that more Americans have been killed by automobile accidents than were killed in all of the wars this nation has fought in the 200 years of its existence. About 50,000 Americans are killed each year by automobiles, in addition to about 1.5 million maimed; auto accidents kill babies, children, women and men without discrimination.
Due to the activities of humans there has been a drastic loss of plant and animal species. Scientists estimate that by the year 2000, if we are able to continue our depredations, up to 20 percent of all remaining plant and animal species will be extinct. The desertification in Africa, the destruction of tropical and temperate rain forests throughout the world, are leading to a serious loss of plants and animals. The pollution of the air and the use of biocides in forests and for agriculture are destroying many species. Conservationists estimate that about 40 percent of the vertebrates that have become extinct around the world, as well as many valuable plant species, were destroyed in the Carribean area and Central America alone, due to the destruction of forests and "modern" methods of agriculture, as well as by industrial wastes. All diversity in the genetic reservoir of plants, animals and microorganisms can be of direct benefit to humanity. Such losses deprive us of genetic varieties that might be valuable for many purposes, from pharmaceuticals to supplying genes for developing new and hardier plants. One of the serious threats to the environment has been the decay of genetic variability of crops because it limits our ability to adapt crops to changes of climate and to protect them against pests and diseases.
Carolyn Jabs, in her book The-Heirloom-Gardener states that 7,000 varieties of apple disappeared since the turn of the century. Every week another two species of plants become extinct, and if that trend continues it could reach one a day, or about 14?,500 species in 40 years. To counteract this trend seed banks and germ plasm banks have been set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state governments and a few non-profit corporations, as well as individual plant collectors. In Hawaii the Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden has established a living collection of tropical plants. At the Northwest Plant Germ Plasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon, researchers seek new ways to store germ plasm from endangered species. At the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Ft. Collins Colorado, the U.S. Government stores 180,000 different types of seeds. Despite these efforts the race to save disappearing plant species is not being won, as forests throughout the world are destroyed and other ecological disasters continue to occur.
The general public does not understand the importance of the ecosystems made up by sea life in the coastal waters of the Carribean Islands and elsewhere. Among these who are aware of the problem there is great concern about the effects of mercury and pesticides on marine life, Similar problems exist in the coastal waters of all nations in the world, as industrial wastes, biocides and fertilizers from agriculture pollute all major streams and rivers and then the bays and estuaries along the sea coasts. An outstanding example of this development is the ecological tragedy on the Chesapeake Bay, which is slowly being "killed" by the endless flood of wastes, sediment, fertilizers and chemicals flowing into it from several surrounding states.
In the United States we have spent an enormous amount of money cleansing our drinking water of biological impurities, while allowing the water to become polluted with chemicals. In 1959 it was found that 627 industrial plants and 12 federal institutions dumped toxic wastes into our drinking water sources. There is also the problem of lead contamination in our water supplies because of lead in the supply pipes. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans drink water containing lead (50 parts per million) which is positively dangerous for children and decidedly unhealthy for adults. For children it leads to a loss of brain function equivalent to 5 IQ points (an estimate), and in fetuses in pregnant women leaded water causes neurological damage. In developing nations the greatest water pollutant is sewage. The waterbourne diseases spawned by biological pollution is the cause of an incredible ?0 percent of all child deaths in the Third World. Mohammed El Ashry, vice-president of the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C. said: "The poorer the nation the more likely the water will be contaminated by human waste."
Another serious ecological problem could develop -from extensive ocean farming along the continental shelves. Kelp (or Laminaria) is a source of iodine and alginates, a natural polymer used in industrial and domestic products. A vast increase in the production of kelp might increase the flux of methyl chloride into the atmosphere, which could have an effect similar to that alleged for chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) damage to the ozone layer. There is also the danger that the flux of methyl iodide into the air could reach levels dangerous to life. Conversely, extensive development of certain monocultures could have the effect of reducing the methyl iodide in the atmosphere below levels essential to organic life. There is also the possibility of the destruction of other algae vital to the ecosphere as well as the elimination of certain important herbivores that live along coastal waters. Ocean farming, like forestry and reforestation, will require international cooperation because of its effect on the atmosphere, which knows no national boundaries. We must, in the future civilization, make certain sacrifices and show restraint in our use of the world's natural resources, with concern for the health and well-being of all the peoples of the earth, as an expression of our love for humanity and to assure that Justice will prevail.
Our desire to rule over nature rather than to understand and to work in harmony with it, is a serious threat to the entire biosphere. The pollution of the atmosphere and waters of the earth has been a growing threat to all forms of life, but a more clearly apparent and immediate threat to human life results from toxic waste dumps. The effects of the destruction of the ozone layer and the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere produce their effects so slowly that most people pay little attention to the dangers, but they can see toxic waste dumps, and see the damage to the health of their children during their own lifetimes, and this makes a much deeper impression. Throughout the United States some 50,000 toxic waste dumps, and 180,000 open pits, ponds and lagoons at industrial plants poison the air and the groundwater with 88 million pounds of toxic chemicals generated by industries of all sizes. The few sites that have been "neutralized" receive widespread publicity, but the problems are far from being resolved. People remember when Times Beach, Missouri had to be completely evacuated when the unpaved streets were found to contain dioxin at 100 times the level considered harmful to human beings, and it is only -the most publicized case of such pollution ! In Missouri alone 21 other sites with dioxin contamination were discovered, some with even higher levels than that of Times .Beach! In most nations of the world not enough is being done to induce industry to seek alternative technologies or to devise methods of safely recycling or of rendering their wastes harmless. To avoid even the few restrictions that exist in the United States, some companies have moved across the border into Mexico where they freely pollute the land, the air and the water in both Mexico and Texas.
Beyond damage to human health, to plants and to animals, we must also take into account the destruction of soil fertility, as the poisons seep through the ground, killing many millions of bacteria, fungi and protozoa essential to healthy and fertile soil. As streams and lakes are poisoned, the destruction of life is spread over an immense area. For example, Dr. Rich Penny performed biopsies on penguins at the South Pole and found DDT in every bird he examined. These are some of the fruits of "technofix", technological miracles that were to make the world into a paradise, but which have been used without much concern for the welfare of humanity, the health of the ecosphere, or the requirements of moderation.
It is clear that the use of biocides in farming, and the toxic chemicals released by industry endanger life not only through pollution of the land and the water adjacent to the sources, but these poisons are carried thousands of miles through the air by the wind. The pesticide, herbicide and fungicide soaked soil is carried by the winds into the atmosphere as dust and particulate matter, and even though dispersed its toxicity remains, and is concentrated in organisms, all too frequently causing mutations, cancers and death. The problem is that the effects are not immediately apparent in the human body, but appear gradually over years, so that people do not make the association between their diseased conditions and the actual cause of their ailments. These biocides sprayed on crops by airplanes or machines, are dispersed as a toxic mist, especially dangerous in the vicinity of the farms and in enclosed valleys such as the Central Valley of California, where there has been an extraordinary concentration of agricultural activity of all kinds. When fields are burned before plowing and replanting, the toxic chemicals may be converted into even more dangerous compounds through combustion and then dispersed into the atmosphere
It has been found that the fish in Lake Superior are too loaded with toxic chemicals to be eaten, although this year (1996) authorities claim that they have eliminated or reduced the problem and that the fish can be eaten, Toxaphene is used in cotton fields to fight boll weevil in the Deep South and in California, so it is being carried by the winds across the entire United States. The DDT-apparently comes from Mexico, Asia and Europe where it is still being used in agriculture. Both of these compounds are deadly poisons, and even though they are dispersed in the atmosphere they are biomagnified in the flesh of organisms with destructive and unpredictable results. These are the chemicals (among others) found in the fish in Lake Superior.
All sorts of chemicals are used in many manufacturing processes, including the manufacture of electronic products. The major contributors to the toxic chemicals and metals in the atmosphere, are factories producing chemicals, rubber goods, and products from petroleum. In the immediate vicinity of such factories the fumes are especially potent, both mutagenic and carcinogenic, causing cancer, birth defects, leukemia and many other physical defects and health problems. Companies frequently refuse to cooperate in eliminating such .toxic emissions, or even to permit governments to know what chemicals are being emitted, using the excuse of protecting trade secrets, or "proprietor information." Apparently most governments today consider the rights of companies to be more sacred and important than the lives of citizens,
Among "the emissions from such factories are the compounds dioxin and furans, both of which are chemically related and extremely toxic. Dioxin has received a great deal of publicity because of the Times Beach episode, but .furans are rarely mentioned, although they are almost as deadly as dioxin. These chemicals and others are emitted when refuse is burned at city dumps, whether to merely dispose of the garbage or to generate electricity. The special incinerators that have been constructed to. dispose of toxic wastes are especially dangerous, even though the operating companies always assure the public that there is nothing to fear. The burning of plastics is one of the major sources of furans, and so the use of incinerators to dispose of toxic chemicals, plastics, garbage, etc. even if used to generate electricity, should be forbidden unless there is absolute proof that they are so designed as to guarantee that they will not emit any toxic fumes. In the fifty years following world war II, the production of toxic chemicals .and synthetic products increased dramatically, and the concentration of toxic chemicals in the atmosphere has gradually increased, contributing to the health problems that now exist throughout the world.
The increase in convenience chemicals for home use brought a cornucopia of toxic chemicals into almost every home in the industrialized nations. Moth balls, plastics, cleaning agents, paints, etc. that contain such chemicals as benzene, formaldehyde, methylene, chlorides, etc. can be found in most homes. Alongside solvents and pesticides, plastics constitute the most serious cause of highly toxic pollution. Yet, because they are an easy way out, a convenience we think we cannot live without, we allow their use and manufacture to continue uncontrolled. Now we must return to less hazardous products such as glass, steel and wood, and natural cleaning products, dyes, etc. in our homes, eliminating the production and use of nonbiodegradable products, except where they are absolutely necessary. For our own health, and the health and safety of our children, we will have to return to a more natural way of life, using products from nature as much as possible.
In his book The Toxic Cloud, Michael Brown offers suggestions for future control of toxic chemicals in the atmosphere, proposals which I believe must become part of the laws of every nation. The atmosphere of the world knows no boundaries, and it is irresponsible and inhumane for one nation to feel free to release toxic chemicals and metals into the atmosphere of neighboring nations, even if they are unconcerned about the health of their own citizens. Michael Brown writes:
"Since industry has shown itself to be indifferent to the public risks it creates -- haughty of heart and presaging a calamitous fall -- we must move toward a policy by which no company will be allowed to make or sell (or use in their manufacturing processes) any compound until the firm proves that it can either disassemble that compound into harmless, natural compounds -- or proves that the compound has absolutely no health repercussions whatsoever." Industry must now assume the burden of proof. We can no longer endure its wanton poisons, nor can we any longer look upon science as a benevolent, all-powerful goddess. Too often scientists create more problems, and prompt more riddles, than they can solve. ". . .we must prepare to ban a great many more chemicals than have so far been banned. And we must wean ourselves from certain conveniences -- especially plastic -- that cannot be made from biodegradable products."
The people in the poor countries are the first to suffer from the degradation of the environment. The people of those countries live off the environment, and according to a report in the English magazine The Economist, the "primary production -- farming, forestry, mining -- account for more than a third of their Gross rational Product, more than two-thirds of employment, and over half their export earnings. Their natural resources are their main assets. From them they must feed a million more mouths every 13 years." In State of the World Alan During wrote;
"When the poor destroy the ecosystems in desperation, they are not the only ones to suffer. Sheets of rain washing off denuded watersheds flood exclusive neighborhoods as surely as slums.
Potentially valuable medicines lost with the extinction of the rain forest species are as unavailable to the rich in their private hospitals as they are to the poor in their rural clinics. And the carbon dioxide released as the landless migrants burn plots in the Amazon or Congo warms the globe as surely as do fumes from automobiles and smokestacks in Los Angeles or Milan. The fate of the fortunate is immutably bonded to the fate of the dispossessed through the land, water and air; in an ecologically endangered world, poverty is a luxury we can no longer afford."
The United Nations sponsored a World Climate Conference in Egypt to lay groundwork for a global conference to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and to stabilize the world's climate. In April 1990 representatives met in London to finalize an agreement to phase out CFC production by the year 2000. The UN was to draft an international bio-diversity-conservation treaty to protect the thousands of life-forms threatened with extinction, but in their 1992 meeting in Rio de Janeiro, President Bush of the United States would only take part in a watered down version of the treaty in order to protect the bio-engineering industry of the United States. At the UN Alois Mock of Austria proposed that there be a UN Environmental Police to guard the planet's most precious resources. It is obvious that without the full cooperation of all nations this is an unworkable proposal, but at least it is an indication of the growing awareness of the need for international enforcement o-f ecological standards. It is a hopeful sign of what we can expect in the future , in a more spiritually mature world society.
In this chapter I have given an overview o-f the effects of our relationship to the ecology to show how our civilization has impacted on the biosphere, and to indicate our responsibilities for the protection and preservation of the environment. A materialistic society and an amoral "science "for the sake of science", sponsored by corporations or governments whose sole aim is to increase profits or military strength, without concern for human welfare, or the health of .'the ecology, have too often made discoveries in chemistry, biology and nuclear physics far more of a curse than a blessing. If these accomplishments are used with wisdom and moderation, with the goal of benefitting humanity rather than with the single-minded desire -for material gain, the so-called "bottom line", great good can be accomplished. In the new age which is coming soon we must always be aware of the organic unity of creation, of which we are a part. The only power that can govern the use of our intellectual achievements is the ethical-spiritual nature of humanity and for that to be effective we must begin to try to understand our relationship to the rest of creation and to our Creator.
^ CHAPTER 4
THE LAND IS FOR ALL HUMANITY
"When idle land and idle men exist side by side, the definition of property has been extended beyond the rights of man.' Thomas Jefferson
Concentration of Land Ownership in America
The earth was created by God in love and beauty, for the spiritual development and happiness of all humanity. It should be cared for by everyone, and possessed by no one, so that during this brief time we are here we may care for one another and live in peace and harmony with all creation. When we go to war we are fighting and killing for our own graveyards, for we destroy one another and desecrate the earth.
Most of us yearn for a piece of land we can call our own, for a home where we can live undisturbed by the threat of foreclosure and eviction. The trend has been in the opposite direction, because there have been more home and farm foreclosures, than ever before, during recent years. The U.S. League of Savings Institutions reports that America is becoming a nation of renters as fewer and fewer people can afford to own a home. The group having the greatest difficulty in purchasing homes is in the family-formation years under 39, In a report from the Institute for Policy Studies, Felix Rohatyn, the noted investment banker and civic leader, was quoted as observing, "A democracy? to survive, must at the very least appear to be fair. This is no longer the case in America."
At a time when we desperately need to encourage an increase in small family farms, they are rapidly being absorbed by the huge agribusiness farms, or by banks and insurance companies. It is reported that for the last decade and longer, small commercial farms have been closing down at an average rate of approximately 100,000 a year, while at the same time the size of agribusiness farms is on the increase. This was apparently true in Europe as well in 1993. It is estimated that in 1989, in the United States, one family farm went out of business every six or seven minutes. Small farm incomes have not increased as rapidly as operating expenses, equipment costs and land payments. Although in the 1980s, during the Reagan recession, land prices dropped, so did incomes, and the unmitigated disaster of farm policies at that time and through 1993, speeded up the process. The small family farms which are usually more efficient in care of the soil and production of healthy crops, are rapidly being replaced by agribusiness farms which, with their short-term profit motives, are in the long run destroying the fertility of the farmlands, increasing soil erosion and producing chemically contaminated crops.
In the United States, according to the Department of Commerce, one percent of the population owns 15 percent of the useful real estate, approximately 310,000 square miles of land, an area about the size of 12 East Coast states. The balance of the land available to the public is owned by a relatively small percentage of the rest of the population. Although many people have mortgages on their homes and land, and feel as though they own property, they always face foreclosure and eviction in an unstable economy. The entire picture of inequity in land rights is made even darker by the irresponsible treatment of the land by the large land development corporations by lumber companies, and by city planners and local developers.
Within the last two decades there has been a noticeable decrease in the amount of desirable land available for residential or commercial use, and this has led to a dramatic increase in prices. Until the recession of the 1990s this led to the creation of hundreds of large fortunes. In his book The Ultra Rich, Vance Packard quotes billionaire Harry Helmsley, who said that real estate is attractive because "You don't have to do anything. You just have -to sit. The values go up." However,.because the banks and savings and loan companies made huge and unwise loans to land speculators, thousands of such institutions failed when the bottom fell out of the land market,
In 1971, in California, 25 individuals and corporations owned well over 16 percent of the privately held land. Southern Pacific alone owned approximately 2,411,000 acres, much of it prime timber land and top agricultural land. In his book The Politics of Environmental Concern, Walter A. Rosenbaum states that a total of 180 million acres were given to all the railroad companies in the - nineteenth century, an area larger than France, England, Scotland and Wales combined. These land barons did not always acquire their land by methods we would consider honest or legal. Southern Pacific, as one example, was given land by the Federal government in alternative sections of one square mile for a possible total of 128,000 acres for each 10 miles of track. The land was supposed to have been sold within three years after the road had been completed, or after that to have been reclaimed by the government at $1.25 per acre. That section of the act was neither enforced nor obeyed, and so out of the original 6.5 million acres given as a land grant subsidy to Southern Pacific they. still retain about 4 million acres. The improper acquisition and holding of huge parcels of land by Southern Pacific and others created private empires that make the holdings of dukes and barons during past centuries in Europe, tiny by comparison.
At this time the government of the United States owns 742 million acres of land, 69 million acres of that land is devoted to parks and 18 million is used for military purposes. Out of the 742 million acres 635 million are used primarily to serve the needs of cattlemen and the lumber industry, such companies as Boise Cascade or Weyerhauser. The cattlemen over graze much of the land, causing erosion and destruction of trees and other vegetation. The lumber companies are able to obtain the timber below the cost to the tax-payers who finance the vast network o-f roads used -for clear-cutting and for reforestation which the companies -fail to do, even though that is a part of their contracts. Clearly the government officials in charge of the administration of these lands do not serve the best interests of the nation, but do very well for the interests of a few corporations and certain individuals, individuals who now believe that their personal privileges come before the rights of the nation,
In the 1980s, in Oregon, the Boise Cascade Lumber Company, because it owned the land, decided to destroy the entire town of Valsetz, to use the land for a tree farm. People had been living there for over three generations, since about 1920, and had their homes, schools, churches and businesses. Their entire lives were disrupted for the benefit of a lumber company, and they were driven out so that their homes and public buildings could be bulldozed. Unfortunately, in America as elsewhere, we see time and again that economic returns for a few individuals are considered to be far more important than human welfare, and far too often private land ownership takes precedence over ethical considerations,
In the Hawaiian Islands, the entire island of Nihau, originally purchased by Mrs. Sinclair for $l0,000, was later sold to the Robinson family. Although the island was "legally" acquired* the rights of the people living there were totally disregarded, and they were not consulted when their homeland was sold by "the rulers of the islands", who at that time were themselves Hawaiians. Americans came to the Hawaiian Islands and dispossessed most Hawaiians of their lands. We Should not be surprised at the resentment of the descendants of those early Hawaiians who realize how their rights have been ignored by their own leaders and by foreigners.
Injustice Resulting from Private Land Ownership Throughout the World.
Although Americans have not wanted it for their own nation, they have frequently urged land re-form for the impoverished nations, suggesting that large landholdings be broken down into small -family farms and cooperatives. However, whenever the people have voluntarily taken such action, trying to force the wealthy landholders to share, they are usually branded as "Marxist-Leninists" by the leaders of America. Obviously the poor tenant farmers cannot afford to buy the land from the wealthy landholders, because the prices demanded are usually too high. In some countries such as Brazil and Argentina, the base of land ownership was broadened by resettlement in areas of virgin tropical forest, which created an ecological disaster. Also, such rain forest land is not good for -farming because after a couple of seasons the soil becomes lateritic, useless for crops,
The poor not only earn too little, they also own too little, and in developing societies where three out of four people earn their living in agriculture, the most important asset is land. Yet land ownership is concentrated in the hands of a fortunate few. The tremendous population growth, along with maldistribution of land, pushes more and more of the poor into being farmers without land. As poor families owning a little land have more and more children, and their farms are divided among their offspring, plots become too small to provide sustenance. Obviously steps must be taken to control population growth in the decades to come, through education and by raising the material standards of living,
In El Salvador 90 percent of the forests have been destroyed and 77 percent of the land suffers from accelerated erosion. Almost all the fertile valley lands are owned by the wealthy, and are devoted to commercial crops and cattle. The rest of the people have been forced onto "marginal" land and steep hillsides. El Salvador has one of the world's densest populations, and as the population continues to grow the marginal land is divided into ever smaller plots. The poor of El Salvador have been struggling for many years for justice, and have been treated with extreme cruelty by the ruling powers as well as by the United States government. The recent peace treaty provided some measure of justice and land redistribution, but the problem is not solved. We must develop a real understanding of the meaning of Justice, and strive to improve the welfare of all peoples, not just of the wealthy.
Unlimited private control over land and resources always seems to lead, ultimately, to extreme inequalities in land and resource ownership. According to a United Nations survey in :?3 countries of the world, 3 percent o-f the landowners control almost 83 percent of the world's land, and in Argentina 2 percent control 75 percent of the land. In most countries only 5 to 20 percent of all producers have access to institutional credit, and the poor are left to the mercies of the landlords and money lenders whose rates run as high as 200 percent interest. A World Bank study concluded that in Columbia "large numbers of farm families try to eke out an existence on too little land, often on slopes of 45 degrees or more. As a result, they exploit the land very severely, adding to erosion and other problems, and even so (they) are not able to make a decent living."
These inequities exist throughout the world, and the same situation is developing in the United States as agribusiness, banks and insurance companies take over the land, forcing out small farmers, and reducing them to tenant farmer status. This seizure of land, as well as extremely unwise speculation in loans to build malls, housing developments, etc. was a major contributing factor in the collapse of Savings and Loan institutions, banks and insurance companies, which in turn is helping to fuel a world-wide economic disaster in the not too distant future. In the chapter on agriculture I will discuss the problems of the small farmers in greater detail.
Inequalities and oppression throughout the world cannot but in the end lead to civil strife and the destruction of national economies. We must strive to make the earth a place of public happiness, prosperity and justice for everyone. In the past centuries the world has been a place of extremes, where a few lived in wealth and ease while most of humanity was malnourished. In recent years about 20 million people a year in the poor nations face an early death from starvation and malnutrition. The right to a piece of land to build a home, or to start a farm or business, is a right o-f everyone, a right that should be exercised with wisdom, moderation and equity.
The Logic and Justice of Public Ownership of Land and Natural Resources
In the Bible, Leviticus 25:23 it states: "The land shall not be sold forever; for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me." We must reconsider the entire question of private ownership of land, since it has been such a cause of injustice and suffering throughout the centuries. John Adams remarked: "In every society where property exists there will ever be a struggle between the rich and the poor," With reference to land, the truth of that observation is quite apparent today. Thomas Spence (1750-1S14) wrote: "If we really want to get rid of these evils from amongst men, we must destroy . . .the cause of them, which is private property in land . . .The land shall no longer be suffered to be the property of individuals, but of parishes." He spent a year in prison because of that statement. If we overcome our conditioned thinking about land ownership, and look at the world situation with clear-sighted honesty, we will be forced to admit that this truth is even more obvious today than in the time of Thomas Spence.
Early in the nineteenth century the philosopher Herbert Spencer wrote: "Such a doctrine (public ownership of land) is consistent with the highest state of civilization . . , <and> may be carried out without involving a community of goods, and need cause no very serious revolution in existing arrangements . . .Instead of being in the possession of individuals, the country would be held by the great corporate body -- society. Instead of leasing his acres from an isolated proprietor, the farmer would tease them from the nation ... A state so ordered would be in perfect harmony with the moral law. Under it all men would be equally landlords, all men would be alike free to become tenants.'
John Stuart Mill, a contemporary of Herbert Spencer, wrote: "When the sacredness of property' is talked of it should always be remembered, that any such sacredness does not belong in the same degree to landed property. No man made the land. It is the original inheritance of the whole species.'
Such ideas were as unpopular among the landed gentry in those times as they are among landholders in most nations today. However, in these times it is no longer as easy to suppress the masses, and the meek shall inherit the earth. Instead of heeding the wisdom of such economists and philosophers, the wealthy opted to follow the economic theories that perpetuated their control of the majority of the land and the wealth. Now we are about to enter a new age of greater spiritual maturity, and we can rise above the limited, immature and materialistic acquisitiveness of the past. The belief in the "sacredness" of private ownership of land is no longer acceptable. Land should be used for the benefit of all humanity, the living and those yet to be born. The earth belongs to God, and we are but temporary residents.
Public Ownership of Land» and Land Lease Rights
The right to lease the land we need, at a very low rate, will not interfere with ownership of whatever we create on the land during our lifetimes, if the lease is guaranteed for our lifetimes, under the condition that we accept our responsibility to take proper care of the land. At the end of the last century Henry George, one of the greatest proponents of public ownership of the nation's land, expressed quite ..clearly the difference between the property we create through our own efforts and talent, and land as property. "What is necessary for the use of land is not its private ownership, but the security of improvements. It is not necessary to say to a man, 'this land is yours', in order to induce him to cultivate or improve it. It is only necessary to say. to him, Whatever your labor or capital produces on this land shall be yours.' Give a man security that he may reap, and he will sow; assure him of the possession of the house he wants to build, and he will build it. These are the natural rewards of labor. It is for the sake of reaping that men sow; it is for the sake of possessing houses that men build. The ownership of the land has nothing to do with it.'
In recent years during the upheaval and change in Russia, the government there proposed that farmers be able to lease land to, farm, with the right to will the lease to their children. There was a great outcry from conventional American economists who claim that unless the farmers own the land they will not have the initiative to work the land. As we have pointed out, throughout the world almost all good agricultural land is owned by absentee landlords, and the farmers work for them, hardly earning a livelihood, and always subject to eviction from the land at the whim o-f the land owners. In the United States it has hardly been any better, as farmers mortgage .their farms to buy equipment, fuel, fertilizers, etc. until they lose their farms whenever there is a bad harvest or falling market prices. If the land is leased to the farmers, with the guarantee that they will have the use of the land during their lifetimes, if they: observe proper ecological and farming practices, with the right to will the lease to their children, free of fear of losing the land through foreclosure, this will bolster their initiative and lead to better farming as well as to peace of mind. The early Russian proposal is the path they should have followed, despite the outcry o-f conventional economists in the west.
Henry George proposed a rent on the use of land which would vary according to the value of the land. All land would belong to the public and could be occupied only for use. The people were to have the use of the land and the fruits of their labor on the land, without ownership of the land. Jeremy Rifkin, writing in Entropy, states that in a low entropy society, which is a society wherein energy and resource use is kept to a reasonable level, the concept of private property for the goods we create through our labor or grow on the land will be upheld, but not for the land or the non-renewable resources. More recently, in his book For the Common Good, Herman Daly restates the concepts of Henry George, as does Kirkpatrick Sale in his book Human Scale. Few other writers or economists, however, share this belief today, and support instead the conventional concept of the sacredness of private ownership of the land. As I have noted, some of the greatest injustices arise from exclusive ownership of the best land by the wealthy, and from the hundreds of thousands of square miles of land held out of use by land speculators. Jean Jacques Rousseau, in 17&2, wrote:
'The first man, who having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying 'this is mine', and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the.ditch, and crying to his fellows, 'beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth to nobody."
Conditioned Thinking about Land Ownership
People have been conditioned by the owners of land, especially the wealthy who own vast estates, that private ownership of land is somehow a divine right. This manner of thinking about land ownership is discussed by Henry George in his book Progress and Poverty. "We are so used to the treatment of land as individual property,.it is so thoroughly recognized in our laws, manners and customs, that the vast majority of people never think of questioning it, but look upon it as necessary to the use of land. They are unable to conceive, or at least it does not enter their minds to conceive, of society as existing without the reduction of land to private possession."
In recent decades, in "the United States, those who merely suggest public ownership of land are branded as communists (Marxist-Leninists), evil men who plot the destruction of the "holy" order established by our ancestors. The truth is that we should adopt whatever system is most suited to human progress, happiness, justice and spiritual development. If badly distorted versions of public ownership of land exist and have been wrongly used elsewhere in the world in the so-called "planned economies", that is certainly no reason to deny ourselves the bounties of a way of life that is far more beneficial to ourselves and our descendants than our present system.
Some radical socialists, or communists, believe that land, industry and agriculture all belong to the state, and hence all activities and production should be controlled and planned by the state. As Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard University noted in his book The New Industrial State, the concept of planned economy is becoming more and more an accepted feature of capitalistic economics having national and multi-national corporations. The failure of that concept is already quite apparent to many, and such an economic system is extreme and unacceptable. We must follow the path of moderation, the advice of all the Prophets of past ages, a wisdom whose day has come. Individual initiative and reasonable rights of free enterprise must be preserved, so that the human spirit can progress and the qualities of innovation, intuition and creativity may flourish,
Henry George proposed, and Herman Daly in For the Common Good made a somewhat similar suggestion, that a single land tax or rent replace most other taxes. I do not believe such a system would be adequate or equitable, so I suggest a modification. Land should be leased at a minimum fee, fairly set according to the location and value of the land, so as to not work any hardship on anyone needing land. Taxes levied for the community and national expenses-should be based entirely on net income, and regressive taxes eliminated except in rare and special circumstances.
The purpose of the land lease fee is to cover administrative costs of maintaining records and for inspection and supervision to prevent misuse of the land and destruction of the ecosystems. This is to prevent farming methods that destroy the soil or bring harm to others, to control factory waste disposal, to protect the trees and forests, and to assure that the land is handed on from one generation to the next in the best condition humanly possible. Mineral rights will remain the property of the state to benefit everyone, as is explained below. -
We are stewards of this earth as well as beneficiaries of its bounties, so we must do our utmost to preserve it as we find it, and to improve it where necessary, wise and feasible. We have a responsibility to God and our fellow human beings to work together to make this earth a better-place for everyone, living or yet to be born. This, of course, means cooperation with our immediate neighbors as well as with people throughout the world, improving our own corner of the earth and assisting other people to improve their lands.
In order to Keep the land open and in as good a condition as possible, no one should be permitted to build more than one home. In Western nations huge tracts of land are despoiled by those who build vacation houses which sit idle most of the year, wasting lumber and other increasingly scarce resources, polluting ground water with sewage from septic fields, and doing other ecological damage. In the future the cities, counties, provinces or states can build a minimum. of vacation cabins to rent throughout the year in resort areas, a practice already in use in some nations.
When someone dies and one of the descendants does not have a home, the residence of the deceased and his/her land lease could be inherited by that individual but no one should own more than one dwelling. The value of the dwelling when sold to a new lease-holder, would then go to the descendants. 1f some prefer living in apartments such buildings can be constructed by the community or a cooperative, using low interest loans from community banks. These buildings will remain the property of the cooperative or the community and the land will be leased like any other land from the government.
If someone wants to start a farm, the necessary land should be made available with a lifetime lease. Final approval of the site will be up to the public land administrators, so that only land suitable -for the particular type of farming envisioned will be leased to the applicant. The size of a farm will also be variable according to the location and weather as well as its suitability of use by one family, or very limited cooperative operation. Beyond a certain sise family or cooperative farms become increasingly inefficient as far as land stewardship is concerned, Efficiency of operation, environmental impact and preservation of the health of the ecosystem will all enter into the decision making. In countries where the people .are inexperienced in managing their own farms and finances, they should be provided with adequate education and financial aid when they begin to operate their own independent farms. The same is true o-f cooperatives, and when such guidance and aid is provided they have proven successful, and when it is not provided many such cooperatives face possible failure.
Inspection and supervision when necessary or requested, at reasonable intervals, will guarantee that proper farming practices are followed to insure the preservation o-f the soil, proper concern for the ecology, and to prevent pollution. As with personal homes, it will be possible for farms to be inherited by a descendant who does not already own a farm or a lease on other land (or the second lease could be surrendered in order to inherit the farm). Otherwise the farm will accure to the governments so that the land may be leased again and the added value of the buildings, equipment, etc. will go either to the heirs, if they exist, or to the public treasury, depending on circumstances and inheritance laws, through sale to whoever takes over the land lease.
This system of land lease will obviate the problems that exist. today when farms become so large that destructive methods of farming, are employed which lead to .soil erosion and depletion of soil -fertility. It also prevents some farmers from having more land than they can use when employing proper -farming techniques, while other farmers are forced onto marginal land. It also eliminates fear of losing land through foreclosure, which has driven so many small farmers off the land. If a farmer moves to another locale, he would lose his original land lease, but could sell the buildings and other improvements made on the land at a fair price. Land could not be used for collateral for loans since it would belong to the state, and some system to protect loans through adequate insurance on improvements such as houses and other buildings would have to be devised. In a later chapter the question of publicly owned (cooperative) banks and loan institutions is discussed, which will provide loans with the lowest possible interest rates so as to not overburden farmers with debt.
Land for businesses will be made available for lease to individuals or groups after architectural and environmental requirements have been carefully considered. The ugly and inappropriate architectural monstrosities that have cluttered most American cities should not be permitted, so that wherever people live there is beauty and harmony. Herman Daly has pointed out that in a low entropy or steady state economy, small energy efficient firms will be the norm in the future, since they are more innovative, resource efficient and better suited to human psychological needs. Environmental and ecological problems, size and structure of companies, and the subject of architecture are important considerations for industry as well as for communities.
Timber and mineral resources belong to the people and their exploitation must be regulated for the benefit of all. Just as land is a natural resource not created by the labor of man, so are minerals and natural growth on the land not the creation of any man but a bounty of earth that is nghtfully the property of the people as a whole. Not only are these things essential to the welfare of the entire economy but their use effects the environment which in turn affects everyone. This, of course, does not apply to agricultural produce which is the result of the industry of the farmer. The availability of minerals is vital to the economy of the nation and their use must be moderated so that they will last as long as possible. Careful supervision of the mining and of non-renewable resources is extremely important because of mounting energy costs and the shrinking availability of minerals. The health of everyone and of the biosphere as well depends on the maintenance of the forests we have, and the act of reforestation where we have destroyed previously existing forests. Therefore the leasing of such land will not hand over control of the resources to any individual or group.
These suggestions for leasing land should be altered as necessary to harmonize with cultural and national differences, and according to the needs of the particular geographical location. The problem of overpopulation, which is partly a religious problem, must also be resolved since this affects all aspects of the economy and land availability over time. The purpose of these proposals is to alleviate human suffering, to encourage Justice and to assure that all people have the right to land, to homes and to gainful employment. Rigidity in thinking and planning should be assiduously avoided, and we must constantly seek ways that will best insure physical and spiritual health for everyone, as well as the stability and progress of society in all nations. Before long it will be considered normal for everyone to have the right to the use of a piece of land for a home, a business or a farm,
As crisis follows crisis, and civil wars and revolutions spread around the world, it is increasingly imperative that we act to alleviate the ills that beset humanity. By whatever means possible and with as little social upheaval as possible the nations should act to reform the present systems of land ownership and control. Now is the time to act.
^ CHAPTER 5
THE WORLD'S FORESTS
Loss of forests throughout the world has meant the loss of topsoil, climate changes, devastating floods, destruction of watersheds and water supplies, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and a spiritual defeat for humanity. When we understand what private industry and individuals have done to our land and forests we begin to realize the need for public ownership and wise supervision of all lands and forests. These natural resources which belong to all humanity, living and unborn, must be safeguarded and nurtured. Land developers and lumber companies have wreaked havoc wherever they have gone. Even their occasional limited attempts to make amends or reparations -for what they have done are based on the desire to improve short-term money profits, or to establish good public relations, and not on any real concern -for the ecology or human welfare. Our elected representatives, either through lack o-f comprehension or lack of concern, have gone along with the demands of the large corporations in the misuse of forests and the land. Of course there are a very -few concerned and conscientious politicians, but they are like voices crying in the wilderness of indifference. In our spiritual immaturity we have sacrificed the ecology in the process of building what we call civilization, just as our ancestors have done in past ages, only today the destruction is far more widespread and massive,
De-forestation in Past Ages
The Apennine Mountains in Italy and much of the Mediterranean region were once covered with luxuriant forests of beech, evergreen oak and Aleppo pine, and now they are largely grassy hills or bare limestone slopes. The mountains of Greece are now mostly barren and rocky and the mountains of Italy have only a few scattered forests. In the grassy highlands of Iran, away from the hot desert, in the region where Teheran is situated, it is said that there were once extensive -forests which were cut down by Ghengis Khan as punishment for the resistance of the Persians to his armies. Rezah Shah started to successfully reforest certain areas in Iran until he became enamored by the militarization of his nation and directed all his energies and treasury to that dead end.
The mountains of Lebanon once contained extensive -forests of cedar with groves of oak, pine and fir. In 3000 B.C. the Phoenicians began to cut the trees for sale to other nations ,for shipbuilding and other construction. The rulers o-f Egypt, Mesopotamia, Macedonia and Israel sent thousands of laborers to cut and haul away the trees of Lebanon, until after 3000 years of destruction the Emperor Hadrian (117 to 13S B.C.) declared the forests Imperial domain and forbade further cutting. Those who came after the Romans completed the destruction of the forests, and with the help of sheep and goats destroyed even new growth. Now tons of topsoil have been washed away and only scattered clumps of trees remain.
Europeans took their destructive wood cutting habits and their sheep and goats with them to the new world, and soon created deserts and barren rocky mountains in much of the North, Central and South America. The Plains Indians in North America helped by burning down forests to increase buffalo herds, which they also destroyed in excess, until Europeans almost wiped out all remaining buffalo. Since then the destruction has been accelerated with modern logging equipment and the pollution of acid rain. In the state of Para, Brazil,180,000 square kilometers of tropical forest were destroyed between 1976 and 1996, whereas in the 100 preceding years only 18,000 square miles were burned or cut by settlers. As we will see in the chapter on agriculture, present farming practices and animal husbandry contribute to the loss of topsoil in areas that once held forests.
Destruction of Forests in this Century
In 1950 approximately one-fourth of the earth's lands were covered by forests, and by 1990 it was less than one-fifth. Each year the forested areas shrink by an area equivalent to the nation of Hungary, and as the population increases exponentially, the -forests shrink ever. more rapidly. On the American continent the exploitation of forests is approaching its final stages. Federal figures show that on private land in the United States timber is being cut down 60 percent faster than it can grow, and in the national -forests 45 percent faster than the growth rate. Vast. areas of tropical forest are either being cut for hardwoods and paper pulp, or burned down to create pasture land to raise cattle for American or European markets. According to an FAO study over 9 million acres of tropical forest are cleared in South and Central America each year.
In a tropical rain forest light is diffused, humidity is high, temperatures are constant, and these -forests generally receive a rainfall of about 100 inches a year. The trees in such a forest depend on one another, providing humus for future trees when they die, thereby counteracting the leaching action of, the heavy rainfall. When such forests are destroyed the soil becomes lateritic and. hard in a couple of years, useless for growing crops or grazing cattle. The trees depend-on birds and animals to disperse their seeds; otherwise the forest dies out in time. Rainforests are such a delicately balanced ecosystem that they are highly vulnerable to-even slight changes. As much as three-quarters of a million acres of rainforest must be preserved to protect-its ecosystem; any section smaller than this, and the species begin to disappear,
If extensive deforestation in the Amazon continues it will impair the capacity of that tropical system to recycle rainfall inland, setting in motion a self-reinforcing process that could dry out the Amazonian region. Tropical rain forests are typically too wet to burn naturally, but when the forests are degraded by excessive cutting or slash-and-burn farming, the moisture level drops to the point where forest fires are possible. In 1982 and 1983 seven forest fires spread through Indonesia's East Kaimantan province and Malaysia's Sabah province, both on the island of Borneo, destroying 3.5 million hectares of tropical rain forest, an area about the size of Taiwan.
The United States demands that Latin American nations and other Third World countries preserve their rain forests to prevent carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, but our government makes little or no effort to preserve our own temperate rain forests. In Alaska we are in the process of destroying the Tongas. National Forest, the only remaining "intact" rain forest in North America. Even though the demand for Alaskan timber has declined, and since 1981 the Forest Service lost about $50 million a year on its access-road building to make cutting. easier for lumber companies, the agency continues to cut roads through pristine stands of timber needlessly destroying irreplaceable forest. In Oregon and Washington thousands of square miles of rain forest have been clear-cut, and only a small fraction has been replanted. It is estimated that over 45 percent of Oregon's forests have been completely destroyed and never replanted.
Deforestation in the Himalayan Mountains has resulted in several devastating floods in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, resulting in widespread destruction of lives and crops, leading to famine and severe financial hardships. In India the lives of 20 million people are indirectly disrupted in the average year and as many as fifty million are affected by severe flooding. In August 1973 a flood in Pakistan covered nearly two million hectares of standing crops and ten thousand villages, dissolving the adobe houses and leaving thousands without shelter. Of .course the flooding will continue wherever there is extensive deforestation and heavy rains. The flood in Florence, Italy in November 1966 was directly related to the deforestation of the nearby Apennines Mountains, and it filled downtown streets with 13 -feet of water, damaging or destroying art treasures worth millions of dollars, not to mention the damage done, to the old buildings of that ancient city.
Large scale destruction of forests (euphemistically called "harvesting") causes not only flooding, but the rapid run-off of water, unrestrained by vegetation it also carries away the soil, which silts up streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The life expectancy of some reservoirs used for hydroelectric power or irrigation, has been reduced by as much as 50 to 75 percent. The logging practices that silt up streams make them useless for spawning fish and cause a significant drop in the fish population. Stripping trees from the banks of streams causes water temperatures to rise to levels intolerable to -fish in some climatic zones. -
In California, along the Eel and Mad rivers, the forest topsoil has been eroded and destroyed 10 to 100 times faster than it can regenerate, according to Clyde Wahrhafting of the University of California. Clear-cutting, indiscriminate placement of skid-trails, bulldozing new roads, and generally poor logging practices all contribute to the destruction of forest lands. Roads cut into forests for logging purposes contribute to the erosion, and by 1970 there were 15,812 miles of such roads in the national forests of the United States. The American people should be aware of the money lost to taxpayers by providing timber for private corporations, and even the Forest Service conceded that 37 percent of its timber is being sold below cost, but non-governmental sources estimate the losses to be much higher. Losses to the U.S. taxpayer in the fiscal year 1989 amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Complex interactions between vegetation, soils and water supplies are altered as human demands overwhelm the regenerative capacities of local biological systems. In India the demands of 785 million people for food and fuelwood, and the grazing demands of 260 million cattle and 120 million goats and sheep» have steadily reduced vegetative cover. Some 16 percent of India's forest cover was lost between 1973 and 1981, leading to desertification and -flooding. It is apparent that the problems of preserving and restoring forest throughout the world is not only of local concern, but should be one of the considerations of a future world Federal Government.
Acid Rain and Desertification
In the Sahelian zone south of the Sahara Desert human and livestock populations have increased rapidly, nearly doubling in some areas, during the last thirty-five years. The result has been overgrazing, deforestation, and over-all denudation of the land. This has been aggravated by several consecutive years of drought. By the early seventies the number of animals maintained in the region was double the carrying capacity of the biological system. This has caused the desert to move southward all along a 3,500 mile southern edge, from Senegal in the west to northern Ethiopia in the east. In the more devastated areas the desert is expanding up to 30 miles per year, and as humans and livestock retreat before the encroaching desert they put greater pressure on the -fringe areas, which creates a self-reinforcing cycle of over-grazing and deforestation.
Since world war II a new threat to the continued existence of the world forests came to prominence in the form of acid rain. In America the most dramatic effects of acid rain appeared in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, Canada and in the Appalachians as far south as West Virginia. In West Germany it is estimated that acid rain damage covers one-third of their forests, over 560,000 hectares. In 1982, 60 percent of West German fir trees suffered damage, and a year later over 75 percent of them were suffering.
There is no question that the damage from acid rain has been increasing. From 1964 to 1979 half the mid to high-elevation red spruce trees in Vermont had died. In Sweden all bodies of fresh water are acidic, roughly fifteen thousand of them unable to support aquatic life. In Czechoslovakia (prior to its division into two nations) 500?000 hectares are reported to have acid rain damage to the trees. In Poland another 500,000 hectares of forest face extinction. Similar accounts of threatened -forests have come in from England, Switzerland and Yugoslavia (prior to its division into separate nations). Acid rain has been recorded in China and California, as well as in as unlikely a place as Hawaii. Rain-fall in Southern China has grown more acidic than it is on the Atlantic seaboard, and in the American West the pH of rainfall has fallen to the point where two-thirds of the region's lakes are acidic. In the future positive steps must end this problem forever, to prevent an ecological disaster that affects the topsoil, air pollution, destruction of plant and animal species, climate deterioration, depletion' of the ozone layer and an increase in the Greenhouse Effect from the gases that contribute to acid rain.
Studies done by Dr. Hubert W. Vogelmann, Dr. Richard Klein and Margaret Bliss at the University of Vermont show that the acid rain that has fallen in the north-eastern United States is at least 30 to 40 times more acidic than pre-industrial rain. If the soils do not contain sufficient lime to neutralize the sulfuric and nitric acids from the rain and fog, the acids combine with valuable nutrients for the trees, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium, and leach them from the soil at an accelerated rate. Falling on the leaves of the trees, it also leaches away minerals important to the health of the plants, and it can also damage the waxy coating of the leaves, leaving them open to attack by fungi and bacteria. Mycorrhizae, a complex symbiotic fungus-root association, is often essential to healthy tree growth, and the destruction of the fungal component by acid rain is enough to weaken the trees.
Heavy metals are carried along in the atmosphere with the acid rain, and tests at the University of Vermont show that exposure to either acid rain or a heavy metal will stunt a plant. When exposed to the two combined all plants show a sharp decline that can kill them. Inorganic aluminum in the soil is insoluble, but acid rain can convert it into a soluble form which is taken up by the roots of the plants, killing the young roots that supply the plants with water; with water intake reduced -the leaves and branches dry and wither. Bernard Ulrich at the University of Gottingen says that as the level of soluble aluminum in the soil goes up, more roots are destroyed, the leaves drop off, and the trees or other plants die.
In the less stressed areas even an experienced forester often cannot see any changes in the trees that would indicate slower growth; only careful measurements over time show how much pollutants are stressing trees.'The annual growth of yellow pines, a major species which cover. 42 million hectares in the Southwest United States, declined by as much as 30 to 50 percent between 1955 to 1985. From 1975 to 1985 the dead pines increased from 9 percent of all trees to 15 percent. A remarkably similar decline occurred in the tree growth rates in Central Siberia over the last few decades.
In the industrial nations no really significant effort has been made to cut down on acid rain because money profits are still more important in their considerations than human welfare. Wlodek Goldkorn in L'Espresso of Rome (March 1984) reported that the Soviet Union was the first among Europe's polluters, emitting 25 million tons of sulfur dioxide annually. Britain. was the second worst polluter, followed by East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The Russians, at that time, claimed that the "obligations of the economy overrule other considerations", and today, of course, their economy has collapsed. In North America the United States is by far the worst polluter, but no action of any significance has been taken as of 1993, nor since that date, for reasons similar to those of Russia back in 1984. We are studying the problem to death, taking only minor action, while forests and lakes are being devastated. It is difficult to understand a civilization in which the requirements and profits of industries come before the. health and welfare of the very people they are created to serve, and upon whom their very. existence depends. How can we reconcile such an attitude with the ethical teachings of any of the great religions, which tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, or even to prefer our neighbors to ourselves? It is as Baha'u'llah wrote in the last century: . ".... .The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men . . . If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation. . , ,"
Other Factors in the Destruction of Forests
Another cause of the destruction of forest lands is the increasing number of second homes constructed in the forested areas of the mountains, along the sea coasts, and other vacation areas. Already, by 1974, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, three million Americans owned second homes, and several million more owned lots in vacation spots along the beaches, on lakes, in the -forests and on the deserts. In California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and New England, the mountainsides and valleys have been subdivided and developed. Tree cutting and bulldozing is causing the erosion of hillsides and the silting up of streams and lakes.
In New Hampshire there are at least 60,000 vacation homes. In Vermont, where at least 25,000 vacation homes already exist, about 6,000 more acres were set aside for that purpose in 1974. In New York 3.7 million acres of land in the Adirondack Mountains near the Adirondack Forest Preserve have been purchased for vacation homes. Besides the destruction of forests and topsoil, these developments pollute the ground water because of the extensive use of septic tanks and leach fields. As we have proposed in the previous chapter, no one will be permitted to lease land for more than one home, and where reasonable, states will construct small vacation cabins to rent to whoever reserves them for limited times. All such construction will be done with extreme care to preserve the trees and topsoil, and to harmonize with the natural surroundings.
The world-wide destruction of forests and forest soils by timber cutting, burning, over-grazing, road constructing, unnecessary and wasteful vacation home construction, and from acid rain, is an ecological disaster of first magnitude. In 1970 Harrison Loesch, then Assistant Secretary of the Interior, said that "80 percent of the private forest lands have been cut, and have not been put back into timber production." That land is being used largely for agriculture, land development projects, or mining. While some strangely misinformed and unrealistically optimistic people proclaim that our forest are better than they have ever been, the lumber companies are cutting timber on private and public lands 45 percent (or more) faster than it can be regrown.
The continued existence of healthy forests is more important to man than the uses he finds for wood, and great wisdom is required in the exploitation of our forests. Forest plants absorb between 10 and 15 percent of incident sunlight, moderating the climate beneficially over entire regions, as well as in their immediate vicinity. Trees affect the transfer of water from the ground to air by transpiration, which has a beneficial effect on the climate. Trees help create new topsoil by their deep root systems, which help break up and extract the minerals from the bedrock. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is partially counteracted by the vegetable biomass on the earth, which gives added significance to maintaining our forests. Trees provide watersheds which help maintain ground water levels and prevent flooding and erosion.-It is believed that certain broadleaf trees are useful in reducing air pollution in cities, where they are being planted for that very purpose. Although some people prefer desert's, and would like to see the world turned into a giant cue ball, most people find trees and -forest a source of pleasure, a psychological necessity, and in forests they find a form of physical and spiritual rejuvenation.
Many assume that a forest is like a crop of wheat, that it can be repeatedly cut and regrown over an indefinite time. This, however, is far from the truth; large forests are almost impossible to fertilize, except by natural means, by the trees themselves. Research in the Netherlands discovered that in green forests for every 151 grams of exchangeable magnesium in the soil, 70 grams were locked up in the dominant species of trees. Also removal of the large timber from the test plot would have removed one-third of the potassium present in the whole nutrient cycle of that particular ecosystem. It is clear then that only by using the best of forestry practices, in moderation, can the forests be maintained in good health, because o-f the rapid depletion of the necessary soil nutrients. It is true that there are usually plenty of the essential minerals locked up in the rock particles of the soil and subsoil, but they are released at a very slow rate by weathering and bacterial action, and to an extent by tree roots, too slow for the life span of a generation of trees.
When trees are cut and hauled away they take with them a large portion of the soil nutrients which are replaced only after a long period of time, if erosion does not wash away the topsoil.. The soil simply cannot replenish the necessary nutrients as quickly as necessary to provide for the trees at the rate they can be cut and regrown. That is why in second or third growth forests trees often die under the least drought, or are especially susceptible to disease or acid rain, because of the stress conditions due to nutrient poor topsoil, thinned down by erosion. The second and third growth trees will show a gradual decline in quality and growth rates. Forests are a renewable resource only to a very limited degree, and only if very different forestry practices than those that have been generally used are adopted.
Care of Forests in the New Age
In the future care of forests we can benefit from the lessons learned by the Germans in forestry management. After 1840 the Germans engaged in a very artificial form of forestry management, similar to the methods employed by lumber companies in the United States today. They clear-cut their forests and replanted to the species of trees in greatest demand, Just as Weyerhauser and other U..S. lumber companies have done. The former broad-leaved trees were not planted since they were considered "weed trees". It was found that continued production of these monoculture forests damaged the soil by breaking down the circulatory system of the soil, and increasing the podsolization (which increases soil acidity). Losses to insects, diseases and storms increased, and by the third generation the trees were declining in growth rate and quality. After 1918 the Germans went back to a more natural type of forest, as close to the original forest as possible, with a mixture of broad-leaf and conifer trees. Clear cutting was replaced by selective cutting, and logging practices were adopted that do as little damage as possible to the topsoil or to other trees. This system, known as Dauerwald, increased yields and improved the forest lands. The public must be educated in the care and management of trees and forests, especially in the regions where timber is grown. For all the reasons mentioned in this chapter, timber resources must be considered as a public treasure, with "harvesting" strictly supervised , and the preservation of the forests and the ecology among the primary concerns,
Public land in the United States, which is under the supervision of the U.S. Forestry Department or the Bureau of Land management, is very poorly managed, with taxpayers paying for the construction and maintenance of lumber roads and most costs of reforestation, which is equivalent to a cash subsidy -for lumber companies, a form of corporate welfare. The long-term requirements of the people and the land, for present and future generations, have taken a poor second to the short-term profit motives of private corporations, cattlemen and politicians. With public ownership of the land and the forests, supervision must be done with an entirely new intuitive relationship with the ecology and a spiritual attitude toward all humanity, which takes into account both existing and -future needs of all people throughout the .world. Obviously such an attitude toward humanity and the earth has been very weak in society, but if we are to survive we need a rebirth of conscience and a new degree of maturity.
In the future, on any leased land used for homes, farms or any other purpose, no trees ought to be cut without special permission of the body supervising the land use and protection. That body will be in contact-with national and international bodies overseeing the world forestry situation so that local decisions relate to the general needs of humanity with respect to forests and climates, protection of the atmosphere and the preservation of threatened plant and animal species. Timber cutting for any construction uses, for paper pulp, or any synthetic products must be carefully controlled, and a fair price paid for all timber cut. Adequate time must be allowed for new growth to allow the soil nutrients to be maintained, new methods of planting (as noted above) must be adopted, and logging practices must be modified to prevent soil erosion and damage to other trees. Reforestation must become an international concern and most of the forests that have been destroyed should, when possible, be replaced and others brought back to their former condition of health.
Wood should be used as little as possible in building construction and, as discussed in the chapter on land reform, no one should own more than one home. We should return to the use of more durable materials, as were used in previous generations and ages. Stone, brick, stabilized adobe, cement and a host of new materials will outlast wood by hundreds of years. Americans must overcome their habit of constantly tearing down and rebuilding and should concentrate on more durable, better designed and beautiful buildings. In my travels in the East (India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, etc.) I saw buildings from civilizations from 2,000 years ago, or more, with stone and concrete walls still intact, whereas the buildings of wood and unstabilized adobe were gone. There is no reason why we cannot create superior buildings.where wood is used only for those parts of the building where it is absolutely essential.
The mania for packaged goods and throwaway paper products cannot continue. It is said that to produce one Sunday issue of the. New York Times it requires 175 acres of trees, -- or 63,000 trees -- to make the necessary paper. Multiply this by all the newspapers that are printed each day, throughout the nation, mostly unread, and the number of trees fed into printing presses reaches a staggering total of about 220 million trees per year. There is, at present, a very limited amount of paper recycling, but that is not sufficient to solve the problem of excessive use of timber for newspapers. Each ton of newspaper made from recycled paper rather than wood, lowers energy use by one fourth to three fifths, and air pollutants by some 75 percent. Newspapers should be much smaller, without the excessive advertising that .uses most of. the pages. The use of paper for food packaging must be greatly reduced as well. When I lived in Europe people carried their own shopping bags, usually woven of some long-lasting material, to the market whenever they shopped. This is a practice that is presently being adopted on a very small scale in the United States by a few environmentalist types, but it should be more widely accepted, eliminating the need for paper or plastic bags.
In -this chapter I have attempted to create an awareness of our responsibility for the forests and of their importance to society in all nations o-f the world. The day we learn to live in peace and harmony with all of creation we will develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of nature and of our relationship to all things. Then the operating principle will no longer be to destroy and possess, but to love and work in harmony with the ecology. Then we will express our new sense of responsibility by creating beauty on earth, by restoring and nurturing the forests and other bounties of nature given to us by God. We will care for one another sharing the bounties of' this life with the people of all nations, and with the children in ages to come.
^ CHAPTER 6
CONSERVATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF MINERAL RESOURCES
Depletion of Mineral Resources
It is impossible tor the industrialized nations of the world to continue their profligate waste of mineral resources that has been the practice in Western civilization and Eastern nations during the 20th century. We must realise the limitations of the earth's resources and plan for the future, regardless of the changes and advances in coming centuries of the new age, in order to institute laws that will lead to the conservation of those resources threatened with total depletion in the near future. In the last half century new mineral deposits have become increasingly difficult to find and the rate of new discoveries has fallen off sharply despite increased exploration and new metnods of detecting mineral deposits. It must always be remembered that the supply of minerals m the earth is never inexhaustible and moderation in the exploitation of any mineral resource must become a way of life. From 1940 to 1991, despite extensive prospecting with all the new devices available almost no major ore deposits were discovered, and over 90 percent of the metal mines existing in 1991 were in production before 1940.
Those who believe that new technological discoveries will solve all problems of shortages, trust that whenever any vital metal is depleted a substitute will be found. This is occasionally true but there are limits because substitutes are often far more costly than the original metal being replaced or they depend on another scarce resource; an example is synthetic products made from oil, and as noted in chapter 3 the manufacture of synthetic products is a source of toxic poisons in the environment. As technology advances, not fewer, but more uses are found for minerals because each chemical has unique properties and so the demand for a larger variety is never exhausted. To expect that technology will find a solution to all shortages is not realistic and we have to be pragmatic about existing supplies if we care about the future.
Obviously it is extremely difficult to give accurate forecasts on how long any supply of metals will last. It is clear that the supply of all resources is finite and steps must be taken to conserve all resources, regardless of any reduction in the world's population. In the 1980s,when the population was increasing at an astronomical rate, extrapolations were made concerning how long then existing resources would last. One estimate reported that 11 of the 16 most important metals would be depleted shortly before the year 2000, and that only iron and chromium were in sufficient amounts to last until the middle of the next century. However, in the magazine Scientific American they published an estimate which indicated that if the population at that time (1990) continued to grow at the rate as in the 1980s, by the year 2030 we would have enough aluminum resources to last 407 more years, enough copper for 26 more years, enough cobalt for 40 more years, enough molybdenum for 33 more year, enough coal for 457 more years, and enough petroleum for 7 more years. Such a prediction cannot be more than relatively accurate , and today we can see some of the errors, but it does indicate that we are very short of some metals, and even if you arbitrarily add 100 or 260 more years to those estimates, the picture is still not bright. Even with a sharp decline in population we must adopt a simpler and more economical lifestyle.
Some say that there are plenty of minerals in the earth, and that is true enough, but as the concentration near enough the surface to be economically mined decreases, the cost of extraction increases, until it only becomes feasible to extract some minerals for the most vital needs, where cost is not important. The use of bacterial enzymes to leach copper from ore is a promising development in the use of biological discoveries but copper is only one metal, and this does not mean that we can profitably use copper ores with very small concentrations of metal. Biological extraction of minerals will not compensate for the vast amount of energy required to mine and pulverize huge quantities o-f ore for a very small yield of metal. The energy required as mining becomes more difficult, and the damage to the ecology, which is always of utmost importance to humanity, are two of the major limiting factors in recovering minerals.
We will be obliged to establish a steady state economy, where the use of resources is strictly regulated, recycling is mandatory for metals and other resources where recycling is cost efficient, and where everyone lives a simpler life with greater sharing of machines and technological devices. As this present civilization ends, and we enter a new age of maturity, it cannot be repeated often enough that if we love our children and are concerned about the future of humanity, we cannot afford to act as if the world ends when we die. Beyond the depletion of resources the exploitation of minerals and the processing of synthetic fuels bring threats to the environment and to human health that must be taken into consideration.
Damage to Health and Environment Caused by Mining and Refining Minerals
Strip mining for coal or other minerals can destroy large sections of land for future use, and poison miles of streams and groundwater. Strip mining for coal in Illinois is on some of the best agricultural land, covering some 204,952 acres, with thousands more scheduled to be strip mined. Even if such valuable farmland is reclaimed by existing techniques, it will not be useful -for regular farming for many, many years while the soil slowly rejuvenates. Strip mining for coal has also ruined thousands of acres of valuable land in the Southern states. • - • -
Underground mining can also be dangerous to the ecosystems. In Plumas County, California, the old Walker copper mine polluted some twelve miles of watershed during the 45 years after it was shut down, killing all forms of life in the soil, and in the streams that formerly had some of the best trout fishing in the state. The plans in the 1980s to increase the use of arsenic to extract gold from ores posed. another serious threat to the-ecology, as past use of this chemical poisoned streams and groundwater adjoining the extraction mills.
Some believe that the floors of the oceans will provide for all of our future mineral needs. This certainly has limited possibilities for a certain time, if we carefully protect the ecosystems in the seas. This will require an entirely new ethical appreciation of the marine ecology before such mining can be made safe. The chemical makeup of the atmosphere is in large part regulated by the oceans, as we have -seen in chapter 3 on the ecology, and the expenses involved in protecting-the dynamic equilibrium of the biosphere make ocean mining a very costly and unwise investment with many-of the same problems involved in ocean farming.
Phytoplankton in the oceans furnish from 30 to 70 percent of the oxygen that all plants on earth contribute to the atmosphere. Damage has already been done to this source of oxygen by biocides used in agriculture and from industrial discharges, all of which ultimately end up in the oceans. Since we have also been destroying the forests faster than they are being replanted, we can ill afford a further attack on the natural regulators of our oxygen supply. Mining of certain minerals in the oceans releases toxic chemicals which destroy plant and animal life, some of which are extremely delicate.
The proposal for sweeping the ocean floors to recover, manganese nodules can upset the delicate marine ecology by destroying organisms swept up with the nodules. The seas also regulate the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, up to a certain point, not merely by absorption into the water, but also in the shells of tiny organisms such as the cocco lithopores found in plankton, which carry a certain amount of carbon dioxide to the ocean floors, when they die. All of these .factors must be considered by mature, responsible governments through international agreements before any ocean mining is ever begun. Our continued existence on earth outweighs the material benefits of mineral resources that may be in or on ocean bottoms, or in the sea water itself.
Producing synthetic fuels by converting, coal or oil-bearing shale is not energy efficient, since the energy used in conversion, is usually: greater than the amount of energy in the fuels produced. The oil produced from oil bearing shale in Colorado cost about four times more than petroleum from oil wells, and resulted in a net loss of energy. There are also the problems of the excessive water requirements of the conversion processes, in addition to the fact that these processes produce polycyclic hydrocarbons which cause cancer when in contact with the skin, which is very dangerous for workers health, and these processes also release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere as noted in chapter 3.
Fresh water is another resource that is beginning to be in short supply because of excessive use in agriculture and industry, waste by the public, and because of poisoning by various biocides and factory discharges. In the U.S. alone industry use over 100 cubic miles of water each year in manufacturing processes. The energy industry consumes tremendous amounts of water, and a 10,000 megawatt power plant such as the one in the Four Corners area of New Mexico requires 230,000 acre feet of water per year (230,000 acres covered with one foot of water). Production of synthetic fuels from coal, shale or tar sands requires more water than the available supply in the Midwest, where most of the proposed plants were to have been located. Strip mining uses about 0.7 to 1.6 gallons of water per million BTU, and coal conversion uses between 30 and 200 gallons per million BTU. Had we continued to produce synthetic fuel under conditions existing at this time, we would have greatly reduced agricultural production in the Midwest states targeted, and for the sake of needless and excessive use of motor vehicles we would have destroyed land and water vital to food supplies and human consumption. In the future we should question the wisdom of any plan for production of any synthetic fuel, including ethanol. With public ownershp of mineral resources, in a mature society with a steady state economy, wise supervision and control of all mining for the manufacturing of any synthetic products will be essential.
Recycling and Conservation - -
In this century the United States consumed most of the earth's remaining non-renewable resources, and for the rest of the world to catch up with our consumption, and our material standard of living, it would, have. to consume 200 times the 1990 output of such resources. This is obviously impossible, and yet the-people of the underdeveloped nations would like to raise their material standard of living to a level of moderate comfort with a bare minimum of those things we call "absolute necessities", such as adequate sewage disposal, fresh and safe water supplies, enough food to maintain health, and a modest home with a few pieces of decent furniture. This will never be possible unless we are willing to live with less ourselves, to be content with a simple and dignified life, to never repeat the incredible waste we have been guilty of in recent decades, and to work for Justice throughout the world. Inequity in the world is one of the major causes of war, and unless we take positive steps in our individual and collective lives to correct these wrongs, our prayers for peace cannot be very sincere.
Each year since World War II an estimated 11 million tons of iron and steel, 800 thousand tons of aluminum and 400 tons of other metals ended up in various forms in American trash heaps. In New York alone residents discarded 24,000 tons of materials each day, which consisted of valuable metals, reusable glass containers, paper and plastic as well as food and hazardous wastes. Under such conditions recycling could lead to a tremendous savings in energy and pollution costs. Complete recycling of all the iron, copper and aluminum could save the energy equivalent of about 7 million-gallons of gasoline per year. As we have noted, trash should not be burned for generating electricity or other purposes, unless there is absolute assurance that it contains no substances that will form toxic chemicals when burned.
Recycling one ton of steel saves releasing 200 pounds of pollutants into the air, and 102 pounds into water supplies. The 6,700 gallons of water normally used in refining one ton of steel is never used, which is of great importance in protecting the fresh water supply. Using returnable bottles also leads to tremendous savings, for it has been found that throwaway bottles use 3.1l times the energy consumed as when returnable bottles are used. Producing aluminum -from scrap instead o-f bauxite cuts energy usage and air pollution by 95 percent. Using recycled paper instead of cutting virgin forests saves the energy used by up to three-quarters, and requires less than half as much water. At present the corporations do not figure the costs of water and air pollution into their production costs, which are borne by the public, but in the future these costs must be counted as a production cost for the companies, and this will be a great inducement to using recycled materials. All these benefits of recycling have an additional bonus, they help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, and recycling should be part of the effort to prevent climate deterioration.
Of all the metals aluminum is one of the most plentiful in the earthy crust, but it is also one of the most difficult to extract and the energy consumed in refining bauxite requires a greater share of production costs than mining the raw materials. Recycling aluminum uses only 5 percent of the energy required to refine it from bauxite, and each beverage can recycled saves the energy equivalent of about half a gallon of gasoline (electricity is used, not fossil fuels). Recycling one ton of aluminum saves refining four tons of bauxite as well as the equivalent of 700 kilograms of petroleum products. Of all beverage cans that have been used in the United States, 94 percent have been of aluminum, over 66 billion cans. If we are to continue to use aluminum for packaging in the future, we will have to do a better job of recycling various aluminum products (cans, auto parts, etc.), not only because of the great amount of electrical energy that will be saved, but also because of the pollution from mining and refining. -
Conventional Western economists measure our standard of living by the amount of goods consumed annually, assuming that "quantity" in life equates with "quality" of life. Actually the more material possessions we have the more burdensome they become, requiring endless care and maintenance for the person with the average income. When we learn to live a simple life, eliminating the unnecessary possessions, being content with little, we become less tense, discover new meanings in life and gain greater peace of mind.
In the past, when the world was made up of independent city-states, relatively isolated from one another, the need for sharing the earth's resources was not of major concern. Today the nations are interdependent, with a limited supply of essential resources, and if we are to survive we must share. We can no longer disregard the needs of the less fortunate nations and a change in our way of life in the Western nations is imperative. We have the ability to create superior products that last; we can perfect the art of recycling materials, and give up unnecessary "necessities of life" such as private laundries in most homes. Even when we cut down on our consumption of vital resources, make-the necessary sacrifices, and live a simpler life, we will still have to be concerned about moderation and conservation in all we do,
Quota Systems and Public Ownership of Natural Resources
Herman Daly in his book Steady State Economics 'proposes a quota system to regulate the use of scarce non-renewable resources. The government would set up quotas for each resource and sell quota purchase rights to manufacturers. Manufacturers would buy the metals and other regulated resources in a competitive market -from suppliers, and only be able to buy the quotas allotted to them. For renewable resources the quotas would be set according to the sustainability yield of such resources.
I agree that some sort of quota system for the distribution of scarce resources will be necessary, not only on a national levels but internationally as well. Resources must go where they are most needed, not just to those with the most money, as would be the case in a "competitive" market as suggested by Daly, and all the factors of scarcity, present and future needs of society and fairness must be considered so that there are no "have-not" nations in the future. Mineral deposits and other vital resources are very unevenly distributed in the world and they should be available to all countries according to real need, not greed or wealth. An .impartial international agency under a world federal government will see to it that justice prevails. Although the world may not be morally ready for this degree of justice at present, it must be established in the not too distant future.
Public ownership of land and mineral resources, which is essential to future civilization, will guarantee control of mining methods to prevent general pollution, and destruction of the land, as is the case in strip mining of coal or copper. If private enterprise is allowed to do the mining it will be controlled to prevent abuse of the privilege under the quota system mentioned. If private individuals or companies do the actual mineral mining and refining, they will be paid a fair share for their labor, but the profits after costs are paid , will accrue to the nation or state, since the minerals are resources not created by us, but are a bounty from God for all humanity. The actual work of mining and refining are products of individual labor and should earn a reasonable profit.
Durable Products and Sharing
A few wise people have recognized the necessity of returning to the practice of manufacturing goods that are durable, beautiful, and easy to repair or maintain. With courses in basic electronics and mechanics in the lower schools more people will have the capability of repairing their own equipment, and communities will establish repair shops to keep things in operating condition as long as possible. In the poor nations such maintenance of goods and equipment has been common practice for many years because they are unable to constantly throw away and buy new. But in the future this sort of waste will be an abuse no one will be able to afford or countenance, and every community will recycle all usable materials, and maintain goods and equipment as long as possible before they are recycled,
In the industrialized nations there has never been .enough sharing of machines, tools and other equipment. It is not necessary for every home to have its private laundry, machine shop, wood shop, etc., and community centers where these machines and tools are available must be established, when practical and reasonable. Today very few such centers exist. In smaller communities, which will become the. norm, and such sharing and cooperation will be easier and necessary. This will not only contribute to closer human .relationships within the community, but will conserve energy and resources. - . - .
Because automobiles are most wasteful of scarce resources and fuels, it will be wise for each community to have a few greatly improved models for rental by community members, as was recently proposed in Sweden. Customers will use a car between destinations when public transport is not available, and return the car to the car-pool whenever they are not using it, thereby making it available for use by others. Under such a system the cars will have constant professional maintenance which will contribute to energy savings and longevity of the vehicles. It will enable drivers to use exactly the appropriate vehicle for any of a variety of uses. In cities where use of cars is restricted, dial-a-ride taxis should be available in addition to public transportation.
Public transportation which is more energy efficient will prevail, and of course walking and the use of bicycles will once again be popular. The end of multinational corporations in general, as is discussed later, will make the huge commercial airlines less profitable, and perhaps a government or employee owned airline, linking all major centers, will be desirable, cutting down on unnecessary flights. Existing airplanes release about 13,000 tons of pollutants into the air every year, contributing their share to the Greenhouse Effect, Greatly reduced air and land traffic will result in cleaner air and a great savings of scarce metals and energy consumption. A return to railroads for shipping goods and passengers overland will be necessary, because the wasted energy of shipping by trucks and traveling by private vehicles will be less feasible with energy conservation. Moreover, with constantly improving electronic communications the endless peregrinations of businessmen, so common in recent decades, will be a thing of the past.
In any event, the gradual disappearance of petroleum supplies and the dangers from manufacture of synthetic fuels will force a severe cutback in the use of automobiles and airplanes of present design. Synthetic fuels such as ethanol or methanol made from biological products have restrictions discussed in the chapter on agriculture, and cannot serve as a replacement for petroleum except to a very limited extent. Perhaps solar powered vehicles will become feasible, or other energy sources, such as hydrogen extracted from water by solar energy, will be perfected. Regardless of the energy source for vehicles, the problems of the scarcity of mineral resources and heat pollution if fossil fuels are used, will not disappear and must be taken into account. As noted in chapter 3, the use of plastics to make automobiles will not be acceptable. Public transportation will be an important factor in reducing atmospheric pollution of all sorts, and in the smaller cities and towns of the future, will contribute to healthier and friendlier relationships.
The steady state economy proposed by Herman Daly and a few other economists is what we have supported throughout this book. It requires moderation in the use of all resources, living a more relaxed and simpler life, based on the ethical teachings of all the great religions, without any of the superstitions, fanaticism or schisms that have separated people until now. Herman Daly, in his book Towards a Steady State Economy: "To become less materialistic in our habits we must raise the relative price of matter. Keeping the physical stocks constant and using technology to increase leisure time will do just that. Thus a policy of nonmatenal growth, or leisure-only growth, in addition to being necessary tor keeping physical stocks constant, has the further beneficial effect of encouraging a more generous expenditure of time and a more careful use of physical goods.'
The loss of resources to the military forces of the world has been incalculable. This is an evil that cannot be continued, since its sole purpose is, in most instances, to terrify, overwhelm and destroy. It has been said that the armies control, regulate and maintain an orderly society, if you ignore the danger they pose for social stability and prosperity. Treaties to regulate armaments have provided little relief for the masses, because they have never been observed for long, and since World war II about $600 billion a year has been spent on military forces and equipment in the entire world. The Soviet Union, the United States and other nations have armed for many years at such a pace that it has been one of the main contributing factors in the bankruptcy of their economies and the disintegration of their societies. The breakdown of the U.S.S.R. has not removed the danger of another world war, contrary to the statements of. politicians at this time. We head toward mutual destruction because of the spiritual failure of mankind and the incompetence and insincerity of the world leaders. -
With the end of aggression in the world, and a world federal government with adequate power firmly established, nations of the future will require only small, lightly armed police forces to maintain internal order. A mature, spiritual society toward which we are evolving will not require the constant surveillance that has supposedly been necessary in the past because of the moral regression of society. With the elimination of military forces in general this incredible waste of resources and loss of lives will end, and this will contribute to greater prosperity and happiness throughout the world. How is it conceivable that many citizens and leaders are proud of their nation's armed might? We should be proud when we show concern for the well-being of people everywhere in the worlds and lead lives of peace without slavery to our possessions, which has led to such waste and psychological misery. When that day comes we will no longer wish to force our national will on others; we will see the beauty in the diversity of peoples and cultures and strive to establish justice in our relationships with all nations.
^ CHAPTER 7
AN AGRICULTURE IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
Human life can continue without industry, but not without agriculture, and in this age the two must go hand-in-hand. Human life at this level of civilization requires a balance between the two, but this balance is destroyed when we fail to appreciate the difference between the manufacturing industry and agriculture. Ownership of most of the best agricultural land by corporations and wealthy individuals throughout the world has led to incredibly destructive farming practices, to pollution and malnutrition for millions. On many medium and small sized farms in the United States the same harmful farming methods as practiced on the large farms, are in use, contributing to the loss of topsoil and to pollution of air, land and water. None of this is necessary if we realize that farming is not a manufacturing industry, but involves a recognition of our interdependence with nature, and a respect for the delicate ecological balances that exist.
In response to the argument that different countries should specialize in certain crops for greater efficiency and production, which of course leads to monocultures and heavy transportation costs, E.F. Schumacher, in Small is Beautiful, wrote that production and efficiency, the factory approach, is not suitable in agriculture. "...there is more involved in 'agricultural operations' than the production of incomes and the lowering of costs; what is involved is the whole relationship between man and nature, the whole life-style of a society, the health, happiness and harmony of man, as well as the beauty of his habitat. If all these things are left out of the experts' considerations, man himself is left out -- even if our experts try to bring him in, as it were, after the event, by pleading that the community should pay for the 'social consequences' of their policies ... On a wider view, however, the land is seen as a priceless asset which it is man's task and happiness 'to dress and to keep'. We can say that man's management of the land must be primarily orientated towards three goals -- health, beauty and permanence. The fourth goal -- the only one accepted by the experts -- productivity, will than be attained almost as a by-product. The crude materialist view sees agriculture as 'essentially directed towards food production.' A wiser view sees agriculture as having to fulfill at least three tasks:
-- to keep man in touch with living nature, of which he is and remains a highly vulnerable part.
-- To humanize and ennoble man's wider habitat; and
-- to bring forth the foodstuffs and other materials which are needed for a becoming life.
I do not believe that a civilization which recognizes only the third of these tasks, and which pursues it with such ruthlessness and violence that the other two tasks are not merely neglected, but systematically counteracted, has any chance of long-term survival."
The delusion that bigger is always better, and that mass production surpasses quality production, is a universal affliction in the twentieth century. Corporations have become multinational giants, as bureaucratic and inefficient as over-sized centralized governments, without any real sense of responsibility to any nation or society, and increasingly difficult to govern or control. Centralized governments have become increasingly unresponsive to the needs of the people, and overly sensitive to the desires of corporate management. Moderation is an unmentionable virtue, excess in all things holds sway, and with the increasing concentration of land ownership and wealth, the poverty and suffering among the masses in some nations is unbearable. The same sickness pervades the realm of agriculture, and the process of mortification is well underway today, as the poisons of giantism and centralization vitiate the very foundation of agriculture.
Efficiency and Farm Size
The political appointees that head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and managers of agribusiness concerns, too often insist that huge farms are more efficient because they produce more per man-hour of labor. Proponents of the small family farms which are more labor intensive, using natural methods of fertilization and biological control of weeds, pests and diseases, say that these small farms are more efficient, using less energy and producing healthier crops. Obviously each has a different connotation for the word "efficiency", and I will define the term as I use it in this chapter.
The advocates of the "think big" philosophy in agriculture, limit the meaning of efficiency to short-term benefits, centered on money profits, with only passing concern for the ultimate effects on the land or society. Whatever methods are necessary to attain their ends they label "efficient". They are not overly concerned about the long-term costs of soil erosion, the disastrous effects of monocultures, or the pollution they spread with heavy usage of biocides and inorganic fertilizers with their concomitant threat to human health. They are not disturbed by the fact that much of their external costs of irrigation, huge crop subsidies, and damage to human health, are borne by the same tax-payers who make their profits possible.
Hereafter when I use the term "efficient" I mean that the technologies of farming are those which benefit farmers and the public in both the short-term and in the long-run. I mean those methods which preserve and improve the topsoil, prevent erosion, and are in harmony with the ecosphere. I mean the sort of farming that is psychologically and spiritually beneficial to those who farm, making their lives more enjoyable and secure, and raising the profession of farming to the station it deserves. In this sort of farming poisonous herbicides, pesticides and chemicals to control pathogens, are replaced by natural biological controls with proven long-lasting efficacy, ending the threat to the soil and to public health.
The Green Revolution and other Agricultural "Miracles"
Since World War II we have witnessed the "boom" years of large-scale agriculture, the era of technofix on the farm, of growthmania on the feedlots, and of the miracle "cure" of the Green Revolution. During those years there has been a sudden burst of growth in agribusiness as multinational and national corporations invade the farmlands, and push out the small farmers. We have been exporting a flood of grain to the world from the United States, Canada, Australia and a few other nations. In the U.S. most of the profits go to the Cargill Company and a few other grain companies that make up the so-called Five Sisters of agriculture in the West. We think we are solving the world's food problems, but instead we contribute to social inequities, help distort the world's dietary habits, and over-stress the farmlands.
The United States, China and Russia have all discovered that they cannot sustain an unreasonably high rate of grain production with its concomitant over plowing of marginal lands. The Russians have had to halt their "Virgin Lands" expansion, and since then the land devoted to grain production in Russia has declined 12 percent overall, with a decline in grain production of nearly one-fifth since the late 1970s. In China the "Grow More Grain" campaign instituted by Mao Zedong, also led to the plowing of unsuitable, marginal farmland, and in 1976 the Chinese retired about 10 million hectares of land from crop production. In the United States, when grain prices climbed in the 1970s, farmers began plowing grasslands that should have remained untouched, and by the late 1970s they were losing about as much topsoil to erosion as had been lost during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s. In smaller countries the same problems have led to reductions in useable croplands. Italy has reduced its grain area by one-third, and the former Yugoslavia by one-fourth. Under the Food Security Act in the United States, about 45 million acres of croplands are to be returned to grass and trees during a decade. What all this means is that we must take firm action to prevent the world's population from exceeding a sustainable limit, because it will lead to a deterioration of the farmlands and finally to universal food shortages and famine. As of this date, 1996, grain reserves are at an all time low and the current drought is adding to the problem.
The Green Revolution began with the highest hopes of solving the world's food problems, but it relies on technological remedies, and not on correcting the major causes of hunger, which are social injustice, overpopulation and limited access to agricultural lands to all except the wealthy. The high yield varieties of hybrid plants that are the heart of the Green Revolution, require vast amounts of fertilizers and water. The old ways of farming in the underdeveloped nations are inadequate for those hybrid crops, and so the farms have had to be mechanized. Poor farmers who make up the vast majority in those nations, and to a certain extent in Western nations as well, cannot afford either the equipment or the fertilizers. As a result they are no longer needed on the farms where most of the land is owned by wealthy farmers, corporations and absentee landlords. These wealthy farmers have brought in the equipment needed and can afford the fertilizers; as a result thousands of displaced farm workers and farmers , replaced by machines and disinherited of land rights, have moved to the slums of the cities, hoping to find work. Agribusiness farms have begun to take over the underdeveloped nations as they have in the Western nations. In the underdeveloped nations the unemployed cannot afford to buy the crops, and the wealthy owners turn to exporting food crops, aggravating the internal problems in their own countries.
The Green Revolution has had the opposite result from that promised and sincerely hoped for by its promoters. Underdeveloped nations now export food at prices their own peoples cannot afford, leading to malnutrition and starvation in many areas. The situation around the world has grown steadily worse, and there have been other disastrous side effects of the Green Revolution. The heavy use of fertilizers has polluted rivers, lakes and seas, cutting down on fish harvests upon which so many of the poor in those nations depend. The prices of petroleum and natural gas from which most of the fertilizers are made, are unstable, and because of this the profit from crops has declined in needy nations, a severe blow to their economies.
In the Philippine Islands "miracle-rice" was supposed to solve their food problems, making them self-sufficient. After four years their production was down, and their population has grown approximately 12 percent. In the 1980s India boasted that it could feed its 750 million people without imports, and they actually did succeed in creating a grain surplus, but because of its price it sat in store-houses while people starved. As the then Prime Minister Charan Singh told the Associated Press: "This is a highly scandalous situation. While government granaries are overflowing, nearly half the population cannot afford to buy two square meals a day."
In the United States geneticists hoped to develop a hybrid corn that could be used to produce hybrid seeds as well as crops. Corn is a monoecious plant and is self-fertile, but geneticists developed a line of corn that contained the Tms gene which made it possible to have corn plants that act only as females, to be used primarily for hybrid seed production, and then to make corn production possible they developed a "fertility restorer gene" to overcome the effects of male sterility inherited from the "mother" plant. The new hybrid corn was planted in many states, and then catastrophe struck. The new hybrid was susceptible to a brand new disease called Southern Corn Leaf Blight, which resulted in a billion dollar crop loss, bankrupting many farmers. A miracle that turned against its creators and their clients, illustrating one of the dangers of genetic manipulation.
A serious side effect of the Green Revolution is the loss of reserves of genetic variability in crop plants, which prompted some university agricultural departments and the United States Department of Agriculture to establish gene pools. Instead of seeking out and remedying the social causes of hunger, we rely on technology and genetic engineering, with little foresight and wisdom. Our social sciences and natural sciences exist in isolation from one another, and both are out of contact with our spiritual needs. We must heal the social injustices that exist throughout the world, and reform our ways of life, if we wish to end hunger and suffering.
The Effects of Atmospheric Pollution and Climate Changes on Agriculture
In the ceaseless struggle for continued industrial and agricultural growth, in the attempt to add to our material possessions, the entire world ecology is threatened. Our concept of "progress" must be completely altered in the light of the intolerable consequences of the mindless pursuit of material wealth. The excessive use of fossil fuels results in climatic temperature increases, contributing to drought and reduced agricultural production. Little attention is paid to the fact that the world grain production per capita fell 14 percent in the last four years of the 1980s. World grain stocks in 1937 were 459 million tons, enough to meet world requirements for 101 days at that time. In the following four years world consumption exceeded production, although most of that consumption was for the production of meat, which results in a 400 percent loss in calories. This year, 1996, I have learned that the world grain reserves are about exhausted, and the drought in this country has led to a record number of farmers declaring bankruptcy.
The change in world climates which has occurred means that farmers will ultimately be obliged to adopt entirely new methods of farming. Shifting rainfall patterns and new temperature zones could exceed any world-wide changes in our recorded history of agriculture. We now know enough about the disastrous effects of polluting the atmosphere on human health and continued agricultural production, to never repeat the mistakes of the twentieth century. Future farmers will live in harmony with nature, and our industry must be regulated so that it will never again pose a danger to human existence through the destruction of the world's normal climates.
The Problems of Industrialized Agriculture
In the last forty years over four million farms in the United States have gone out of business, or about one every ten minutes or so, and in 1996, because of the record breaking drought, the number of farm bankruptcies has sharply increased (and since this was written, the number of small farm failures has continued unabated). The top 3 percent of those that remain control almost 50 percent of the produce sales. Twenty nine corporations control more than 21 percent of all U.S. farmland. In 1969 farms with more than 2,000 acres represented only 2 percent of all farms and controlled 43 percent of all agricultural land. In 1978 they had at least 46 percent of the land, and the imbalance in farmland ownership accelerated after that date.
This problem of the growing concentration of land ownership is worldwide. In Northwest Mexico, where the Green Revolution was born, average farm size has jumped from 200 acres to 2,000 acres, with three-quarters of the rural labor force deprived of land. The percentage of rural workers that are landless doubled in India with the coming of the Green Revolution, and with the increasing cost of land as the wealthy farmers have taken over. As migrating farmers become job seekers in cities, and the food surplus produced in the countryside is directed more and more to export, the urban dwellers become increasingly dependent on imported food. This forces governments to spend scarce foreign exchange, which could be better spent on internal improvements and to support small farmers.
Irrigation and Water Shortages
In the United States one of the subsidies offered to farmers, which is of most benefit to huge agribusiness farms, is the irrigation projects provided by unwitting American taxpayers. In California there are 900,000 acres of land being illegally serviced by irrigation projects, the largest share of which goes to the huge farms of Southern Pacific Company, Standard Oil Company, Getty Oil Company and Lazare Freres. The value of crops produced in some parts of the United States is often less than the cost of irrigating the crops. In Pueblo, Colorado the cost to taxpayers for irrigation in 1989 was $54 per acre foot (one acre covered by one foot of water) and to the farmer only 7 cents! The government, on the one hand, pours money into colossal water projects, opening more land for agricultural development, and on the other it pays farmers to take land out of production to cut down on erosion.
The over consumption of water by agriculture has certain devastating results that must be reckoned with. The cost of irrigation is not just in the construction projects and the water delivered, but also in the water-logging and salination of the soil resulting from improper irrigation design and practices. This is a serious problem in many areas of the United States, such as in the Imperial Valley and the Central Valley in California. In its course from headwaters to the Imperial Dam at the Mexican border, the salinity of the Colorado River now increases 1,600 percent, from 50 mg of salt per litre to 800 mg per litre. If this process continues it will reach a total of 1,200 mg per litre, almost three times the safe level for drinking water, and this is the result of irrigation in Colorado, Arizona and California. More than 20 million people use the water of the Colorado River. It irrigates 2 million acres of farmland, provides power for over 1 million homes, and water for Phoenix, Los Angeles and other cities.
When I traveled to the nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan I saw mile after mile of what was once prime farmland no longer in use because of salination resulting from their irrigation systems. In Iraq one fourth to one half of their agricultural land was lost due to salination. In Pakistan they not only have the problem of lost farmland due to salination, but also that of having their dams silt up because of erosion. The year to year changes in the world's irrigated areas, besides counting the addition of new capacity, must take into consideration the loss of capacity due to salination, aquifer depletion, lower water tables, reservoir silting, and the diversion of irrigation water to domestic uses.
In the United States, just before the 1978 oil price hike, irrigated areas totaled 50.4 million acres, and by 1984 they had dropped to 44.7 million acres, a drop of 11 percent. In the Sahelian zone of Africa, where irrigation projects are poorly managed, the development of new irrigated areas barely surpasses the surface area of the older ones that have been abandoned. In the 1980s scientists were making some progress in designing new techniques to reclaim land from salt, but on the balance salinity is spreading.
The dams built to hold water for irrigation often destroy some of the best farmland. Because of the erosion from deplorable agricultural practices, and the massive deforestation that is occurring all over the world, the dams are silting up at an alarming rate. In the United states alone it is estimated that the value of reservoir damage resulting from sediment buildup, comes to $50 million. In India, as an example of the environmental damage done by huge dam projects, the Narmada Valley project is one of the worst villains. Conceived in the late 1970s the massive project was designed to include 30 major dams, a power generation and transmission grid, technical assistance and training, and the forced relocation of more than 300,000 villagers. The dam is to flood some 150,000 acres of forests, a badly needed environmental resource. The peasants, whose health and welfare the projects are supposed to enhance, have generally ended up worse off economically, and demoralized socially. All of these problems resulting from irrigation and power projects must be taken into consideration in the future. The use of water for agriculture must be moderated by using new methods of irrigation, strict conservation of water, and taking care not to provide irrigation in marginal lands which are not suitable for intensive farming. The drip or trickle system must be employed in arid regions of the world, and all manner of waste in the use of water must be curtailed.
In 1991 there was such a severe shortage of water in California that Central Valley farmers were permitted to use only one-quarter of their normal supply, which led to a greater use of well-water. In some parts of the Central Valley the land has dropped 20 feet or more because of the falling water table. The same is true in Arizona and in many areas where farmers have pumped out the water for their crops. In the high plains which stretch from West Texas into Eastern New Mexico and Kansas there is an immense underground lake called the Ogallala aquifer, which took centuries to form. By the 1990s it was almost pumped dry and the semi-desert areas in West Texas became useless for conventional farming, which led some Texans to demand that an irrigation canal be constructed to bring water from the Mississippi River to West Texas. These conditions of water depletion are spreading and growing steadily worse, despite the huge irrigation projects, but nothing is being done to reform the system or the thinking of the agricultural planners.
Pesticides, Herbicides and Fungicides in Agriculture
The use of biocides (pesticides, herbicides and fungicides) in agriculture, in the long run, does a great deal more harm than good. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in the 1950s farmers used 50 million pounds of pesticides with a 7 percent loss of crops. In the 1980s farmers used 12 times as much, or 600 million pounds of pesticides, and lost up to 14 percent of their crops to insects ! The natural enemies of the insect pests seem more vulnerable to pesticides, being fewer in number, so they are killed off first, and the pests develop immunity to the insecticides and multiply more rapidly with their natural enemies eliminated. The number of pesticide resistant species of insects increased from 0 in 1940 to 450 by 1980, and the number of plant pathogens resistant to fungicides was up from 0 in 1940 to about 100 in the 1980s.
Many of the biocides are extremely toxic for animals and humans, and some were banned for use in the United States. However, the chemical companies, somewhat short of executives with strong moral values, continue to sell these killer biocides abroad, to farmers who grow food for consumption in the United States, thereby defeating the purpose of the ban. Of course our government officials are at fault for permitting this crime against the people of other nations as well as the people of our own nation, by allowing the chemicals to be produced and licensed for sale abroad. The long-term effects of many biocides still being used in the 1990s are not known, and so potentially dangerous chemicals are still being applied to crops. Even some biocides known to be dangerous to human health are in use, with the full knowledge of the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States. Almost every year we learn that some biocide that has been in use for many years is a serious threat to human health.
In the 1980s Ethylene-dibromide (EDB) was banned for use in the United States, because of its extreme danger to human health. Despite this ban, tons of grain containing EDB were distributed to farmers under President Reagan's Payment in Kind (PIK) program for farmers. According to the news media of that time, Ruckelshaus, the administrator of the EPA, said that limited use of EDB would continue for a couple of years because of possible financial hardship to some growers and food processors! He reportedly remarked that since we had been eating the poisoned food for so long a couple of more years wouldn't hurt. But what about all the children born during the ensuing two years? Was it necessary to endanger their health and development so that some businessmen or farmers would not lose some profits ? Can we claim to be true to the principles of our religious beliefs when we put aside all the spiritual values that distinguish us from animals, the love and concern for one another that is characteristic of truly civilized people?
Another hazard from biocides arises when they filter into the ground water and into the drinking water. They poison lakes and streams, and cause considerable damage to the soil. A study of ten different chlorinated hydrocarbons used in agricultural biocides showed that more than one-third of those tested remained in the soil for up to 14 years after the application to crops. Soils are extremely complex ecosystems, and in some areas up to 300 millions of small invertebrates live in each hectare of soil. A gram of fertile soil may yield up to 2.5 million bacteria, 400,000 fungi, 50,000 algae, and 30,000 protozoa. The ultimate extent of the damage that can be done by biocides is not known. In chapter 3 the problem of biocides sprayed onto the crops, and carried for thousands of miles by winds, is discussed.
From these few examples chosen from many, we see the results of excessive zeal for the miracles of technofix, and growthmania in agriculture. Without adequately investigating the long-term effects of what we do, with little understanding of the intricate interrelationships in the biosphere, we rush in with a cornucopia of chemicals, improperly tested hybrid plants, and huge construction projects. It is imperative that we consider all of these factors and the others we have mentioned, in the future development of agriculture. Another example of our excesses is the use of artificial inorganic fertilizers, which fueled the Green Revolution and made possible the over-production of grain in America and elsewhere.
Inorganic Fertilizers, the Mainstay of Twentieth Century Farming
Since 1940 the use of inorganic fertilizers in the United States increased more than five-fold, or to put it another way, U.S. farm output went up 90 percent while the use of inorganic fertilizers went up 900 percent. The output per acre obviously does not automatically increase as more inorganic fertilizers are added; the opposite may happen. From 1949 'till 1975 the use of nitrogen fertilizer increased nine times without an increase in the production per acre. This means that much of the nitrogen does not end up in the crop, but in the groundwater. Furthermore, inorganic nitrogen fertilizer causes a reduction in the population of nitrogen fixing bacteria, reducing the natural fertilizer in the soil.
The problem of nitrates in drinking water, derived from nitrogen fertilizers, is world-wide, and has been reported in France, Germany, the former Czechoslovakia and Israel. Nitrates are generally harmless in the human body, it is believed, except for some infants where it converts the hemoglobin in the blood into methemoglobin. This prevents the transport of oxygen in the blood and the infant asphyxiates. Run-off of all fertilizers from farms also causes eutrophication of lakes and streams by over-fertilization of algae, which deprives the water of oxygen as it decays, which in turn kills the fish.(Since this was written it has been discovered that nitrates in the water is considered a possible cause of lymphoma, cancer of the lymph glands)
In the last century we lost millions of acres of valuable farmland because of the agricultural practices of mass production using irrigation, pumping down ground-water tables, depleting aquifers, and through the application of biocides and inorganic fertilizers in excess. The continued productivity of soil is only temporarily propped up by the application of increasing amounts of inorganic fertilizers. These fertilizers are made from natural gas, petroleum and minerals such as potash and phosphates. As noted in an earlier chapter, the availability of mineral resources is finite, and some of them might not last another century unless strict conservation is practiced. Twenty percent of the ammonia and 65 percent of the potash used in the United States is imported. It is estimated at this time that the supply of phosphates in America might last another 20 years. There can be no doubt that we must return to and develop the use of natural organic fertilizers, and to use more intelligent farming practices.
Loss of Farmland, Various Causes
It is ironic that corn, the crop that requires the most fertilizer and at least 23 percent of all Croplands in the United States, is also instrumental in causing the most soil erosion, under present farming practices in general use. The average topsoil loss for agriculture in the United States is estimated to be about five tons per acre, or about five billion tons per year. When corn is grown continuously, the loss comes to 19.7 tons per acre per year, and for wheat 10.1 tons per acre per year; when the two are rotated the loss drops to 2.7 tons per acre per year. The problem has been that with the output of corn since World War II, the crops have not been properly rotated, and good soil conservation practices have been generally ignored.
Producing ethanol from corn or sugar cane is not energy efficient, and in the end the losses from erosion make it one of the most unwise methods of producing fuel for vehicles. Off the big island of Hawaii the ocean is dyed brown form miles around the island during frequent heavy rains, because of soil erosion from cane fields. Little or no effort is being made in the Hawaiian Islands to prevent soil erosion. Soil regeneration on islands or continents takes many years; on continents not over five tons will be regenerated per acre per year under ideal conditions, and the erosion due to over-grazing, deforestation and poor agricultural practices far exceeds the rate of soil regeneration actually occurring.
Erosion and soil regeneration throughout any country are not uniform, despite the averages given estimating the totals nation-wide or world-wide. It depends on the local climates, soil types, topography, water supplies, anomalies in weather, etc. Before the Ogallala aquifer was extensively used to irrigate crops in the Southern High Plains, we experienced the Dust Bowl of the 1930s when topsoil was moved by the winds to as far away as New York city. In parts of Pakistan, India and China the wind borne dust from the Mongolian desert turns the skies yellow during the summer. In the southern end of the Central Valley of California a great deal of topsoil blows away each year because of deplorable agricultural practices and drought. Each situation and location requires special study, and it is a matter that cannot be safely ignored. Not enough is being done to protect the soil, other than isolated instances when some areas are taken out of production to restore grassland or trees.
In this century, in the industrialized nations, thousands of acres of valuable farmland have been lost to housing and industrial development. In the U.S. alone 12 square miles of farmland a day have been converted into roads, shopping centers, housing developments and factory sites; that is equal to three million acres a year. These losses of farmland, added to the five billion tons of topsoil lost each year, is a most serious threat to the future of America. In the future every effort must be taken to protect the best agricultural land from being used for any construction projects, and further steps must be taken to prevent soil erosion from any cause.
Distribution of Farm Incomes and Crops
Despite all the production in agriculture throughout the world, and the world market in grains, the average farmer who is not part of agribusiness, or who is not one of the wealthy landowners, is either earning little more than is necessary to continue in business, or has gone bankrupt and has been forced to sell. In the United States, from 1960 to 1990, taking inflation into account, farmers' incomes remained virtually unchanged, while that of the Cargill Company, one of the world's largest grain companies, increased 400 percent. Cargill is one of the largest privately owned non-industrial companies in America, with annual sales of $28 billion, almost three times as much as the Bechtel Corporation which constructs nuclear power plants, highways, dams and other large construction projects. Continental Grain, also in the commodities business, is the second largest privately owned non-industrial company, with sales of $15 billion per year. These two grain companies control half the world's grain trade, and one British company controls 80 percent of the world's production of vegetable cooking oils.
Companies like Beatrice Foods (which bought out 400 other food companies), Del Monte, R.J. Reynolds and Green Giant, own plantations not only in the United States, but also in Central America, South America and Africa, where food grown is exported and sold to the highest bidders, primarily in the industrialized nations. Companies like Standard Oil Company of California, Lazare Freres, and Getty Oil are into agribusiness. While the agribusiness corporations and the commodities merchants become incredibly wealthy, the small farmers are being forced out of business, unable to make a decent living. Concentrated control over food production and distribution leads to mass production methods, carcinogenic and mutagenic poisons in the food supplies and in the environment, and is the direct cause of hunger and poverty throughout the world, especially in underdeveloped nations.
At least 100,000 children in Asia and Africa go blind each year from vitamin A deficiency caused by inadequate diet. Another 15 to 20 million people die each year from hunger related causes, including diseases related to malnutrition, and three out of every four of these are children. Thirty-six of the world's 40 poorest countries export food to the United States and Canada. Africa, where more than half of the population suffers from protein deficiencies, exports protein foods to Europe. These are some of the results of the improper distribution of food throughout the world. The wealthier nations, including the United States, Japan and Western Europe, consume 70 percent of the worlds' grain foods, and most of that is used to feed dairy and beef cattle, which as we shall see, results in a 400 percent loss in calories.
The major crops of corn and soybeans, which are also those associated with the greatest soil erosion, biocide and inorganic fertilizer use, go primarily to feed livestock. Humans seem willing to eat anything that moves, from snails to whales, even though the human digestive tract and teeth are not designed for eating meat, but for fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables, and we endanger our health by eating too much meat. In addition to the biocides used on crops eaten by cattle, the meat is also poisoned by growth hormones and anti-biotics which are not found in fruits or vegetables. Existing anti-biotics used for humans in the last two or three decades, are being rendered ineffective, with the result that many people are dying because of the proliferation of dangerous resistant strains of bacteria, an indirect result of the inclusion of anti-biotics in the feed of cattle, pigs and poultry.
Two-thirds of the U.S. grain exports and most of the grain used in America, go to feed livestock. For every 16 pounds of grain and soy fed to livestock, we get one pound of edible meat. One pound of steak, which provides 500 calories, requires 20,000 calories of grain to produce, about a 400 percent loss in calories. Between one-third to one-half of American land is now used for grazing cattle. The largest percentage of that land, including government owned land, is in the Western states, and is being over grazed. Halting desertification and erosion depends to a large degree on preventing overgrazing. In the future farmers will have to integrate livestock into their diverse farming systems, using for fodder the leaves from trees in their agroforestry systems, or the cover crops in their rotational cropping patterns. As meat becomes more scarce and expensive, the diets of the affluent will move down the food chain to a healthier diet of fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables.
In 1974, 10 percent of the grain fed to cattle in the wealthier nations would have entirely eliminated the grain shortages in the poor nations for that year. In sum, the production and eating of meat is unhealthy, wasteful of food in a world where hunger exists in poor nations, and it is directly and indirectly a cause of the destruction of the topsoil and watersheds through erosion, destruction of trees to create pasture, and over grazing. Despite these known facts, the consumption of meat among the affluent in America and throughout the world, is on the increase at this time, while at the same time the numbers dying from famine is in the millions.
It is time that the peoples of all nations become aware of these problems of resource depletion, agricultural excesses, as well as the apparent environmental problems which have been so well publicized. These problems all arise from the spiritual failures in the world, and the materialistic social organizations. The few benefits of this century's agricultural systems and techniques are the vastly increased production of certain commodities, the development of agricultural machinery, and the lessons we might learn from the mistakes we are making. The harmful results are legion; the heavy crop production has not led to the alleviation of hunger in the world, since most of the grain goes to feed livestock; small farmers are being gradually pushed off the land and left destitute; it is leading to a widespread destruction of the fertility of the soil, erosion on a massive scale, and desertification in some areas; it has made thousands of square miles of fertile farmland useless through water logging and salination, and in some areas lowering water-tables disastrously; through the use of inorganic fertilizers it has poisoned the drinking water and caused eutrophication of streams and lakes, which in turn is destroying innumerable fishing industries; through the use of biocides to kill pests, weeds and pathogens, food supplies, water and soil are being poisoned, and the health of millions affected; the concentration of marketing of all agricultural produce into the control of a handful of huge corporations or speculators, is depriving the independent farmer of most of his income, and even of his land.
The Return to Family Farms and Cooperatives
The entire attitude toward farmers and agriculture must change. Farming must be recognized as one of our most important professions, and the family farm recognized as being essential to the health of the nation and the environment. We must reorder our priorities with respect to the crops we produce, and we how we produce them, recognizing that farming is not a mass production, industrial project, but that it is intimately related to the general health of the ecology. Without question our eating habits will have to change, which is already beginning to take place as fear of cancer and other diseases grows, leading many to replace meat with fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables in their diets. Use of biological control of weeds, pests and pathogens which has already been initiated, must be developed and expanded. Entirely new techniques of farming must be devised and implemented, and combined with time-tested and proven methods of farming that preserve soil fertility, prevent erosion, and eliminate much of the need for inorganic fertilizers. In brief, farming must develop a symbiotic relationship with nature, and not be at war with the environment. In order to earn a fair profit from their labors farmers must have direct access to the marketplace, or become part owners of distribution cooperatives.
Researchers have found that crop rotation and the use of organic fertilizers -- composts of manure or vegetable matter -- promote biologically active soil that helps reduce plant disease caused by soil-borne pathogens. These healthy "suppressive" soils resist disease and eliminate the need for inorganic fertilizers, as well as the multitude of biocides that are now in use. Plant compost, animal manures and green fertilizers (crops of alfalfa, etc. plowed back into the soil or spread on top), as well as crop rotation, all help reduce soil erosion.
Each day thousands of tons of basic plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, move from the countryside to the cities in the food that sustains the urban population, and in turn human organic wastes are created. Worldwide over two-thirds of the nutrients present in human wastes are released to the environment as unreclaimed sewage, creating a pollution problem. Smaller communities treat their sewage using ponds or lagoons where the wastes are purified by sunlight, air and microbial organisms. Another method is used in cities, requiring energy and technology to replicate natural processes, producing what is called "sludge". The use of treated and "purified" sewage sludge for agriculture was on the increase after 1980, and approximately 40 percent of the sewage sludge in the United States is now used in agriculture, 40 percent in Western Europe, and about 60 percent in the Netherlands and Sweden. In farming areas near cities the treated wastewater can be used for irrigation if it is purified somehow. These recycling practices in agriculture are ecologically sound if all toxic substances and heavy metals are first eliminated before use, in which case they contribute to the health of the soil as well as eliminating the problem of disposal of sewage waste.
At the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas efforts are being made to develop perennial crop plants that will produce crops over several seasons, thereby contributing to the prevention of soil erosion as well as helping in the buildup of soil fertility. The use of trees as windbreaks and to bring up minerals from the deep layers of soil will someday become a general practice. Contour plowing, neglected on large farms and in agribusiness, will become mandatory on farms, and entirely new concepts of tilling the soil will be developed.
The most productive farms are the small, owner-operated farms with one or two helpers, and usually of no more than 450 acres, where the farmer has the assurance of a life-time lease. In the chapter on land ownership I have discussed the question of land reform and the right of everyone to lease land, which will remove fear of being evicted from a farm, which is a major problem today. The more direct the involvement and interest in the success of the farm, the better the animal husbandry and crop yields. The sizes of the farms may vary, depending on locale and crops grown. The Institute of Local Self Reliance claims that one acre of top farmland could feed from 40 to 70 people, and even more if intensive agricultural methods are employed. Given equivalent land the small farms produce equal or higher yields per acre than do the very large farms. In the London magazine The Economist the importance of small farms was emphasized. ". . . It is a hard-headed calculation that small farmers, working for goals and returns they understand, on land where they have the security of tenure with enough co-operative credit and services to enrich their labor, produce the world's highest returns per worker and often per acre. And basically it is upon this strategy of backing the small men...that the hopes of feeding most of mankind in the long-term depends."
The incredible waste of resources and energy that is involved in shipping produce from one self-sufficient agricultural region to another because of the "market-place" system of economics is neither necessary nor wise. It will always be necessary to provide produce to areas of low productive capacity, as well as to cities and towns, and to exchange specialty crops that grow only in certain climates and soils. In the book Human Scale, Kirkpatrick Sale describes one self-sufficient area in America. ". . . A citizen-action group called Vermont Tomorrow . . . has shown that Vermont was self-sufficient at the turn of this century, producing its own fruit, vegetables, meat, grain and dairy products, and by today's standards supplied more than adequate amounts of everything except citrus fruits, though it had plenty of vitamin C from tomatoes and berries. Today, however, it is dependent on the large agribusiness networks for almost all of its foodstuffs -- even for milk, though dairy farming is the leading agricultural enterprise in the state. In response to this, Vermont Tomorrow has launched a campaign to try to restore something closer to the earlier pattern by setting up a loose network of food and grower cooperatives, community gardens, canning centers, farmers' markets, and restaurants to create what they call 'LIFE', a Locally Integrated Food Economy."
Small, family owned farms are also more energy efficient, and the more labor intensive they are, the more employment they provide. Because of their size, small farms are able to switch more easily to the use of solar energy, to windmills for pumping water, and to the use of manure (biomass) for the production of methane for heating, cooking and other purposes. With an increasing scarcity of fossil and other fuels for tractors and other equipment, small farmers can share their equipment when feasible, or get by using horses for cultivation, as is being demonstrated on the well-run Amish farms.
Small farms do not obviate the possibility of poor farming practices, and there will have to be some sort of general educational program to teach the old and new methods of organic farming to protect soil fertility and to prevent erosion. More and more farmers are switching to the methods of organic farming because, as some farmers have testified, they want to bring the soil back to life, improve the health of their families and livestock, save money now spent on harmful biocides and fertilizers, and to produce healthier and more nourishing crops. On farms checked by a University of Washington study it was found that yields remained as high on organic farms as on conventional farms, and the energy consumed for each dollar's worth of crops was cut by almost two-thirds!
During the years I lived and traveled in France in the 1960s, I had the pleasure of visiting many villages and towns, and in all of them, as I recall, there was a space set aside for a daily or weekly farmers' market. Usually a roofed-over structure with a cement floor, open on the sides, was provided. For a very small fee, if any, the farmers could set up stands to sell their produce. Rather than suffer the unripe fruit and vegetables, grown with inorganic fertilizers, poisoned with biocides, and often artificially colored and waxed, which is offered in American super-markets, the French in the provinces could buy naturally ripened vegetables and fruit, fresh from the fields and orchards, and usually grown using more favorable techniques than those employed in agribusiness. Most of us have experienced, at one time or another, the pleasure of being able to buy properly ripened, fresh produce that has been naturally grown, and can remember how much better tasting it is than produce designed especially for machine handling, picked green, and grown with inorganic fertilizers.
In Oregon, Colorado and a few other states there is a growing movement toward organically grown produce, with organizations to sell the produce locally or to ship it to other states. A few cities and counties provide regular farmers' open-air markets during harvest times, for the local farmers to sell their produce directly to the public. These movements are a hopeful sign for the future, when such direct marketing will become universally accepted, and the farmers will be able to keep more of the profits for themselves, rather than surrendering them to national food companies.
When necessary farmers should form their own cooperatives to market their produce. These should be kept reasonably small to prevent the problems of oversized bureaucracies, as has happened with the few such cooperatives now in existence, and to avoid the possibility of monopolies, restriction of trade, and other practices which limit initiative, competition and freedom of choice. The principle of moderation must always be kept in mind , and the importance of improving the health and prosperity of society as a whole must be the goal. Soon we will look upon the reality of a person's life, what he or she does for humanity to bring happiness and progress, and not judge him or her by personal wealth or fame. Then the honored person will be the one who serves his or her fellow beings and God, and asks no more than what he or she needs for a simple and dignified life.
U.S. AND WORLD PROTEIN RESOURCES FED TO LIVESTOCK
THESE FIGURES ESTIMATED IN 1974. SINCE THAT TIME THE CONSUMPTION OF MEAT HAS INCREASED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, IN THE AFFLUENT NATIONS IN BOTH EAST AND WEST, WHICH MEANS THAT THE PERCENTAGES OF GRAIN AND OTHER PROTEIN FOODS CONSUMED BY LIVESTOCK HAS PROBABLY GONE UP BY 10 PERCENT OR SO, IN SOME PROTEIN COMMODITIES. (Note: With the spread of Mad Cow disease consumption of beef in Western nations will no doubt decline !)
THE FATE OF U.S. PROTEIN RESOURCES
RESOURCE AVG. PROTEIN CONTENT | % TO LIVESTOCK
1. Corn, barley, oats 8-14% 90%
2. Soybeans 35-40% 90+%
3. Wheat 11-14% 24%
4. Milk products up to 33% 2%
5. Total harvested acreage ------ 50%
THE FATE OF THE ENTIRE WORLD'S PROTEIN RESOURCES
COMMODITY AVG. PROTEIN CONTENT % TO LIVESTOCK
1.Grain 8-14% 33-35%
2.Seeds (peanuts, beans, etc) 26-40% 60-70%
3. Fish 15-25% 40-50%
4. Milk products up to 33% 24-40%
I DO NOT HAVE THE ESTIMATES FOR 1996, BUT PROBABLY A 10% INCREASE OVERALL, (INCREASE DEPENDING ON THE COMMODITY) IS JUSTIFIED WHEN ONE REALIZES THAT NATIONS LIKE JAPAN HAVE SHARPLY INCREASED THEIR MEAT CONSUMPTION AS HAVE OTHER EASTERN NATIONS, AS WELL AS THOSE OF EUROPE AND AMERICA.
SOURCE OF THESE 1974 ESTIMATES IS TAKEN FROM DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET BY F.M. LAPPE'. HER SOURCES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. CROPS AND SOILS MAGAZINE, NOV. 1974, P. 9 --2. U.S.D.A. ECONOMIC RESEARCH, NOV. 1974 --3. U.S.D.A. CONSUMPTION AND UTILIZATION OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS. JUNE 1972 -- 4. BY BREAD ALONE, BY LESTER BROWN, PUBL. PRAEGER, 1974 --5. THE FOOD AND THE PEOPLE DILEMMA, BY G. BORGSTROM, DUXBURY PRESS, 1973 -- 6. FISH BY S.J. HOLT, PUBL. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 1969
^ CHAPTER 8
ENERGY FROM NON-POLLUTING, SUSTAINABLE SOURCES
To continue our modern, technological civilization, we are as dependent on energy as is life itself. In chapter 5 we saw how the supply of fossil fuels is limited, and how its use has led to the pollution of the atmosphere. This is true of petroleum, coal or natural gas, despite some attempts that have been made to switch to more efficient and less polluting manufacturing methods and electrical generating plants. This finally led to the development of nuclear power plants, which have turned out to be more costly, more hazardous and more polluting than those plants using traditional fuels. Those companies that profit from building nuclear power plants, or from the sale of fossil fuels, have tried to condition the general public into believing that those are the only real, practical means of generating electricity or of operating manufacturing plants. Because such companies are so powerful and have such control over the media, the use of other alternate, renewable and sustainable energy sources has been given little attention by the governments. In this Chapter I will give a brief summary of the problems of nuclear energy, why we should use all possible means of conserving energy, and some of the reasons we should use solar energy or other sustainable, non-polluting energy sources. (Since this was written, some states report an energy crisis, and have doubled or tripled their prices for energy suddenly, as if the population had doubled or tripled in size in one year, but there is little or no discussion of alternate energy development and use.)
According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 1986 we had 2,167 electrical power plants of all sizes operating on fossil fuels, with about 1,230 hydro-electrical generators of all sizes in the United States. While the executive branch of the federal government made interminable studies of the question of pollution from fossil fuels in electrical generating plants, their use continues unabated, contributing to the destruction of forests and water supplies by acid rain, threatening human health, and adding to the Greenhouse effect.
Certain types of coal contain sulfur, which oxidizes to form sulfur dioxide when coal is burned. This air pollutant interferes with the self-protective mechanisms in the lungs that help counteract the effects of dust, heavy metals, and other pollutants in factory and power plant emissions. Here is where technology can probably provide methods for almost total elimination of all dangerous emissions, but the new technology will entail sacrifice and high initial costs. Unfortunately, the United States government, like many other national governments, has been more concerned with the profits of industrial and utility companies than with the health and welfare of the public, or with protection of the environment.
Hydro-electric plants are a clean source of electrical energy, as far as the atmosphere is concerned, but there are certain very negative aspects that must be taken into consideration. The huge dams and reservoirs being built around the world today frequently do great damage to the ecology. Valuable river bottom agricultural land is flooded, tropical forests are submerged, and great damage to agriculture below the dam occurs in certain climates, as in Egypt below the Aswan Dam. These reservoirs or dams gradually silt up due to erosion from deforestation and bad agricultural practices, so that in time they become useless. Small dams and reservoirs seem to be a better solution, where silting can be controlled and prevented, and the power generation is less centralized, partially eliminating the need for extensive and dangerous high tension power lines. In certain locales the huge reservoirs of water cause slippage in geological faults, resulting in earthquakes that at times can destroy the dams and cause immense destruction and many deaths below the dams. In the last chapter we saw how the Narmada Valley project in India has displaced thousands of people from the valleys behind the dams.
Nuclear Fission and Fusion
After World War II it was thought that nuclear energy was the answer to all of our energy problems, that it would be a cheap and clean source of electricity. When the general public, as well as some government officials, scientists and utility companies, became disenchanted with nuclear fission power plants, the companies that stand to make a profit from building such plants, began advertising extensively, attempting to create fear in the public mind over a shortage of energy when petroleum supplies are depleted, but never mentioning alternative and sustainable energy sources. Well publicized catastrophic accidents at nuclear power plants at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl in Russia, have increased the public's fear of atomic power. Added to those fears is the knowledge that nuclear fission plants are not cost efficient, because of the costs of construction and decommissioning, and the unsolved problem of waste disposal. In some nations there is inadequate water for nuclear plants, and in France their nuclear reactors use more water than can be provided by the total surface runoff of that nation, the shortage being made up from rivers entering France from Switzerland. Not only have nuclear power plants priced themselves out of the market, but so-called breeder reactors which are designed to recycle spent nuclear fuel, are far more complex, expensive and dangerous than nuclear power plants.
There have been other unreported or under-reported, very dangerous nuclear accidents, such as the one involving stored radioactive material at a military facility 43 miles from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains. In Britain, on October 1957, there was a fire inside the uranium core of the carbon-dioxide cooled reactor in Windscale, England which caused some 20,000 curies of iodine -131 and 600 curies of cesium -137 to escape into the atmosphere. British authorities quarantined and slaughtered cattle within a 200 square mile area, and dumped the milk into the Irish Sea. A radioactive cloud passed over London, and several European countries. More recently it was found that the Rocky Flats Nuclear plant near Denver, Colorado where plutonium was processed for nuclear bombs, was polluting the air and groundwater in that area, although unsuccessful efforts were made to keep that information from the public. In the United States and in Europe the people have lost faith in the assurances of their government officials who deliberately withhold information about the radioactive pollution from nuclear processing plants and reactors. When the state of Minnesota tried to institute stricter radiation emission standards for nuclear power plants than those required by the Atomic Energy Commission of the U.S., the Supreme Court of the U.S. said they could not enforce such standards. On the East coast of the United States the federal government permitted the operation of the Seabrook Atomic Power Plant even though the people living in that area objected, claiming that it did not meet safety standards set by the state.
Since the accident at Chernobyl, Russia, public support for nuclear power has fallen sharply, and in some nations orders for future plants have been canceled. Austria, Denmark, Greece, New Zealand, Luxembourg, and the Philippines have decided to give up any plans for nuclear power, and to dismantle existing plants. Sweden, Italy and Switzerland indicated that they will phase out all nuclear power plants by the year 2010. In the United States there were 54 nuclear power plants operating in 1975, and 231 plants in the planning stage. By 1988 only 107 plants were in full operation and 16 remained in the planning phase, which means that almost half of the orders for new plants were canceled. The Wasthing state Public Power Supply System did not complete even one of its three planned reactors, although construction began thirteen years earlier. The original plan called for five plants, but two were scrapped after $6.8 billion had been spent on them, in an attempt to raise money for the remaining three.
From the beginning the insurance companies recognized the danger from nuclear power plants, and they were unwilling to provide the necessary amount of coverage for accidents. Instead, the U.S. Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act which enabled the government to insure against the costs of a reactor accident up to $560 million, which will be paid by the taxpayers, and which is not adequate coverage for a serious accident. Taxpayers are also supposed to foot the bill for disposing of nuclear wastes, and expense for which utility companies should be responsible, thereby bringing costs of nuclear generated electricity to its proper level, a truly uneconomical source of electrical energy.
Over the years nuclear waste has been allowed to accumulate, and in the U.S. at this time we have 70 million gallons of highly radioactive military waste in temporary storage in Washington state, South Carolina and Idaho; another 69 million cubic feet of low-level commercial and military waste is stored in trenches in Washington state, Kentucky, and South Carolina; approximately 700 tons of spent fuel from commercial reactors is stored in cooling ponds at each reactor site. With the earth changes that will take place, most of these wastes will probably end up in the oceans. High-level nuclear wastes maintain their radioactivity at very harmful levels for about 200,000 years, and should be meticulously isolated from people during that time. Every nuclear power plant produces about thirty tons of nuclear waste each year of operation, and spent fuel accumulates at each nuclear power site.
Every nation having nuclear power is faced with the same problem of waste storage, and none of them have found a satisfactory solution. It has been proposed to fuse the wastes with glass, ceramic or synthetic rock to seal in toxic chemicals and to retard dissolution in water. Next, these blocks or cylinders are to be encased and sealed in stainless-steel canisters and buried in sealed, underground repositories. No acceptable repository sites have been found, although the French have buried such canisters in unsatisfactory test sites, without adequate concern for public safety.
No one can predict how long such containers will hold up over thousands of years, nor how the heat will affect surrounding granite or other geological formations. If the wastes are stored in salt domes, there can be no reliable forecast that can assure that the salt will not dissolve with geological and climate changes over thousands of years. There is also the possibility that in future centuries records of the locations of the wastes might be lost, and people who are not aware of the deposits might mine in or near those repositories and be exposed to dangerous radiations. Another source of contaminated waste that is difficult to dispose of in such containers or in any other manner, is the decommissioned power plants. In 1990 it was estimated that there were 360 over contaminated nuclear reactors that must be dismantled at an estimated cost of $270 billion, and no serious plans have been made for their disposal. The Russians have admitted that they have been dumping their waste and nuclear powered vessels in the oceans, and they are not the only nation guilty of this crime against posterity.
As far back as in July 1975, in one of the energy industry's leading journals, this appeared: "The nuclear industry was described last week by one of its titans <Richard McCormack, vice-president of the General Atomic Co.> as a sick institution teetering on collapse." Despite such statements and the problems associated with nuclear fission power plants, the companies that construct such plants continue to try to sell the government and the public on their supposed value. In his book Non-Nuclear Futures, A. Lovins wrote of the directors of two nations fusion programs, the supposedly clean alternative to fission power, who fear that fusion, like fission, could turn out to be a rather dirty energy source, and so might pose a threat to human health.
In addition to the problems mentioned above, the question of thermal pollution from nuclear power plants has been largely ignored, but with the question of the Greenhouse effect this problem should be given top priority. Nuclear power plants produce far more waste heat than most conventional plants of equal size, and cause a more serious thermal pollution problem. Why should we ever again pour billions of dollars into the development of nuclear energy, whether fission or fusion, which poses such incalculable danger to humanity, when we can develop clean, renewable energy sources that will be more than adequate for all of our energy requirements?
Sustainable, Non-polluting Energy Sources
In 1979 a U.S. Department of Energy study showed that renewable energy sources could make California energy self-sufficient by the year 2025, even with a population twice that of 1979, and with its manufacturing capacity tripled. Using energy sources that employ tides, winds and solar radiation will eliminate the thermal and atmospheric pollution associated with nuclear power plants and generating plants using fossil fuels, while at the same time conserving our mineral resources for other uses. Back in the 1960s the late Farrington Daniels, perhaps the leading solar scientist of his day, remarked: "There is no gamble in solar energy uses, it is sure to work. It has been demonstrated that solar energy will heat, cool, convert sea water into fresh water, and generate power and electricity."
Solar energy is thermodynamically suited to any energy requiring task, and can replace any of the present sources of energy in their present uses. All that is required is to supply solar energy at any desired temperature, which can be achieved by concentrating it from a sufficiently large area, or by using newly devised lenses. The huge parabolic mirror in the French Pyrenees Mountains can gather enough solar energy to melt tungsten, at nearly 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To generate high pressure steam to run turbines for generating electricity, a temperature of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit can be generated by focusing an array of mirrors onto a central tower containing the boiler, as has already been done with small plants. A steam turbine can operate efficiently with only 1,000 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The entire output of electric power in the United States can be produced by such systems, operating with as low as 30 percent efficiency, using only 780 square miles (an area 28 miles on each side ) of collectors. 780 square miles is about 2 percent of the land area that is used for roads, or about .03 percent of the land used for farming. We can harness this source of renewable energy that does not pollute the atmosphere. No new heat polluting energy is added to the atmosphere with solar energy because the energy comes from the sun's heat, which is already present.
It is also possible to generate electricity using temperature gradients in the oceans, or better yet, by harnessing the tidal flows, as has been done in France. A survey by physicist Clarence Zener found that the temperature differences in the Gulf Stream are enough to generate 180 million billion watts of power per year, about six times the amount of energy used in the United States in 1980. An experimental plant of this type was tested off the big island of Hawaii. Using such generators the hydrogen in the ocean waters can also be extracted and used to operate fuel cells, which generate electricity using oxygen and hydrogen with 60 percent efficiency. Such cells could provide power when the efficiency of solar operated steam turbines is decreased by inclement weather, or to provide clean, non-polluting power for vehicles.
Wind is another important source of sustainable, non-polluting energy, and in California alone some 16,000 wind machines provide 1,400 megawatts of capacity. Wind generators are finding wide acceptance in Third World countries. The state of Gujarat in India has the Third World's first operating wind farm. On the windswept plains of Inner Mongolia nomadic herders use some 2,000 small, portable wind generators for their television, lighting, etc. Three Chinese factories manufacture several thousand wind generators each year for use in Tibet, Sinkiang province and other isolated areas. In the years since 1970 thousands of wind generators have been installed world-wide. Wind generators produce electricity at a fraction of the environmental costs of fossil fuels or nuclear power plants.
Other relatively non-polluting sources of energy, such as geothermal power generators using heat from the earth, have been constructed in California, Hawaii and elsewhere in the world. Small steam generators are available using home wood or coal heaters, that generate electricity while the home is heated from the same energy. Hundreds of thousands of homes use passive solar collectors for space heating and to heat water. Photovoltaic cells can provide electricity for lighting, communications, pumping water, etc. In 1990 the electricity generated from photovoltaics cost only 2 percent of its 1973 cost; in the same period crude oil prices increased fifteen times, and solar electric prices decreased by 90 percent. Solar energy is a diffuse energy source and lends itself to decentralized collection as well as to decentralized ownership. Such renewable energy sources will make every village and country home independent of utility companies, and save construction of power lines as well as the huge, expensive, inefficient, polluting power plants.
Conservation of Energy
Moderation in the use of electrical energy, just as will all other resources, will save in construction of unnecessary power generating plants, as well as in manufacture of some renewable energy generating equipment. In an article in the Scientific American, September 1990, by Fickett, Gellings, and Lovins, conservation of electrical energy is discussed at length. It will be necessary for individuals to avoid using home lighting in excess; in cities where neon signs burn all night, and office buildings remain lighted when no one is there, some sort of restrictions will be required. In their article they also speak of more efficient electrical equipment:
"The biggest savings in electricity can be attained in a few areas: lights, motor systems, and the refrigeration of food and rooms. In the U.S. lighting consumes about a quarter of electricity -- about 20 percent directly, plus another 5 percent in cooling equipment to compensate for the unwanted heat that lights emit. In a typical existing commercial building, lighting uses about two-fifths of all electricity directly, or more than half, including the cooling load. Converting to today's best hardware could save some 80 to 90 percent of the electricity used for lighting, according to Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. EPRI suggests that as much as 55 percent could be saved through cost-effective means."
Homes can be better insulated, with tremendous savings in energy. In Saskatchewan, Canada, where winter temperatures are frequently below zero degrees Fahrenheit, very well insulated homes use only 1/4 BTU for heating all winter, compared to the 20 BTU used in the average home, affecting a tremendous savings in energy consumption. These homes have double the normal insulation , and airtight liners in the walls. Mechanical ventilation systems keep the air fresh, and utility bills are almost completely eliminated.
In the society of the future no one will want the huge, polluting power plants of this century, and clean, quiet, unobtrusive, non-polluting, sustainable energy will become the accepted source of energy in general use. Where feasible small hydro-electric plants will be used, and elsewhere the other forms of sustainable, non-polluting energy will predominate. When mineral resources are publicly owned and regulated for the benefit of all humanity, there will no longer be private fortunes to be made from the exploitation of fossil fuels, and then the use of sustainable, non-polluting energy will be universally adopted.
^ CHAPTER 9
FAMILY AND EDUCATION
The disintegration of the family that is occurring in most nations throughout the world, because of the excessive materialism in the wealthier nations, and as a result of the poverty and desperation in the deprived nations, is one of the major forces contributing to the collapse of civilization throughout the world. Families that are stable, united, and spiritually enlightened form the foundation of any successful economy and ordered society. It is important, therefore, that we consider some of the factors that have led to the weakening of family unity, harmony and happiness, and have caused so many to forget the importance and significance of family life.
Mere physical survival of humanity and the maintenance of order in societies will not lead to social progress nor a sustainable society. Without a spiritual-ethical core to our society it cannot long endure, and of course this begins with the individual, and then the family, until it permeates all of society. "Situation ethics" has captured the imagination of many people since World War II, and it advocates that everyone should create their own values according to the situation and their personal desires at the moment. It is strange that so many people do not understand that moral values are for the betterment of humanity and the progress of society, to raise us above the level of animals. The so-called "modern ethics", which is one expression of "situation ethics", actually represent a regression to the values of primitive humans, or at times, even to the level of animals or worse. Of course if it is true that moral values and self-control do not benefit humanity as a whole, and contribute toward the perfection of the individual, then they might be safely ignored.
When we examine the moral laws of humanity, and the restraints observed by truly spiritual people, we see that these values contribute to human progress and spiritual growth, that they strengthen society and bring happiness. Physical or emotional satisfaction without regard for the greater issues can lead to remorse and unhappiness for the individual, and bring suffering and disease to many others. Everyone should examine what he or she does in the light of his or her spiritual development, its effect on others, and ultimately how it is related to all humanity. From this standpoint one can better decide the value of moral strength and purity of character, and live in peace and happiness with others. In the words of Abdu'l-Baha: ". . . in the world of mankind there are two safeguards that protect man from wrongdoing. One is the law which punishes the criminal; but the law prevents only the manifest crime and not the concealed sin; whereas the ideal safeguard, namely the religion of God, prevents both the manifest and the concealed crime, trains man, educates morals, compels the adoption of virtues and is the all-inclusive power which guarantees the felicity of the world of mankind. But by religion is meant that which is ascertained by investigation and not that which is based on mere imitation, the foundation of Divine Religions and not human imitations."
The Family at the End of the Twentieth Century
Americans think that the United States is the most successful of the industrialized nations, and yet, in 1993, 25 percent of its children lived below poverty level, and in single parent households there is steadily increasing poverty. Those Latin American nations that experienced a brief period of "miracle" economic growth in the 1970s, such as in Chile and Brazil, are having similar experiences, with only about 25 percent of the populations benefitting from the brief period of affluence, and the other 75 percent experiencing real poverty. In Brazil the economic boom has meant a dramatic expansion of the modernized economic sector, benefitting one quarter of the population, accompanied by a decrease in the incomes and social welfare for the rural population, leaving them poorer than before. The infant mortality in Brazil has increased as the level of poverty has increased, and it has reached about 100 per 1,000 births. In Sweden, deaths of children under five account for about one percent of all deaths, whereas in Brazil they account for nearly 50 percent of all deaths.
The evolving social democracies of Europe and Scandinavia offer a glimmer of hope for a future society in caring for their citizens. Those nations, until their present economic disorders, have done far more than the United States and those capitalistic democracies patterned after the U.S. in promoting human ingenuity while providing for the poor and unfortunate, as well as in preserving a relatively healthier environment. The so-called leadership of the U.S. has been compromised or lost. In 1992 the U.S. gave less, per capita, in foreign aid than the other six leading industrialized nations, and spent $800 million a day on the military, or about 30 times more than we spent on the homeless, and 22 times more than we spent on protecting the environment.
Despite disparities that exist between the economic and social systems, or the wealth and poverty of the nations of the world, all are experiencing, to varying degrees, the regressive social effects of materialism and the breakdown of the family, changes that are leading to the disruption of social orders in every country in the world. The effects of excessive wealth and materialism is even more destructive to the family and society than is the extreme poverty which is destroying countless lives and communities. The current social condition in America is reflected in this excerpt from the Time magazine dated June 3, 1996: ". . .as America polarizes into a land of rich and poor the number of children on the losing side is growing at an alarming rate. According to a report released last month by the Department of Health and Human Services, the percentage of children in "extreme poverty" (with a family income of less than half the official poverty level) has doubled since 1975; it now stands at 10% or 6.3 million children. The ranks of the merely poor include 1 in every 5 children in the U.S. In 1992 there were 850,000 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect, while the homicide rate for teens more than doubled between 1970 and 1992." p. 32
"Such numbers are not just a snapshot of how we live today. To experts who understand the trajectory of childhood development, the statistics predict a grim future for American society. As Douglas Nelson, executive director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, puts it, "It may well be that the nation cannot survive -- as a decent place to live, as a world-class power or even as a democracy -- with such high rates of children growing into adulthood unprepared to parent, unprepared to be productively employed and unprepared to share in mainstream aspirations." p 34
As pointed out in the 1990 issue of State of the World by Lester Brown et al, most of the world's environmental threats are by-products of affluence, but poverty does lead desperate, hungry people to over exploit the resource base, sacrificing the future for the need to survive. This leads the poor to destroy the rain forests in an attempt to grow more food, to plow steep mountain sides (the wealthy own the best agricultural land in the valleys) which leads to erosion, to destroy trees for fuel, etc. There is enough food produced in the world to feed everyone an adequate diet, as noted in the chapter on agriculture, but most of the grains are being fed to livestock, which primarily benefits the affluent, and so the thoughtlessness and greed of a minority of the world's population contributes to the overall pattern of environmental and social disintegration. Americans spend $5 billion each year on diets to reduce their caloric consumption while 400 million people around the world are undernourished or starving.
Poverty's most devastating effect is on the lives of children. The rate of infant mortality is increasing at an alarming rate in Third World countries as a result of malnutrition, starvation and the diseases resulting from malnutrition. In its 1989 report UNICEF of the United Nations concluded that at least half a million young children died in 1988 as a result of the slowing down or reversal of progress in the developing countries, and it has grown steadily worse since that time. Of the estimated 63 million children in Brazil in 1988, 7 million were abandoned. In the 60s and 70s some areas of Africa began to experience food shortages because the women were obliged to find work in industries, leaving their kitchen gardens and cash crops for incomes that would not buy equivalent food. Even in the United States conditions for children have deteriorated for many years, as more and more women enter the labor force , leaving their children in day care centers, if they earn enough to pay for such care, or leaving them at home without adult supervision. With an increase in single-parent households in the U.S., more and more families are slipping below the poverty line. In what was once the world's wealthiest nation, the effects of technical advances and modernization are increased social and economic impoverishment.
The United States ranks only twentieth worldwide in infant survival rates, behind Japan, the former East Germany, Ireland, Australia and Canada as well as all the West European nations. In the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, 2 million children were dropped from the school-lunch program, and 80 percent of the children eligible for Head Start, a pre-school educational program, were never given the chance to participate. Thirty percent of high-school students never graduated and 40 percent of the drop-outs were nonwhites. This was the result of the refusal to pay adequate taxes for education by the upper-income wage earners and the wealthy, in a nation that constantly complains about the falling level of education. In 1993 President Clinton promised to reverse these trends. The overwhelming desire for sensual pleasures, gambling and material possessions, the willingness to squander national treasure on armaments for war which benefits the armaments industry, and the gross injustice of the economic system, are hastening us toward national financial and moral bankruptcy.
Inequity in the Treatment of Women and Children in the Twentieth Century
Although it is not generally acknowledged, in the 1990s slavery persisted throughout the world under various guises. Chattel slavery, where the slave is purchased and owned like cattle still exists in Amazonia where the Indians are enslaved by some miners and ranch owners. Here and there in the Arabian peninsula chattle slavery still exists. In these two instances men as well as women and children are enslaved. In the Sudan the Northern government finances Arab militias to enslave children and women of the Dinka tribe. In 1988 a Dinka child could be purchased for $90, but so many were available that the price fell to $15. In India some 50 million children work in conditions indistinguishable from slavery. In the Philippines, Morocco, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and in Latin America child labor is cheap, and children are considered exploitable and expendable.
In a 1989 series on the United States Public Broadcasting System, the bondage of brick workers in Pakistan was described in detail, and only thereafter did that nation's Supreme Court provide measures to free entire families from bonded slavery to brick manufacturers. Despite this exposure chattle slavery for children persists in Pakistan. In India's Uttar Pradesh carpet industries, near the "holy city" of Varanasi, Benares, the region's 55,000 loom owners employ more than 100,000 boys, some of them only six years old. Fifteen percent of them are bonded laborers, "sold" to the loom-owners by their parents. They work 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, sleeping at their looms, earning about 40 cents a week. In Thailand hundreds of thousands of children are used as slaves, many of them for child prostitution. Others work in sweat shops until they "burn out" while in their late teens, when they are "discarded" and replaced with younger children.
In Western nations the social, intellectual and spiritual equality of men and women is only beginning to be recognized, but in most other parts of the world women and girls are treated as lesser beings, even though the very future of society depends on their health, education and well-being. More women than men suffer from malnutrition in those nations, despite the fact that women head one out of three of the households, and in many countries do most of the work of growing food. In a few of those societies men and boys eat first, so that in times of famine, women and girls are sometimes left without enough food. The mortality rate of female children under five, in India and Bangladesh, is from 30 to 50 percent higher than that of males. Half of the Third World women of child-bearing age suffer from malnutritional anemia, which drains their strength and leaves them more vulnerable to disease. In some countries, members of lower castes, of some tribal groups, and followers of certain religions, often have less access to food producing resources or government aid, and they are the first to suffer from malnutrition or starvation.
We must begin to appreciate the values of family life and to eliminate the cruel injustices that exist because of race, caste, sex, age and religion. We must begin to think of ourselves as citizens of one world, and make the necessary sacrifices to eliminate such conditions in every nation. It will require a renewal of true spiritual values free of superstitions and prejudices, and a willingness to share the abundance of wealth that exists in the world, and which, until now, has been consumed in excess by a few wealthy nations and individuals.
The Family as a Unifying Force
During most of human history people lived in small communities in which each individual had an important and recognized place, and in which there was a strong sense of shared values and fate. This sense of belonging, of being part of something larger than oneself, has great psychological importance. The most intimate, and final source of belonging is, of course, the family. When divorce is common, as is the case in Western civilization, especially in America during the last part of the twentieth century, many parents and children lose the sense of obligation to one another, and this diminishing sense of belonging is today subject to increasing stress and change. The existence, work and happiness of any society depends on certain infinitely precious, psychological and spiritual structures. With these spiritual and psychological structures missing or gravely impaired, social cohesion, cooperation, self-respect, mutual respect, courage, reliability, interdependence in the face of adversity, and the ability to bear hardships diminishes or disappears. Anyone is diminished by the inner conviction of uselessness and isolation. No amount of material wealth or economic growth can compensate for such losses, and, as we know from current events, they lead to the decay and end of economic growth itself, and the downfall of civilization.
In the future the rights of men, women and children must be guaranteed in every nation, and the vital importance of the roles and services of everyone must be recognized. The constant migrations of families that has resulted from our current economic system very effectively destroy family unity, and this will have to be resolved and eliminated. The suggestions I have made in the following chapters for the establishment of a world-wide minimum wage scale, for universal currency, for smaller communities, and for the end of multi-national corporations and the return to small factories, will go a long ways toward ameliorating this problem. (See the Appendix for the inequities in earnings in the year 2000)
Paid leave from factories or other places of business for child-birth and care of children when necessary, should be universally established, and in some European nations this is already compulsory. Child-care centers are being established in many industrial nations, but this is far from being a desirable solution. It would be much better if working hours were reduced so that the husband and wife could each work part of a day and spend the rest of their time with their children, or in other activities if they do not have children. Needless to say, this solution has not been seriously considered in twentieth century industrial society, but with our productive capabilities, in a steady state economy, with a better distribution of wealth, it will be considered reasonable and practical.
In testimony before the U.S. Congress, Albert Shanker said: "The nation goes on year after year spending excessive time, money and effort on the problems of juvenile delinquency and crime. We are looking in the wrong place for solutions to the problems resulting from a generation of children growing up without proper supervision." Instead of placing stress upon constantly increasing gross national product, we should be more concerned about the quality of life and the happiness and progress of future generations. Working parents of small children need time to spend with their children, and it should be normal for employers, whether it be in worker-owned firms or in small businesses with only a few workers, to make work-sharing and part-time employment available at all occupational levels, without affecting the promotional opportunities or fair wages of employees. Special consideration should be given pregnant women, and the health and integrity of families must be one of the primary concerns in businesses and in governments.
With the development of electronic communications, fibre-optic cables, fax machines, computers, etc. it is easier for many types of businesses involving exchange and utilization of information, to decentralize and have employees operating from their homes or from small local offices. This will make it possible for those involved in office work to spend their time near their families, and to have more free time with their children. In smaller communities there will be more socializing and family activities. The pace of life will be slower and more relaxed, and concerns for the education and welfare of children will have higher priority.
There will have to be universally accepted and enforced laws outlawing child labor, industrial slavery and bonded workers, exercising wisdom and moderation. Laws protecting the rights of all races, classes, sexes and nationalities will be established and enforced. The equality of women and men must be fully recognized and implemented. Guaranteed health care and preventive medicine will be available to everyone, in every nation, regardless of income or social status.
Universal Health Care
The majority of health problems that afflict the peoples throughout the world are the result of the maldistribution of wealth, the abuse of the environment as a result of excessive materialism, which leads to all forms of pollution discussed in previous chapters, and our spiritual apathy which has led to destructive conduct and abuse of ourselves and others. In the United States our annual medical costs are up to over $250 billion, and a substantial portion of that is due to the degradation of the environment and biocides in our food. Mutagenic and carcinogenic chemicals in our food and in the air, the hectic pace of "modern" materialistic living, the anxiety and stress resulting from the disintegration of this civilization -- all contribute to the ill health in the industrialized nations. In the poor, underdeveloped nations, malnutrition, unsanitary living conditions, the stress and anxiety caused by the desperate search for food, abuse by, and indifference of their governments -- these are some of the contributing factors affecting the health and happiness of those unfortunate people.
Health care in general should be directed toward preventive medicine. Legend has it that once upon a time in China the people paid their physicians when they were healthy, but when they were ill they expected to be taken care of without charge, which encouraged preventive medical care. In the twentieth century the focus has been on the management of disease rather than its prevention. By directing our efforts toward the prevention of illness we will make the greatest progress. There is little evidence that many of the expensive and impressive miracles of modern medicine actually significantly prolong life or increase the quality of life. In the United States we have four times as many coronary bypass operations as in Western Europe. Twenty-six nations have better cardiovascular health rates than Americans. Most of the expensive medical equipment is used to prolong the lives of the more affluent people in our society, and those without the means to pay the astronomical costs of such care, die more normal deaths. In America there is an abnormal fear of death, while in other countries, such as in Holland, the choice of euthanasia is considered normal for those whose illnesses and age make continued physical existence unbearable. Not that euthanasia is a solution, but the artificial prolongation of life when a person is comatose for a long period, with an incurable illness, is not to be encouraged.
The World Health Organization of the United nations has worked in the underdeveloped nations to provide health care, immunization, and to train people in fundamental hygiene. The World Health Organization is underfunded, and as a result cannot attain the proposed goals for world health. In 1977 WHO set "Healthier for All by the Year 2000" as an overriding priority, and developed an eight-point strategy for its implementation, including education on current health issues, proper food supply and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, maternal and child health, immunization against major infectious diseases, and prevention and control of local diseases. It is a most worthy organization without adequate support from the wealthy nations.
Most Western European nations have health care programs available to all citizens, paid for with taxes through the governments, although in the last few years some of them face financial problems because of the distortions in their economies. In the United States there is, at this time, very little health care, since the beginning of the Reagan-Bush administrations, although prior to that time progress was being made toward universal health care. The Medicare hospital program benefits only those senior citizens whose incomes permit them to make the initial $700+ hospital payment. Care by physicians is only for those senior citizens whose incomes permit them to afford the monthly insurance fee, or who are so poor that they qualify for Medicaid; this leaves a very large number of senior citizens in between without medical assistance. For the general public there is no universal health care in the United States, and the U.S. health programs are only slightly better than those in Third World countries. Recent attempts to establish universal health care in the U.S. were defeated by the vested interests, primarily the insurance companies, using the Republican party in Congress..
In the future health care must be freely available to everyone, throughout the world. In the wealthier nations the costs should be paid from public funds through adequate taxation on incomes. In poor nations the care should be provided only partially from government funds, and the balance from international assistance through the World Federal Government. Some organization similar to the World Health Organization of the United Nations should be established to coordinate health programs throughout the world, and to share new discoveries and medicines. In a mature and spiritual society the general health of everyone will improve, reducing the need for many of the medical costs that have burdened families and society in general. Regarding the health of society in the future, Abdu'l-Baha wrote: "If humankind were free from the defilements of sin and waywardness, and lived according to a natural , inborn equilibrium, without following wherever their passions led, it is undeniable that diseases would no longer take the ascendant, nor diversify with such intensity ...But man hath perversely continued to serve his lustful appetites, and he would not content himself with simple foods. Rather, he prepared for himself food that was compounded of many ingredients, of substances differing form one another. With this, and with the perpetrating of vile and ignoble acts, his attention was engrossed, and he abandoned the temperance and moderation of a natural way of life. The result was the engendering of diseases both violent and diverse .... When the material world and the divine world are well correlated, when the hearts become heavenly and the aspirations pure, perfect connection will take place. Then shall this power produce a perfect manifestation. Physical and spiritual diseases will then receive absolute healing."
The progress and prosperity of every nation depends on the spiritual vitality and education of the people. These in turn require that the people be healthy, secure and happy. Although the health of women and children should be given priority in difficult times, everyone must be valued and cared for in a truly civilized world.
As I mentioned in the second chapter, education must be made available to everyone throughout the world. This should cover the elementary levels all the way through the most advanced levels of university education. When this is achieved the problems of underdeveloped nations will be largely resolved, because healthy, energetic people, with sufficient education, can achieve material well-being even when short of natural resources. Japan is a prime example of a nation that became a world power through industrialization, even though lacking in natural resources, because of a well-educated and energetic people. We will experience a time of universal cataclysm, which will reduce the world's population be at least two-thirds. This is not the end of civilization but the beginning of a new age. As nations rebuild, and correct the errors of the past, we must begin to raise the level of education of peoples in all the countries of the world. In his book Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher writes of the power of education as a primary resource in the development of national progress and prosperity. "All history -- as well as current experience -- points to the fact that it is man, not nature, who provides the primary resource; that the key factor of all economic development comes out of the mind of man. Suddenly, there is an outburst of daring, initiative, invention, constructive activity, not in one field alone, but in many fields all at once. No one may be able to say where it came from in the first place, but we can see how it maintains and even strengthens itself, through various kinds of schools. In other words, through education. In a very real sense, therefore, we can say that education is the most vital of all resources."
Education will be obligatory for everyone, and one of the primary duties of parents is to make certain that their children are provided moral and intellectual training. Concerning this, Abdu'l-Baha said: ". . . In this new cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge, and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts . . . The children must receive divine education and must continually be reminded to remember their God."
The role of mothers in the initial education and raising of children has been largely downplayed, misrepresented and neglected. The first years of a child's life are influenced by the mother to such a degree that its effects last throughout life. Abdu'l-Baha wrote that "mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgement, and the understanding and faith of their little ones." In education girls must be given priority, because they will be the future mothers, and as their level of understanding and spiritual insight develops, this is passed on to their children, and nations and civilizations will benefit. Of course when the time arrives when education at all levels is available and obligatory for all, both boys and girls will receive equal opportunities for education.
In the chapter on ecology I discussed the contents of the curriculum of both the lower level educational institutions and the universities. In the universities courses should not be designed primarily to benefit industry, but rather, they should be balanced so that every graduate knows something of the arts, humanities and sciences. There should be specialization of course, but the disciplines should not be isolated as they have been in the past, so that students are taught to think in terms of process and interrelationships or organic unities, and of a harmonious creation. In the lower levels of education the students should also be provided with a more holistic education, teaching them how to think in terms of the interrelatedness of all creation and of humanity. In the high schools they should be taught both mental and manual skills to prepare them to play a role in a steady state economy which will require the ability to maintain and conserve manufactured items as well as the bounties of nature. In all levels of education students must learn about and assume their share of responsibility for the general well-being of humanity, to become integrated personalities, understanding the importance of spiritual values, intuition and intellectual accomplishments.
In the past we have created mega-schools, with up to two or three thousand students in some high and junior high schools. In the future the trend will be toward smaller schools with smaller classes, where students will receive more individual attention, and not feel the sense of isolation and alienation so many feel in the large institutions. Although it will be feasible to have small junior colleges, it may not be practical to attempt to create small university campuses, although it is not wise to have over-sized classes in any university. In the large institutions there is anonymity, absence of community, and bureaucratic complexity, all of which combine to diminish the possibility of fruitful human interaction. This creates a distinct loss of morale among the faculty and alienation among the student body. In a report from UCLA and the American Council on Education, Alexander Astin stated: "When it comes to student achievement and involvement, the results clearly favor smaller institutions: Students are more likely to participate in honors programs, to become involved with academic pursuits, to interact with the faculty, to get involved in athletics, and to be verbally aggressive <in the classrooms> in small institutions. At the same time they are more likely to achieve in areas of leadership, athletics and journalism. Students in smaller institutions are more satisfied with their faculty-student relations and with classroom instruction . . . Small institutions foster a greater degree of altruism and intellectual self-esteem."
Athletic competition between schools, which assumes such exaggerated importance in the United States, detracts from scholastic activities and is wasteful of resources because of the long distances traveled for games. There is no reason why such activities cannot be kept within each school, or at a local community level. School activities such as music, drama, journalism and student government have higher rates of participation in schools with between 61 and 150 students. In a survey of small schools, the students said that they were more aware of the attractions and obligations of non-class activities than students in large institutions. In small towns with small schools students take more part in community activities, and their parents take more part in school activities.
The location and construction of schools is very important, in order to make them beautiful and enjoyable for students. In the last decades of this century new elementary and grade schools in the United States often resemble prisons, without external windows, and illuminated with flourescent lighting almost exclusively. The buildings are depressing and restricting, and the lighting is extremely harmful to the childrens' eyesight and general health. High schools show some improvement, with more open spaces and some landscaping. In the future all schools will be situated where they provide beautiful, natural surroundings, with courts, gardens and with as many windows as possible to provide natural lighting. Schools should be places of happiness as well as education, where young people will enjoy spending most of their daylight hours and many precious years of their lives. There is no reason why this cannot be universally accomplished, and in the future such aesthetically pleasing schools will be the norm, rather than the exception.
Wherever I traveled in the world I observed that in most nations, in the lower schools, it was required that the students wear either uniforms or similar smocks covering their clothing. This eliminates competition in clothing, and immodest or unsuitable attire. Even in Kabul, Afghanistan before the invasion by Russian and the subsequent turmoil, I saw girl students in very nice uniforms, and in Italy and France my children attended elementary and grammar level schools and were required to wear smocks that covered their clothing. When students are permitted to wear whatever they choose, there often ensues a sort of competition to wear the most exclusive creations possible, or the most outlandish clothing. Often the children whose families cannot afford expensive clothing are embarrassed by the comparison between what they must wear and the attire of the children from more affluent families; covering smocks or uniforms eliminates this problem.
There is no more suitable conclusion for this discussion of education than the following statement by Abdu'l-Baha. "As to the organization of the schools; if possible the children should all wear the same kind of clothing, even if the fabric is varied. It is preferable that the fabric as well should be uniform; if, however, this is not possible, there is no harm done. The more cleanly the pupils are, the better; they should be immaculate. The school must be located in a place where the air is delicate and pure. The children must be carefully trained to be most courteous and well-behaved. They must be constantly encouraged and made eager to gain all the summits of human accomplishment, so that from their earliest years they will be taught to have high aims, to conduct themselves well, to be chaste, pure and undefiled, and will learn to be of powerful resolve and firm of purpose in all things. Let them not jest and trifle, but earnestly advance unto their goals, so that in every situation they will be found resolute and firm."
During the last two centuries it was believed by most that everyone was supposed to have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", but with such limited rights it was too often impossible to pursue happiness, if you happened to be of the wrong sex, race, nationality, tribe, caste, religion or religious sect. In previous chapters I have described the additional right of owning a home and leasing land, the right to an education, and the right to health care, with all of the obligations that come with such rights. In coming chapters I will discuss the right to an income and employment, and the right to share in the government of one's own country and in a World Federal Government. In the first chapter I spoke of the oneness of religions, and the progressive nature of God's Revelation, which is a truth leading to the elimination of religious prejudice and to the true unity of humanity, which will remove the cause of today's conflicts between the followers of different religious beliefs.
In this chapter I have mentioned the social, intellectual and spiritual equality of men and women. This is one of the more important realizations in human spiritual evolution, and marks the coming of the maturity of humanity. We cannot look into the past and agonize over the mistakes we have made in our relationships, but must move into the future, understanding that until now humanity has been evolving through the phases of infancy, childhood and adolescence, with all the problems of those ages. Now we are entering a new age, when we attain the full powers of humanity, and can develop the attributes and reap the bounties of spiritual maturity.
All the various colors, shapes and sizes of human beings add beauty and diversity to the human race. Today we must acknowledge that there is but one race, the human race. All the racial and national prejudices that have separated the people in the past have no place in this new age, and their falsity have been amply proven over and over again during this century. The hatreds and strife that have arisen because of these false and dangerous beliefs have led to struggles and civil strife that are tearing nations apart, and costing countless human lives. Because of ignorance, arrogance and pride resulting from a lack of love and spirituality, human progress and prosperity have been delayed, leading to the misery of slavery, warfare, and genocide. Concerning the oneness of humanity, Baha'u'llah wrote: "Shut your eyes to estrangement, then fix your gaze upon unity. Cleave tenaciously unto that which will lead to the well-being and tranquility of all mankind. This span of earth is but one homeland and one habitation. It behoveth you to abandon vainglory which causeth alienation and to set your hearts on whatever will ensure harmony. In the estimation of the people of Baha man's glory lieth in his knowledge, his upright conduct, his praiseworthy character, his wisdom, and not in his nationality or rank..."
"That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
"O children of men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light ! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory."
Another human right is the right to have children, a subject of very great controversy in recent years, because of over-population throughout the world. Population control may not be an immediate problem in the near future, but there is no question that there must be a limit to the world's population because of finite resources, food and the ecology. The increasing population in this century has been the result of religious and cultural beliefs, immorality, and longer life spans. The solution resides in the development of spiritual qualities, raising the standards of living everywhere, and in education. New and effective methods of birth-control will have to be developed and made universally available, but in themselves such physical means are ineffective, but depend on ethical conduct, spiritual awareness, and understanding of the consequences of our acts. The practice of abortion is unacceptable except in extreme circumstances, to protect the health and life of the mother. The solutions to the population explosion of the past will be, for the most part, unacceptable in the new age, when the attributes of chastity and purity of conduct will be considered normal rather than exceptional, and everyone will be made aware that they share in the responsibility for controlling the population growth.
^ CHAPTER 10
THE RETURN TO SMALL COMMUNITIES
The Unsolved Problems of Large Cities
The huge cities of this "world" civilization with their millions of people and all their attendant ills, have been made possible by the use of fossil fuels. Their continuous growth is fed by the population explosion and the influx of people driven off the land by the agricultural "revolution" with its concentration of land into fewer and fewer hands. A few cities like New York, Mexico City, Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Shanghai, number up to 15 million or more people in their metropolitan areas. If everything were to continue as it is today, by the year 2025 it is estimated that there would be 29 cities or more with populations of from around 10 million up to 30 million, if it is conceivably possible for a city of 30 million to function at all. Simplistic science fiction writers think such cities can function but they only think of technology as the solution to the problems, and fail to consider the problems of supplying food and water, and the psychological problems.
The large cities are totally dependent on a continuous supply of resources, and because of the increasing population concentrated in small areas, the supply of food and other necessities of life come from increasingly distant sources. A city of only a million requires 9,000 tons of fuel and 625,000 tons of water every day. The Greater New York area which uses 1.9 billion cubic meters of water per year, obtains only 2 percent of it from indigenous underground sources; the remaining 98 percent comes from surface catchments many miles from the city. In addition to resources necessary to sustain the people within the cities, additional resources are needed in many large cities to supply a concentration of industry. In 1983 an estimated 44 percent of Mexico's gross domestic product, 52 percent of its industrial product, and 54 percent of its services were concentrated within metropolitan Mexico City; 60 percent of Philippine manufacturing establishments in 1979 were located in Greater Manila.
Replacement costs for deteriorating steel for buildings in American cities is around $20 million annually, and these same buildings use about 57 percent of the nation's electricity. Skyscrapers are incredibly wasteful of energy, in addition to their other undesirable features. The Sears Building in Chicago uses more electricity than the entire city of Rockford, Illinois which has almost 147,000 inhabitants. The World Trade Center in New York uses enough electricity to service the entire city of Schenectady, New York.
Sao Paulo in Brazil would need to devote its entire budget to sanitation and public works for 30 years to reach European standards for running water, sewage systems, and sewage treatment. New York city requires about $12 billion every ten years just for maintenance, replacement and repair of its physical plant. As of 1981 in New York city the following required service, repair or maintenance: 1,000 bridges, two aqueducts, one large water tunnel, several reservoirs, 6,200 miles of streets, 6,000 miles of water lines, 6,700 subway cars, 4,500 buses, 25,000 acres of parks, 17 hospitals, 19 university campuses, 950 schools, 200 libraries, and several hundred fire and police stations. It is no wonder that New York has required the assistance of the nation's taxpayers to balance its budget !
As the rural standard of living throughout the Third World becomes gradually more disastrous, the cities of the Third World are unable to produce enough jobs to support those fleeing the rural catastrophe. Too often, governments favor prestigious and expensive, high-technology industries over less glamourous labor intensive industries. To avoid "bread riots" in the cities, authorities often hold prices on many staple goods unnaturally low, thereby enticing even more people to the cities. This influx of people has led to incredible inflation rates -- 3,500 in Argentina, 1,000 percent in Brazil, 60 percent in Nigeria -- causing drastically higher rents which force even the upwardly mobile, such as office workers and skilled laborers, back into poverty. In Djakarta, Indonesia, many soldiers and bureaucrats live in shanties, unable to afford the subsidized city housing offered to them.
Cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Newark, etc. have enormous blighted areas with decaying, empty buildings or miserable slums. The exodus from the central cities to the suburbs by the more affluent citizens, has left central cities without adequate tax base to maintain city streets or to provide proper police or fire protection. Jails are inadequate to house the increasing number of criminals, and in many cities some criminals are left to roam the streets to commit more crimes. The movement to every-expanding suburbs made possible by automobiles and cheap fuel, encroaches on valuable agricultural land. In California 40 percent of the fertile valleys are now covered by suburbs and their attendant highways.
A study by Changnon and F.A. Huff in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society showed that large cities affect the weather locally, causing increased rain and poorer visibility, but this is of minor importance when compared with the air pollution caused by factories and vehicles. The lead in auto exhausts contributes to brain damage in children, and studies show that children with high levels of lead in their blood have learning disabilities and suffer physical disturbances such as drowsiness, irritability and abdominal pains. Researchers have found that when pregnant mothers have an "acceptable" level of lead in their systems, it affects the fetus so that the children are born with the same symptoms as those shown by children with high levels of lead in their blood. The situation is so serious that some cities and states have banned the sale of leaded gas, and the federal government, with its usual hesitancy because of possible profit losses to the oil companies, only talks of banning the sale of leaded gasoline at some future and unspecified date.
Lead in gasoline is not the only problem created by the use of automobiles in cities. The blood of New York taxi drivers, because of its high carbon monoxide content, cannot be used for transfusions to persons with heart ailments. One of the most harmful components of smog is nitrogen dioxide which reacts with the hydrocarbons in the air to form ozone, which in the lower atmosphere is harmful to the human respiratory system, and to plant life within cities and over a very large area of surrounding countryside. Modern cities with their dependence on automobiles for transportation, and fossil fuels for heating, electricity and factories, not only do physiological damage to their inhabitants, but also to plant and animal life for miles around.
European colonial powers unwittingly set up their chief trade centers in areas that, due to weather conditions, became smog traps in the industrial era. Sixty percent of Calcutta's residents suffer from breathing disorders. In China's major cities, far more people die of lung cancer than do in the countryside, chiefly because of heavy air pollution. In Djakarta the airborne lead levels are 17 times greater than what the World Health Organization considers dangerous. Carbon-monoxide poisoning is one of the most common causes of traffic deaths in Sao Paulo where World Health Organization standards, if observed, would have dictated smog warnings 226 days in the one year of 1987.
The social and spiritual problems that afflict our civilization are especially apparent in cities, where the psychological damage resulting from materialism and overcrowding is greatly aggravated. Peoples' minds and nervous systems are overloaded by the constant noise, pollution, influx of meaningless information, anxiety, depersonalization, and lack of natural surroundings. The result of the increasing frustration and anxiety engendered by this civilization centers around large cities, and coincides with a sharp rise in mental illness. About one in five Americans is being treated for some mental illness, and there are more mental health workers in America than there are policemen. Facilities for mental health include child guidance clinics, child abuse clinics, homes for battered wives, alcohol treatment centers, drug treatment centers, mental health centers, psychiatric clinics, etc.
The emotional and spiritual damage done by large cities, and the general materialism in society is reflected in increased drug and alcohol addiction, and the crime rates. In the 14 largest cities of the United States violent crime increased by 37 percent between 1972 and 1981, even though momentarily it has reached a plateau. The nationwide moral regression is especially concentrated in cities. Pornography peddled as adult literature or in movies, sexual assault, incest, and infidelity in marriage are among the signs of a disintegrating society, which find their greatest focus in large cities.
Crime is a particularly good index, and year after year shows a very sharp jump when the population of a city goes past 100,000.(Statistics from 1990) Cities of 25,000 to 50,000 have reported 343 violent crimes a year per 100,000 people ; cities of from 50 to 100,000 people have reported 451 per 100,000 people; cities of more than 250,000 people have reported 1,159 per 100,000 people, and cities of more than a million average 1,175 per 100,000 people. Similarly murder rates per 100,000 people for the year of the survey were 5.7 for the 25 to 50,000, 7.2 for the 50 to 100,000 population cities, but they jumped by nearly 300 percent to 21.4 for cities with over 250,000 population, and then to 29.2 in cities with over a million population. Sao Paulo with 4,444 murders, 170,000 armed robberies, and approximately 2 million thefts in one year, is easily the most crime-ridden city in the world. Most thieves in Sao Paulo are driven by hunger to commit their crimes, and crime in Sao Paulo is not restricted to only a few sections of the city. Almost all supermarkets employ guards to inspect shoppers before letting them into the stores, and large shopping centers are like armed bastions, with restaurants as well protected as European banks.
We are part of the biosphere and we must begin to understand the need to relate harmoniously to the entire ecosphere, a harmony which is destroyed when humans are concentrated in excessive numbers in gigantic concrete and asphalt cities, which cut off contacts and relationships with the biosphere. Besides these negative aspects of large cities, and those we have detailed above, large cities create an imbalance in the voting power in democracies, leading to injustices in the distribution of wealth as well as in all natural resources. In a state like California three mega-cities control almost all of the political power of the state, leading to a great deal of animosity in the lesser populated areas supplying the food, water, mineral resources and other wealth siphoned off by the cities.
Viability of Small Communities
The huge cities we have become accustomed to are a very recent development of the industrial age, beginning with the advent of fossil fuel as the main source of energy. Prior to the dependence on fossil fuels people lived in cities with populations of around 50,000, rarely reaching 100,000, except for Rome during the height of the Roman Empire, and one or two other cities such as Alexandria, Egypt. The forces that contributed to our Western civilization were born and nurtured in small communities. Astronomy, hydrology, brick-making and bronze working were first developed in the small communities of Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, which may have ranged in size from 5,000 to perhaps 20,000 inhabitants. The independent city-states of Crete, Athens, Troy, Byblos, Mycenae and others on the Mediterranean Sea developed the philosophies, mathematics, iron working, navigation, geography and other ideas that form the foundation of our material civilization. None of these Mediterranean communities were made up of much more than 10,000 inhabitants, judging from the most recent excavations.
Throughout history people have tended to create communities which reached an optimum size of about 50,000 inhabitants, and larger communities have not long survived. A study by urban economists at Columbia University showed that cities ranging in size from 25,000 to 100,000 have just as great a range of economic functions as cities of a million or more. In 1980 there were 18,565 cities with populations of less than 50,000 in the United States, 49 with 50,000 to 100,000 and 169 with larger populations.
A Swedish study showed that cities of about 8,000 people have higher levels of political participation and effectiveness than other sizes. A community of less than 10,000 is considered small in this century, but as Gropius, one of the researchers says, "It is particularly the small size of the township with its human scale which would favorably influence the growth of distinct characteristics of the community," including regular associations between people, easy access to public officers, mutual aid among neighbors, and open and trusting relations. Smallness is essential to preserve the historical value of community -- intimacy, trust, honesty, mutuality, cooperation, democracy and congeniality.
It is sometimes suggested that small towns and cities will lack the cultural activities which are often centered in large cities. Small cities and towns can have equal access to television, radio, records and movies which are important means for the dissemination of culture when they are not misused. Small towns and cities can have very good to excellent libraries with interconnecting exchange services, which enable members to obtain any desired book from other libraries throughout most of the nation. Cities of from 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants often have their own symphony orchestras and opera companies of excellent quality, and in Italian small towns, city size has been no deterrent to excellence in artistic achievement. True, many small towns do not have orchestras, art centers or museums, but that is often due to the availability of automobiles providing quick travel to large cities, as well as to a lack of interest in cultural development in this materialistic society. Painters and sculptors often cluster in certain areas because of the climate, scenery, mutual companionship, or markets for their work. Small communities unable to support orchestras can benefit from traveling companies, but towns of 50,000 can well provide adequate talent for all forms of cultural development, as did the small cities during the Renaissance.
In regions with many small villages there should be at least one town to serve as district center. Just as there is need for an economic structure, there is need for a cultural structure. While every small village below a certain size will have a primary school, the market center will have the secondary and high schools, and the district center will be large enough for a college or university. Whatever arrangement is decided upon must take into consideration the transportation problems and the need to avoid too great a centralization which leads to oversized cities with their attendant problems.
As discussed earlier, in the low entropy or steady state economy of the future, small communities will become very important to a healthier society and economy. With small firms producing almost all the necessities of communities within a reasonable area, and most farm produce being grown locally, the earnings of communities will not be exported to financial centers located in distant cities. A sustainable society will include economic and social cooperatives at the neighborhood level, where families will collaborate to meet productive and service needs that cannot be met at the household level. Thus they will develop and practice important social skills, and receive social support. The significance of neighborhoods as family support systems is obvious. Ecologically sound, small enterprises located nearby reinforce each other and contribute to family well-being. They will thus reduce demands upon formal social welfare systems at the community level, and as we see later, the redistribution of wealth will be an important factor in eliminating most of such welfare needs.
Contrary to life in large cities, where people feel isolated and alienated from the government, in small communities everyone will have a greater opportunity to share in the government. In small communities the neighborliness makes it possible to become personally acquainted with all the members of the local, elected government. Town meetings can be more effective and the opinions of individual citizens count for more. Small communities have a more leisurely life-style with its friendly courtesies, its greater harmony with nature, and its unhurried attitude toward earning a living. Relief from the constant stress and anxiety, which are the hallmarks of our Western style civilization, is essential to spiritual growth, for humans need time to meditate and develop their intuitive faculties, which is difficult or impossible today. In his book The Future as if it Really Mattered, James Garbarino speaks of living in a sustainable society:
"A sustainable society will be a healthy one, in several senses. Its life style will promote physical and mental well-being. The family planning, residential, and food and energy production activities described, create a day-to-day pattern that is demonstrably more healthy than either conventional affluence or impoverishment. In modernized societies, more walking, more vegetables, more physical labor, cooler houses, and small families all will reduce harmful physiological and psychological stress. In nonindustrialized societies, sanitation, better nutrition, access to technical information and energy, and family planning will have equally important benefits. In a sense, the transition to a sustainable society at this point in the history of humanity is an effort to ensure that each society has the best of whatever world it is part of."
The Designing of Small Communities
Prior to the fossil fuel age the major cities of Europe were designed for pedestrian movement in the cities, and for horse-drawn vehicular traffic. Buildings were compact three or four story walkups, and often the inhabitants lived directly over their places of business, or within a reasonable walking distance of their places of employment. Even the more recent European cities tend toward more public transportation and pedestrian traffic than in the United States, with the result that they use one-thirtieth of the land that American cities of comparable population require. The benefits of these older, compact cities using public transportation are less pollution, more tax money for parks, and greater energy efficiency. However, it is probably healthier to have more open spaces in a community, without the dwellings being too crowded.
New towns and villages of the future must be purposely limited in size. With the private ownership of land and land speculation that exists today it is extremely difficult to limit city size because of the financial manipulations of some of those in charge of the governments. With public ownership of land this will no longer be such a problem. With decentralized industry it will be possible to select sites of natural beauty, away from flood plains and other places that are dangerous or unhealthy. The happiness and well-being of the inhabitants will be the primary concern, not just the convenience of industries or shipping companies as has been the case in the past. Within such towns trees will play a major role in helping to keep the air clean, and to create an atmosphere of beauty and tranquility. The leaves of trees capture dust, holding it until rainfall washes it to the ground, and the trees also reduce wind velocity which allows the particulate matter to settle out. Towns should be designed with many parks of varying size, creating places of beauty and recreation available to all. Land surrounding towns will be maintained for green belts and/or for agriculture.
In Europe, many provinces, towns and cities have committees that control the style of architecture, so that the ugly monstrosities that plague American cities are forbidden. Designs that are in harmony with the general architectural scheme of the city or town, that are well designed to last, and are beautiful, are the only ones accepted. High-rise buildings must be forbidden in the future because they are not energy efficient (elevators, pumping water to higher levels, etc.), they cut off the sunlight from surrounding buildings thereby reducing available solar energy, and they are usually ugly. Cities and towns must be designed to use solar energy and other non-polluting sources of energy as much as possible. Inhabitants can share laundry centers, machines, etc. as mentioned in the chapters on energy and resources. Communities will be more completely linked with telecommunications, fibre optics, computers, etc. so there will be less necessity for constant traffic between cities and towns.
The cost and scarcity of fuel will make bicycles popular and practical again, and cities and towns will be designed to serve bicyclists and pedestrians. Automobiles, except for service vehicles and public transport, should be kept out of towns and cities. Autos for private use can be rented at a garage or garages located on the outskirts of the cities or towns, as discussed earlier. Workplaces, when possible, can be located near residential areas, except for the very rare heavy industries such as ship building, aeronautical factories for large aircraft, etc. Buildings for industry will be required to comply with the architectural beauty and environmental requirements. These developments are necessary for the health and safety of the public, eliminating noise and exhaust pollution, proving essential exercise and conserving resources.
Energy efficient bicycles will provide healthy exercise, and will be used to commute to nearby workplaces, for socializing, and for shopping. I recall that in the Netherlands paved bicycle paths, that meandered through the woods and meadows, avoiding highways, were constructed between towns. Computerized delivery services may be practical, which would allow people to shop from their homes for many items, saving time and energy. In China special bicycle avenues with five to six lanes are already common in cities. Motorized traffic is separated from pedestrians and cyclists on three-track roads, and in some cities space is set aside for load-carrying bicycles. Convenient bicycle parking is provided, as are services for maintenance and repair. Throughout China city governments use bicycles to relieve pressure on overloaded buses by paying commuters a monthly allowance for cycling to work.
The skyscrapers of our huge cities stand as monuments to an age of waste, and to the transient abundance of fossil fuels. In time, as the few remaining steel skeletons rust away, they will collapse and nothing will remain but piles of rubble. The generations that built these cities for the greater glory of the multinational corporations, wealthy financiers, and real estate speculators, will have passed away.. Then the children of the future will evolve in a new spiritual age where man will live in harmony with the entire ecosphere, in cities and towns constructed to promote human welfare and happiness.
^ CHAPTER 11
CAPITAL WORKING FOR LABOR: THE AGE OF DECENTRALIZED INDUSTRY
"How long shall we drift on the wings of passion and vain desire; how long shall we spend our days like barbarians in the depths of ignorance and abomination? God has given us eyes, that we may look about us at the world, and lay hold of whatsoever will further civilization and the arts of living. He has given us ears, that we may hear and profit by the wisdom of scholars and philosophers and arise to promote and practice it. Senses and faculties have been bestowed upon us, to be devoted to the service of the general good; so that we, distinguished above all other forms of life for perceptiveness and reason, should labor at all times and along all lines, whether the occasion be great or small, ordinary or extraordinary, until all mankind are safely gathered into the impregnable stronghold of knowledge. We should continually be establishing new bases for human happiness and creating and promoting new instrumentalities toward this end. How excellent, how honorable is man if he arises to fulfill his responsibilities; how wretched and contemptible if he shuts his eyes to the welfare of society and wastes his precious life in pursuing his own selfish interests and personal advantages. Supreme happiness is mans', and he beholds the signs of God in the world and in the human soul, if he urges on the steed of high endeavor in the arena of civilization and justice..." Abdu'l-Baha
Media Control and Conditioned Thinking
The moral conduct of the people in the Western nations, their goals in life, family attitudes and beliefs, are greatly influenced by the propaganda of the multinational corporations, although most people do not realize the extent to which they have been mentally conditioned by subtle media manipulation. In addition to television, radio, movies and the press, public schools and universities are enlisted in the overall program of mind shaping, through indirect pressures from business interests on the governments and school boards, through the direct pressure of grants to universities and through the limited thinking of those who administer such institutions.
It is unfortunate that our religious institutions are unable to provide enough spiritual inspiration to enable their members to resist this continuous pressure to think and act in ways designed to increase the profits and power of big business. We are assailed by propaganda from all directions by the media, with information tailored to lead our thinking into predetermined channels, through advertisements, slanted news releases and commentaries, and daily television shows which present regressive ethical standards and life-styles. Unfortunately it is not just the multinational and national corporations that engage in this practice. Our elected officials also use the media to support whatever happens to be the policy of the administration in power, or of a political party, and honesty is too often a forgotten virtue.
In 1985 the ten top media giants of the United States together owned 42 television stations, 5 cable and pay television networks, including the two largest, 96 leading magazines, 271 daily and weekly newspapers, and eight of the largest book publishing companies. In the ensuing years mergers have reduced the number of corporations controlling the media. Three of the top ten are CBS, NBC and ABC television and radio networks, and these in turn are owned by multinational corporations. These networks have syndicated programs broadcast over the entire nation, promoting their own corporate interests in their advertising, news and other programs, and the interests of other corporations who, in 1981, poured some $61 billion into advertising.
The incessant flood of editorialized news, advertising, and television shows conditions the thinking of most of us in Western nations to accept the conventional "moral", political and business concepts of corporations and politicians. Too many politicians are controlled or influenced more by the corporations which fund their campaigns than by the people they are supposed to represent. For most people it is extremely difficult to give up ideas they have come to devoutly believe during most of their lives, even when such beliefs are clearly wrong. Corporations and politicians tell us that if we continue as we are, all of our problems will disappear. It is a "carrot-on-a-stick" promise that is never fulfilled, always just ahead in the future, while existing conditions grow steadily worse. In the New Industrial State, Harvard economist Kenneth Galbraith observed: "It is possible that people need to believe that they are unmanaged if they are to be managed effectively. We have been taught to set store by our freedom of economic choice; were it recognized that this is subject to management, we might be at pains to assert our independence. Thus we would become less manageable. Were instruction in economics, supported by the formidable wisdom of the economic textbooks to proclaim that people are partly in the service of those who supply them, this might cause those so educated to desert that service."
We have been conditioned to accept the arguments that capitalistic corporations of the Western nations will provide the talent and capital for solving the economic and social problems of the world. Companies that produce chemicals that poison the land, water and air tell us on television how much they are concerned about the welfare of the nation; companies that manufacture unhealthy synthetic foods boast of how they benefit human health and progress. They tell us that they will discover new resources, mine the seas, develop the backward nations, provide the necessary economic stimulus to give everyone the possibility to own a home and have an education, at the very time that incomes of the middle class and poor are declining. They deny responsibility for the damage they have clearly done to the ecology, and sponsor expensive advertising campaigns to tell us how they actually benefit the environment, and are bringing progress and happiness into the world. They promise to solve the spreading and increasing danger from atomic power plants, the increasing Greenhouse effect from fossil fuel power plants and factories, and the widespread pollution that threatens our very existence. They tell us that as national production increases in the various countries, the welfare of the people everywhere will be vastly improved, but the opposite is happening. With public awareness of acid rain, poisoned water, toxic waste dumps and degrading social problems, disillusionment has set in, and each year more people begin to see the unpleasant realty hidden in the promises. Kenneth Galbraith, in The New Industrial State: "Only the innocent reformer and the obtuse conservative imagine the state to be an instrument of change apart from the interests and aspirations of those who comprise it. The interests and needs of the industrial system are advanced with subtlety and power. Since they are made to seem to coordinate with the purposes of society, government action serving the needs of the industrial system has a strong aspect of social purpose. And, as we have seen, the line between the industrial system and the state becomes increasingly artificial and indistinct."
The oft repeated promise from our government and corporations that increased production will bring prosperity to all, remains a very empty promise. The United Nations reported that for about half the world's population there was rising unemployment and decreased purchasing power from 1960 to 1980, and the gap between the top one-fifth and the bottom one-fifth in the world more than doubled. In some lesser developed nations the richest one-fifth sometimes earns 60 percent or more of the national income, while the poorest one-fifth struggles by with 2 to 5 percent. Between 1973 and 1981, when adjusted for inflation, the United States gross national product increased 19 percent, and yet the number of those living below the poverty level in the same period increased from 23 million to 35 million, and the top 5 percent of the population increased their share of the nation's wealth to 53.3 percent.(See the Appendix for recent statistics on inequities in distribution of wealth.)
Technical advances in production, and the use of robots and computers is changing the composition of the work force, with fewer employed and increasing numbers living in poverty. Fewer people own the means of production or the land, in both industry and agriculture. As a result of this, and increasing automation, more and more people are being forced out of the factories and pushed off the land, and left destitute. In the United States and other industrialized nations a few people are moving into what Paul Hawkins calls the "informal economy" where people work for one another largely by barter, a sub-economy of mutual assistance and independent creative work.
Corporations and Underdeveloped nations
To avoid taxes, pollution laws and high wages, many American, European and Japanese companies have moved to nations which give them special concessions, and where workers are so desperate that they will work for very low wages without government protection for safety or health. This is detrimental to the welfare of American, Japanese and European workers as well as those in underdeveloped nations hosting the companies. The multinational companies, contrary to their claims, are not major suppliers of foreign capital to underdeveloped nations. They usually borrow local capital for their foreign firms, depriving smaller, local manufacturers of needed venture capital. Japan is using the same technique of local financing to establish factories in the United States, and we have become their "banana republic". During 1957 to 1965 U.S. multinationals financed 83 percent of their Latin American businesses locally, and exported 79 percent of their earnings. This has served to widen the gap between the rich and the poor all over the world.
Multinationals have a competitive edge in selling their products within underdeveloped nations because of their control of communications and advertising. Just as they are able to shape the values and tastes of the people in industrialized nations, so are they able to control the market in the underdeveloped nations. The powerful response to American corporations which we see in Europe and Japan is lacking in underdeveloped nations because their institutions and business enterprises are too weak to offer much resistance. The result of these disadvantages suffered by Third World nations has led some of them to resist further entry by any multinationals into their nations by placing considerable restrictions on their operations and bookkeeping methods.
Multinational Corporations and International Finances
By use of "creative bookkeeping" corporations manage to avoid paying their fair share of taxes in whatever nations and states they are located, which makes it possible to pay higher dividends to the principal stockholders and to the management of the corporations. In the United States in 1960 the corporations paid 24.2 percent of the total income taxes collected; in 1981 they paid only 12.2 percent of the total, and in 1983 during the Reagan administration, they paid only 6.2 percent of the total, although their "reported" profits remained about the same percentage of the total national income. By using tax havens on the Carribean Islands, or other small countries where their profits are tax free, and by shifting funds from one operation to another across national boundaries, the earnings reported by multinationals do not correspond with actual income, and their reporting is not in the least hampered by the old-fashioned ideas of honesty and loyalty.
When corporations fail to pay their fair share of taxes, the citizens, largely from the lower and middle level wage earners, must take up the slack in ever increasing government expenditures, and the national debt builds rapidly. In the United States during the administrations of Presidents Reagan and Bush, during the 1980s and 1990s, this shift was greatly accelerated by the use of regressive taxes, euphemistically called "revenue enhancement". The Kemp-Roth legislation by the U.S. Congress, and later tax "reforms" which were supposed to create a "just" tax structure, did just the opposite, and helped to shift more of the burden from the rich to the poor. Of course we were told that the corporations and the wealthy would be forced to pay their fair share of the taxes, but that vague statement was untrue, and the word "fair" has a different connotation for the rich than for everyone else. To anyone who knows the truth this is outright deception of the public; it is difficult to believe that many members of the U.S. Congress were actually convinced, even momentarily, that the corporations would not rearrange their "creative bookkeeping" to avoid any tax increases. All of this effort helped the wealthy individuals and the corporations to gain a far greater share of the nation's wealth, it added to the deficit problems, it increased the national debt, and it led to the present world-wide financial troubles.
The concentration of wealth in the national and multinational corporations, constantly accelerated by the process of mergers and leveraged buyouts, is so great that the international movement of money can no longer be controlled, and the nations have lost their ability to properly regulate their economies. In 1973, 140 U.S. multinationals had aggregate sales of about $380 billion, and by 1982 their aggregate sales went up to about $1,200 billion, larger than the gross national product of any nation other than Japan, Germany, Russia and the United States. Fifty multinationals in the world, twenty-one of them American, also had sales over $1,200 billion in 1982. Since 1925 there were over 34,000 business mergers in the United States alone, the number of mergers increasing before each major collapse of the stock market, and in the 1980s the number of mergers surpassed any of the past decades, and they have continued to increase since then. Mergers and leveraged buyouts provide the most benefit for those who negotiate the deals, help the stockholders the least, lead to constantly greater concentrations of wealth and power, and have led to bankruptcy for a high percentage of the largest corporations in America.
Already in 1973 the U.S. Senate Finance Committee reported that the persons and corporations operating in the international money market had the resources to create an international monetary crisis, and 23 years later the situation is critical, with far greater amounts of money involved. It is necessary to realize that there is an intimate relationship between the multinationals and the world banks, an interdependence that is a major factor in the pending world financial collapse. The flow of money is enhanced by electronics, making it impossible to control the financial activities of corporations and banks, because "electronic money" moves instantaneously from nation to nation, according to the manipulations of those institutions. This will precipitate an international economic collapse, a world-wide landslide as the entire chaotic, irresponsible. unregulated financial order begins to shake apart. No one believes it will happen until it happens, and then they are shocked and dismayed.
Corporate Relations with Labor and Governments
Not only have the global corporations gained control of the world money markets and resources, they have also gained control of the governments in many nations, placing their people in key positions, influencing elections with financial support, and exercising disproportionate influence on legislative bodies through highly paid lobbyists and bribes. In the American government, heads of departments more often than not come from large corporations, or have represented large corporations in the past, and when government officials leave their government posts they too often move directly into executive positions in the very industries they formerly "regulated", which is, of course, very suspect. Ruckleshaus, a company executive of the Weyerhauser Lumber Company, one of the worst environmental offenders, was appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S. under the Reagan administration, supposedly regulating his own company and other industries. In the Reagan administration the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense were both executives of the Bechtel Corporation. Generals and admirals in the U.S. military headquarters, on "retirement", often move directly into lucrative executive positions in the armaments industry from whom they formerly purchased armaments, thereby helping those companies to gain easy access to "defense" contracts with the government. This close collaboration between governments and big business creates a serious conflict of interests which favors the corporations rather than the public or the nations. The U.S. government has become more and more of a plutocracy, as democracy fades away and the will of the people means less and less in the making of laws and in the operation of the government.
In relationships between the industrial system and the state, fantasy and image building play an important role, according to J.K. Galbraith, in The New Industrial State. "...By contriving an appropriate image of the position, prospects, problems or dangers of the state, the industrial system can insure a reaction favorable to its needs. <Remember, they control the media>. If the image is one of a country lagging in technological development in a world where that is a prime test of national success, it can insure investment in scientific research and technological development. If the image is of a nation beset by enemies, there will be responding investment in weapons. If it is one of a state in which liberty is threatened by controls <of industry>, there will be resistance to regulation of various kinds ... However, the process of building these images is a good deal less obvious than that by which the demands of the consumer are created..."
Corporations have brought their supply of capital, and to a large degree their labor supply, within their control and within the sphere of their planning. Antagonism between the public as clients or employees, and the corporations, is increasing, and it could lead to widespread violence. Management has attempted to create a submissive labor force by threatening to move its factories to other states or nations, by replacing all the striking employees, or by laying off employees and hiring part-time workers, and this has occurred with increasing frequency. Moving the company saves on pensions and accumulated seniority rights, and even gains the companies special tax breaks from the states or nations where by move. Corporations having plants in many states or nations can afford to completely shut down one or more plants to break the spirits of workers on strike, or to take advantage of special tax breaks or of lower wages in other locations. Using multiple sources for components a large corporation, such as the Ford Motor Company, can simply move its tools and dies to another plant, as they did when workers in Britain went on strike. This unconscionable treatment of workers who give many years of their lives to a company, is one of the most inhumane aspects of modern corporate management.
In the United States, under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations from 1980 to 1996, many companies cut back on employee wages or laid off workers, using the excuse of falling profits, while at the same time increasing the salaries and passing out bonuses to those in management. The compensation given executives in American corporations is rarely related to their competence, but these irrationalities are not easy to eradicate because most stockholders rarely vote down proposals made by management. The bonuses, salaries and stock options of executives in the U.S. have become so exaggerated that the general public is now beginning to question with increasing frequency the corporate wage structure.
Every day Americans who enjoy a relative degree of liberty and democracy in their homes, go to work at corporations where they spend eight hours a day under conditions of autocracy resembling that of some authoritarian dictatorships. They have to abide by all the decisions of the company which are made by people they do not elect, and over whom they have no control. They have none of the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution while on company premises. Although they give most of their working lives to a company, corporation management considers that to be of little importance. They have no voice in the financial decisions of the company, and they are not permitted to know the company's real financial situation. They can be laid off just prior to their time of retirement so that the company is not obliged to pay the pensions due them. If they invent something during working hours, or even when not at work and on their own time, corporations usually claim patent rights to the discovery, rarely to the benefit of the inventor, just as if they own the minds and souls of workers. If workers displease the hierarchy for any reason whatsoever, they can be fired without explanation, and forced into the streets without recourse or references. This situation has grown rapidly worse since 1980 and the only protection workers have had against this sort of dictatorship by corporations has been through the unions, which corporations have worked diligently to destroy and discredit, with increasing success. Workers are usually considered to be a commodity by corporation executives, to be used and discarded as required by profit considerations alone.
There are benefits to be derived from our experiences with corporations. Many of the techniques of production that have been learned from corporations have definite value for the future, in modified form and to a limited degree. World trade and communications have been improved with the aid of corporations, but these developments would undoubtedly have occurred through other more beneficial channels without the multinationals. On the other hand the economic practices of the "industrial age" have provided clear lessons about the economy that we must never forget or repeat. The negative features of giant corporations cannot be tolerated in a more humane society with a steady state economy based on universal justice. The entire approach to the production of goods, to worker and management relations, and to the responsibilities of business firms to their communities, will have to be completely reformed.
Inefficiency of Large Corporations
In the last two decades of the twentieth century we have seen case after case where corporations have failed because of exceptionally bad management, top-heavy bureaucracy, unwise worker layoffs for temporary increases in profits to management, and crushing debts resulting from leveraged or hostile buyouts by speculators interested only in personal profits. The problems resulting from top-heavy bureaucracies and the difficulties of managing huge enterprises have led to major upheavals in the automobile industry, the steel industry and the major airlines. There is a limit in size for businesses and governments beyond which they become impossible to manage effectively. As the complexity and quantity of operations being handled by a limited number of people passes a certain point, the businesses or governments begin to deteriorate and disintegrate. Hiring specialists and using computers eases the problems only to a temporary and slight degree, and when people become too dependent on a proliferation of technical advisors and technological devices, the process of disintegration is augmented. When any organization grows beyond a certain size, humans, regardless of education, experience, ability or technological "know-how", do not have the ability to cope with the increasing complexity and the vast amount of information continuously pouring in to be assimilated and acted upon. It is again the question of the problems that always arise when we exceed the limits of moderation.
Charles Schwab, who quit the board of directors at the Bank of America, one of America's largest banks, to work for a small company, said that the Bank of America "is like a giant battleship that takes a long time to change course." Studies by the House Antitrust Committee of the U.S. Congress, and Arthur M. Louis, show that as corporations become larger through buyouts and mergers, creating the much vaunted conglomerates, they rarely show higher profitability after their acquisitions than before. This is again an indication that beyond a certain size and diversity, corporations become increasingly unwieldy and difficult to manage.
Problems arise not only from increasing complexity of organization, and the lead time required for major design changes, or the introduction of new products, but also from the costs of distribution, advertising and competition. According to Ralph Borsodi it is an accepted standard in the U.S. that for consumer goods, the unit costs of distribution will be higher than those of production, and they increase as the cost of fossil fuel goes up. In order to condition the thinking of the public, extensive and sustained advertising is necessary, which is extremely expensive, adding to the costs of the products for consumers. Advertising for international markets is too costly for smaller firms, and this tends to eliminate, rather effectively, their ability to compete in that arena. In markets where smaller firms can compete, the rate of return from investment is considerably higher for the small firms compared to that of the giant corporations.
The fear that the disappearance of large corporations will lead to a decline in jobs is not justified. In the 1980s the 500 largest firms grew in size through buy-outs and mergers and they still employed no more than they did ten years earlier, and many of them have, since then, consistently cut back on the number of employees. In the years since 1980 two-thirds of all new jobs have been created in businesses with less than twenty employees. The process of downsizing or "stream-lining" being employed by many corporations has often done more damage than good, even though the stockholders and CEOs made temporary financial gains. In World Press, July 1996 an excerpt from the Economist of London: "...A recent survey by the American Management Association (AMA) found that fewer than half of those companies that had downsized since 1990 went on to report higher operating profits in the years following the move; even fewer saw improved productivity."
The myth that large corporations are more efficient than small or moderate sized firms does not stand up under examination. Studies have shown that highest efficiencies occur in smaller firms, and as the firms grow larger, there is decreasing efficiency in the use of all assets. Nor do larger firms sell their products cheaper than small firms. The corporation bureaucracy, strikes, sabotage, in plant thefts, absenteeism, the expense of shipping and distribution networks, high advertising costs, wasteful packaging and the extraordinarily high cost of management, actually require that large forms charge more for their products. Clearly, large firms are not the way to creative economic management, to innovations, to democracy in the workplace, nor to a properly functioning market economy. All the products needed in society, except for a few items such as ships, large aircraft and very large machinery, can be manufactured in small factories. E.F. Schumacher, in Small is Beautiful, discusses the need to turn to a more humane economy, with firms suited to human limitations and needs. "The conventional wisdom of what is now taught as economics by-passes the poor. The economics of giantism and automation is a left-over of nineteenth-century thinking, and it is totally incapable of solving any of the real problems of today. An entirely new system of thought is needed, a system based on attention to people, and not primarily attention to goods -- (the goods will look after themselves!). It could be summed up in the phrase 'production by the masses, rather than mass production.' What was impossible, however, in the nineteenth-century, is possible now. And what a was in fact -- if not necessarily at least understandably -- neglected in the nineteenth-century is unbelievably urgent now. That is, the conscious utilization of our enormous technological and scientific potential for the fight against misery and human degradation -- a fight in intimate contact with actual people, with individuals, families, small groups, rather than states and other anonymous abstractions. And this presupposes a political and organizational structure that can provide this intimacy."
"What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realization, fulfilment? Is it a matter of goods, or of people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. Therefore we must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small-scale units. If economic thinking cannot grasp this it is useless. If it cannot get beyond its vast abstractions, the national income, the rate of growth, capital/output ratios, input-output analysis, labor mobility, capital accumulation; if it cannot get beyond all this and make contact with human realities of poverty, frustration alienation, despair, breakdown, crime, escapism, stress, congestion, ugliness, and spiritual death, then let us scrap economics and start afresh."
In recent years Japan has become the leading nation in the use of robots in their factories, but they have discovered that humans are superior, with greater flexibility and creativity than machines which are primarily valuable for work too heavy for humans. In Far Eastern Economic Review", March 1996:
"A broad shift is underway in Japanese industry. For two decades, Japanese factories have pursued efficiency by replacing man with machine. Now man is making a comeback. A few giant manufacturers are actually yanking robots off assembly lines and replacing them with humans. Others, such as Sony, are replacing conveyor belts with more human configurations: small huddles of workers who handle the entire final assembly instead of just one task. Toshiba calls one new U-shaped setup a 'sushi line', since it's meant to respond to customized orders just as flexibly as a sushi bar. Even in the auto industry, companies such as Toyota are retooling with simpler machines that do the heavy lifting but leave lighter tasks to workers."
Advantages of Small Firms
Small firms cannot exercise the disproportionate influence over governments or economics that has been wielded by giant corporations. Small firms with greater individual ownership will be a positive force in the redistribution of wealth and social power. Small firms become an integral part of their communities where they are located, taking greater interest in improvements in their communities. Because small firms can be more democratic they will engender greater worker loyalty, resulting in the elimination of strikes, theft and absenteeism. Of course, with workers sharing ownership in firms, and with a greater redistribution of incomes, strikes will not be necessary to protect worker interest in the firms. Greater worker participation in production leads to higher quality products. All of these plus qualities explain why small firms have been more effective and economical than oversized industries.
In 1976 a U.S. Department of Commerce report stated that up to two-thirds of all inventions and innovations in all fields did not come from the large corporations, but from individuals, public institutions and small firms. T.K. Quinn, a former board chairman of General Electric Finance Company, stated that none of the giant corporations ever created even one of the distinctive new electric home appliances, but purchased them from individuals or small firms. The practice by large corporations of taking over the inventions of their employees without giving credit to the creators, is a very negative force against creativity, stifling individual initiative. The small firms where the rights and dignity of each individual is respected, and his/her accomplishments fully acknowledged, provide a healthy environment, conducive to creativity. Sociologists and psychologists warn of dangers to the integrity of the individual when he/she feels no more than a small and insignificant part of a vast, impersonal corporation, where his/her daily working life becomes increasingly dehumanized. In 1989 an article in The Economist magazine noted that "...in the West small, even tiny, companies have invented personal computers, pioneered new types of management, and provided many of the consumer trifles that people in communist [countries] could only dream of." They stated that the U.S. had over 5 million firms employing fewer than 500 people each, and the average size of companies was falling.
Contrary to the American idea that managers of large corporations find greater fulfilment in life, it was in the small firms that they are happier. A study made of Stanford University Business School graduates who qualified for good positions in large corporations, found that those who worked for small companies were much more satisfied with their lives and jobs, especially in the more democratic firms. The small firms provide a healthier psychological environment for both management and workers. E.F. Schumacher in Small is Beautiful:
"... We always need both freedom and order. We need the freedom of lots of small, autonomous units, and at the same time, the orderliness of large-scale, possibly global, unity and coordination. When it comes to action, we obviously need small units, because action is a highly personal affair, and one cannot be in touch with more than a very limited number of persons at any one time. But when it comes to the world of ideas, to principles or ethics, to the indivisibility of peace and also of ecology, we need to recognize the unity of mankind and base our actions upon this recognition..."
Worker Ownership of Firms
Greater worker and management enthusiasm and loyalty are attained by shared ownership in an enterprise. Very small scale, family type enterprises with perhaps two or three employees, are probably best operated without employees sharing in the management, but when a firm or company exceeds a certain very modest size, there is need for the development of relationships, communications and consultations to allow all members of the organization genuine participation in the management of the company. Employees who give their entire lives to a company, striving to improve its products and sharing in the successes and failures of the company, have a moral right to be co-owners of the company. It is important that the relationships to the community of such firms be close and continuous; this means taking part to some extent in charitable and public works, as described in the section below on the Mondragon cooperatives. Such sharing in ownership and management is mentioned in the writings of Abdu'l-Baha: "... When the worker has his seat upon the board of management, and can vote on the rate of wages, the disposition of surplus capital, dividends, employment ...and all questions involving the control of the enterprise, then the worker and manager will understand one another and strikes will be completely eliminated."
When an "owner" or a firm appropriates profit in excess of a fair salary to himself or herself, or in excess of what would be a fair return on his or her capital loaned to outside sources, then such profits are either fortuitous or they are an achievement of the whole organization, and not of the owner. It is therefore unfair for such profits to be appropriated by the owner; they should be shared by all members of the organization. When they are reinvested in the firm, they should be collectively owned, instead of accruing automatically to the wealth of the original owner.
Anyone working for an enterprise will buy shares directly when becoming a part of the firm, or with time payments as they work for the firm. When their employment ceases they must sell back their shares to the firm, minus an agreed upon rate of interest. There will be no outside shareholders, the company will belong to the employees, labor hiring capital, the reverse of our conventional economics. The worker's share of the profits of the firm goes into an account for him or her, to be used by the firm until the worker retires, at which time the entire fund, with accrued interest, is returned as retirement money. Thus the employee-owners of the enterprise will share in the profits and losses of the firm, and have a stake in the company's success.
Worker ownership sharing in large corporations has not worked out well because the number of employees is so great that the voice of the individual worker means little. With a distant and unresponsive management, even when elected by the employees, the situation is only slightly better than before the workers shared ownership. As we have pointed out, the day of large corporations is over, and in the future, when the norm is to have small firms with up to 350 employees or so, employee participation in management and ownership will be effective and necessary.
With worker ownership of firms, an internationally enforced fair wage scale, and an international currency, the question of companies moving about seeking cheap labor, weak pollution laws and special tax exemptions, will be a thing of the past. In extreme cases, and when necessary, tariffs should be used to encourage some recalcitrant nations to reach parity with international wage scales. Control of tariffs in such instances will be decided by international accord through the World Federal Government. However, the immense amount of energy wasted in shipping goods thousands of miles can be largely eliminated, when essential products are made locally all over the world. Technology suitable to the training and needs of each nation should be shared, so that no nation is dependent on others for the production of essential goods and agricultural crops. International trade will be in specialty items and agricultural produce dependent on certain climates, eliminating the "coals to Newcastle" syndrome. These steps, and others aimed at establishing equity in world commerce and industry, will contribute to the just distribution of wealth throughout every society and nation.
Cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain
An example of the potentialities of worker owned and operated industries is the complex of more than eighty interlocking producer cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain. Jose Maria Arismendi, a Catholic priest, began a community funded technical school in 1943 to teach the principles of worker participation in industry, as well as technical skills. Graduates of the school established their own cooperative factory with money provided by friends and families to manufacture stoves and cooking equipment. From that successful beginning the rest of the complex was built, little by little, to include industrial, agricultural, financial and educational endeavors.
In the eighties, ULGOR, the original factory, was the largest manufacturer of stoves and refrigerators in Spain. Fifty-eight cooperatives manufactured industrial goods such as electronic components, steel mill equipment, and washing machines. They established six cooperative schools with 3,500 students, five agricultural cooperatives, a research and development center, and a community bank to finance, develop and advise all the enterprises. The bank, Caja Laboral Popular, sought to attract new money and new cooperatives, and all those who invested sixteen hundred dollars to buy a share (in the 1980s) in the complex could become members. Those who invested without joining received 6 percent on their money, or whatever the current rate was at the time.
Those who started a new enterprise raised 20 percent of the working capital, 60 percent was put up by the bank, and another 20 percent was provided on long-term loan from the Spanish government. Prior to financing any new cooperative, the bank studied the project for two years to determine its marketability, and whether it would have managers with the necessary skills to run the plant. The bank also had a regular staff called a "management service" to keep an eye on the managers and finances of all cooperatives, offering advice when necessary.
The wage differential between the highest and lowest salaries was originally 3:1, but later went to 5:1 in the Mondragon cooperatives. In American firms, in the 1980s, the average salary differential was around 50:1 and up in some firms, and some American executives today earn up to $50 million a year, according to Business Week magazine.(See Appendix for current statistics on inequities in earnings in America) In Mondragon each worker put up membership capital either in a lump sum or from his or her wages during the first two years. A quarter of that initial payment of $2 to $6 thousand was used by the collective for general operating funds, and the rest went into the worker's capital account on which interest was paid, and to which his/her share of the firms profits were paid. The worker was required to withdraw his/her capital account when leaving or retiring; 80 percent was returned before retirement and 100 percent upon retirement. After 20 years this capital account might come to $20 or $30 thousand dollars. Retirement pay was 100 percent of the worker's final salary. It was this fair treatment of workers who shared in a cooperative that strengthened the loyalty and motivation among Mondragon workers.
Mondragon cooperatives avoided the problems caused by excessive democracy which occurs in firms when too many conflicting opinions hamper the smooth operation of the enterprises. Control was directly in the hands of the workers, with the workers electing a board of directors which met once a month to set the broad policy of the firm, which included hiring and directing the management. Managers were given considerable leeway in their functions, but they realized that their positions depended on the allegiance of those they oversaw, and that their decisions could be overridden by the board of directors at any time on behalf of the membership. Like all human endeavors, Mondragon cooperatives had problems, but they managed to solve them amicably and to thrive. They were an integral part of the community of Mondragon (30,000 population) and they could rely on community support and citizen enthusiasm to a degree little known elsewhere. They set an example of democracy in the workplace and of the practical reality of successful, small, worker owned and operated firms. This information on the Mondragon cooperatives was obtained in the 1980s, and I assume that they continue to operate successfully today.
It is important that even with cooperatives or worker owned firms, there be some assurance that the enterprises recognize their obligations to the community. It is not enough to establish laws to guarantee this relationship if the inner, spiritual convictions are not there to start with. As I have previously observed, the best of governments or economies will not function properly in an immoral, materialistic, and hedonistic society, as recent world problems illustrate. In the Basque country where Mondragon is situated, the people have a strong sense of community, and loyalty to their people. The cooperative bank that finances the firms stipulates in advance that each venture pay back at least 10 percent of its annual profits to the community, and they have a sliding scale which requires that the more a firm earns, the more it will turn over. The schools sponsored by the cooperatives help to reinforce this relationship between the workers, the firms and the community.
Future Industrial Development
The development of nations does not start with goods, but with people and their spiritual and intellectual education, their organization and their discipline. Unless these qualities are developed the resources of a nation remain as undeveloped potential. As noted earlier, societies like that of Japan, with the scantiest of natural resources, but with a high level of education, discipline and organization, created economic miracles, although in the end its spiritual weakness will be its undoing. Hand in hand with the development of appropriate technology and industry throughout the world will go universal, quality education, requiring the cooperative effort of all the nations.
In a steady state economy where we are concerned about the conservation of all resources, and the preservation of a healthy environment, new industries will be developed around the utilization of renewable resources and sustainable agriculture. There will be a world-wide decentralization of industry, with self-sufficient regions manufacturing most of their goods, and growing most of their own food. In State of the World by Lester Brown et al, they speak of new professions of energy auditors, solar architects, wind prospectors, and thousands of jobs in forestry to manage and expand vast areas of new and old forests. Agronomy will require specialists to develop new methods of biological control of weeds, insect pests and plant diseases, as well as new systems of sustainable agriculture using and developing new crops and cropping systems. In the field of manufacture the development of photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, mass transit, improved bicycles, and recycling all sorts of commercial and agricultural wastes, will require thousands of new workers in new industries.
Our entire attitude about working conditions and the psychology of the workplace will undergo change and improvement. People should enjoy the work that occupies most of their lives, and should be guided into fields to which they are most suited, without monetary returns being the primary consideration, a problem that will be largely resolved by removing the huge salary differentials that exist today in most nations. In manufacturing firms the work can be made more agreeable through worker participation in as many phases of production as possible, and through shared ownership and responsibility. E.F.Schumacher in Small is Beautiful: "...In industry we can interest ourselves in the evolution of small scale technology, relatively non-violent technology, "technology with a human face", so that people have a chance to enjoy themselves while they are working instead of working solely for their pay packet and hoping, usually forlornly, for enjoyment solely during their leisure time..."
Multinational and national corporations have been notoriously wasteful of resources, careless of the environment, dishonest in their relationships with the public, irresponsible in their attitudes toward governments and nations, inefficient in the management of their assets, and a primary cause of the maldistribution of wealth and power. Small, worker owned and operated firms can never exercise the power over governments and people so contemptuously used by the large corporations. In a low entropy or steady state economy small firms and small communities are an inescapable necessity, as well as a blessing to humanity. There will be no need to manipulate the media to control the thinking and tastes of the public, and because of diminishing resources and the establishment of a government resource quota system, we will profit most from the production of quality goods. With worker participation and involvement in the firms there will be no need for enterprises to grow beyond a size suitable for democratic worker participation in the operation of the companies. Using appropriate technology, as in the case of the mini steel mills, firms will be able to employ more workers, and to be more innovative and efficient. In a more mature, spiritual, organic society, seeking greater justice and a sharing of the world's bounties, the large corporations of the twentieth century will have no place.
The only firms that should be nationalized, or made into limited cooperatives owned by the public within a certain area, would be those providing utilities, such as electricity or communications, and public transportation. When such publicly owned enterprises exist they should also be decentralized, with a central coordinating headquarters when they cover a large enough area. There is no reason for manufacturing firms to be nationalized, since this immediately leads to the over centralization and bureaucracy that now exists in large corporations.
Publicly owned utilities or transportation networks should be limited in size, or if a larger network is needed then it should be decentralized. Small units can work in cooperation with other small units throughout the country. A good workable system is that employed by the many cooperative electric companies, where customers buy specified shares in the local company when they use its services. Manufacturing companies are competitive, whereas utility and transportation companies are not, having a monopoly on their services within their districts. Even though resources will be publicly owned, mining and refining companies should be independently owned, working on contract for the government, but not controlling the profits from the resources or their distribution. Exploitation of mineral resources will, of course, be carefully supervised by the governments.
New Responsibilities for the Media
Since radio, television, computer networks, the press, etc. constitute the major means of publicly communicating news, and propagating culture over most of the world, the media must be kept free, and no longer used as propaganda tools by any groups, corporations, or individuals. Publicly owned television and radio work quite well in Europe and America, providing the highest level of programming and news reporting. Privately owned companies that provide most of the news reporting today are indirectly or directly controlled by multinational corporations, and so our news are subtly editorialized to suit the opinions and desires of the individuals controlling those corporations.
It would seem wise to keep international or national news reporting companies free of government and business controls, so that they remain independent news gathering agencies with high ethical standards. News gathering companies should compete on the basis of honest and comprehensive coverage of events, whether local, national or international in scope, avoiding editorializing the news. The same is true of newspapers; the papers should be locally owned, and be totally free of outside control, whether it be from politicians, advertisers, or anyone else. This would mean that the newspaper chains that now exist would be illegal. What is true for newspapers should also be true for magazine and book publishers; they must be independent and kept within a reasonable size with mergers and chains forbidden. At present the best books are usually published by small, independently owned publishing houses.
Companies engaged in informing the public must be subject to public review when they fail to fulfill their responsibility of honesty, fairness and morality. All the large twentieth century chains in radio, television and newspapers have been doing harm to the principles of democracy and the public interest, regardless of pious claims to the contrary. Therefore, even though radio and television stations, or cable services, will often share programs and facilities, it would seem wise that they be publicly owned, and kept separate and independent. This will not prevent cooperative ventures, such as sharing expenses of providing satellite services.
Use of the media for the progress of society, rather than for personal profit or for mentally conditioning the public, requires a reexamination of the meaning of freedom. The animal is the symbol of what we have, in the past, considered to be true freedom, being totally amoral and subject only to the controls of the senses, instincts and environmental forces. Humans should not try to emulate the animals, but strive to reach a higher station, to exemplify the qualities of spirit that distinguish humans from the rest of creation. In humans true freedom comes first through self-restraint on the sensual and material levels in order that the spiritual characteristics of true humans might develop. Then real freedom is attained, which is freedom from attachment to and control by materialistic desires, from improper sensual appetites, and from negative or destructive emotions. For human beings this is true freedom, which enables the spiritual qualities of love, generosity, compassion, justice, trustworthiness, honesty and insight to flourish.
For this reason the media must be restrained from portraying the animal characteristics of humans as being the most desirable qualities, and from exciting the lower nature through pornography and degrading literature. It is the moral right of society to require that all channels of the media present material that will contribute to human knowledge and spiritual evolution, and not to degradation and regression. Because children are influenced most by the media while they are in their most impressive years, they will benefit directly from higher quality, morally inspiring, and educational programs and literature. Thus the higher freedom of true human beings will not be sacrificed to the lower freedom of the animals, and the media will act with responsibility toward, and respect for society.
^ CHAPTER 12
FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS, AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH
"The hope, of course, is that we can combine the two -- welding the best of socialist economic practice with the best of liberal capitalistic political practice. I have no hesitation in setting such a goal as that for which we should strive." Robert Heilbroner
Collapsing Economic Systems
After having witnessed the failure of the planned economy of the communists, many have taken that as a sign of the victory and success of capitalism as practiced in the Western and Eastern industrial nations. It is easy to say "capitalism is a success" as long as we live in a relatively prosperous capitalistic nation, and while our personal finances seem healthy. But to do so we have to ignore the plight of the homeless people numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and the millions living at or below the official poverty level in our own nation. We have to shut our eyes to the almost total failure of capitalism in so many of the Latin American nations, and in the Third World nations around the world. We also have to ignore the fatal weaknesses that are surfacing in our own economy, and in the economies of all the leading industrial nations, weaknesses that will, before long, bring us to the same disastrous economic disintegration as in the more unfortunate capitalistic nations, and in the collapsing former communistic nations.
Economic growth in the more fortunate industrialized nations has not led to social harmony. In the United States as well as in Europe the economic transformation of this century has not headed off racial violence, increasing juvenile violence, inner city decay, a moral collapse that has resulted in widespread sexually transmitted diseases and family upheavals, a drug problem of international dimensions, and a deterioration in morale. The present frenzy for ever-expanding economic growth has resulted in serious environmental problems for all humanity, and to the development of multinational corporations which are almost impossible to control. It is now imperative that we question our values and our economic systems, seeking solutions governed by the law of moderation and justice. Since it is apparent that none of the existing economic systems are satisfactory, and that the world is badly in need of a renewal of spiritual vitality, it is only reasonable that we turn to the spiritual teachings of God, not of religious institutions, and rebuild our social and economic systems on the foundation He offers us, of equity and compassion.
The peculiar belief that if we help the wealthy, the benefits will somehow trickle down to the poor, is simply not true. It has not happened in America, nor in any nation of the world at any time. Nor has the wealth of the leading industrialized nations "trickled down" to the underdeveloped nations; their situation has grown steadily worse. Why have our government administrators continued to operate by this theory for so long, whether stated or not, despite its obvious failure? Perhaps it is because they are among the wealthy, wilfully blinding themselves to reality, and clinging to the ideology of Lord Keynes when he prophesied the day when we will all be rich if we only heed his economic advice. When that day arrives, he said, we can once again "value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful." "But beware!", he continued, "The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little while longer. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight." This is the road we have chosen, and Lord Keynes, in this instance, proved himself to be a false prophet, for the entire world economy has become so distorted that we now face total, world-wide economic collapse.
The Concentration of Wealth
The problem of the distribution of the world's wealth grew steadily worse following the Great Depression of 1929. In the industrialized nations the concentration of wealth has accelerated during the final decades of this century, because of unjust tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations, as well as a distribution of corporate profits that heavily favors the wealthy. (See Appendix for current statistics) The onerous interest rates being charged Third World nations for loans require that they devote the lion's share of their export earnings to pay the interest on the original loans as well as interest on the unpaid interest. In extreme cases, such as the Sudan, 80 percent of export earnings are required to service their debt, and the ongoing civil war in that nation adds to their problems and their debt.
In 1955 the 200 largest corporations in the United States held 47.7 percent of America's assets, in 1981 they held 60 percent of the assets, and the concentration of wealth through mergers has sharply increased in the following years. According to a study by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress in 1987, one percent of the U.S. population held 36 percent of the nations' wealth , and half of that group owned 50 percent of all outstanding corporate stock. It was estimated that by 1990 one percent of the population owned about 38 percent or more of the wealth of America, ten percent owned about 70 percent of the wealth, and a Census Bureau report showed that the gap between the rich and the poor was still widening.
In the United States the inflationary forces between 1972 and 1982 increased real corporate executive pay by 97 percent, and median family real income increased not at all. In fact, the Census Bureau report showed that the earnings for full-time male workers fell 1.3 percent in 1988, while wages for female workers were unchanged. The reason the Labor Department figures show such an increase in per capita income is because the earnings of the wealthy are rapidly increasing, while the real incomes of the rest of the nation are decreasing. In 1986 the maximum wage was $125 million per annum, and the lowest was $6,968 per annum (at the minimum wage at that time). In the 1990s the maximum salaries continue to increase, while the salaries of average workers continue to decline. This disparity in the distribution of wealth and incomes is a major force in the economic decline throughout the world, a fact that will soon become apparent even in America.
Because of the intertwined economic relationships that exist between all the nations of the world, it is necessary to consider the disparity in incomes and wealth world-wide. Since 1960 the gap between the rich and the poor has more than doubled. In the developing world it is not uncommon for the richest fifth of a nation to command 60 percent or more of the national income, leaving about 2 to 5 percent for the poorest fifth of the population, with the balance for the middle income citizens.
Compared to the rest of the world, the average American or Western European who is employed, is very well off, but material success has not brought happiness to either the extremely wealthy or the middle income wage earner. In the U.S. a person's worth in the eyes of the community is too often determined by his or her income, and a family's material standard of living has become its index of achievement. Few proponents of capitalism have tried to justify the system in terms of the spirituality of its aims or the nobility of its motivations. Their defense of capitalism is based on the social contentment that is supposed to result from the benefits of material plenty. But the people keep demanding more, always striving for happiness in the acquisition of more possessions, even though they are no happier in 1996 then they were 25 years earlier, just the opposite. Rather than finding contentment with their materially comfortable status, people are disillusioned, and the old family values and human relationships so vital to the quality of life, are disintegrating under the onslaught of materialism.
I believe that many people are now slowly awakening to the realization that too many material possessions actually take much of the pleasure out of life. Such possessions in excess of what we need for a comfortable life become a burden, requiring maintenance, and constant fear of loss or deterioration. We become slaves of our possessions. Instead we should focus on our relationships with other people, on the development of new understanding of the beauty of the world around us, on a new appreciation of the arts and music, on community festivals and gatherings, and on our spiritual and intellectual growth. John Stuart Mill wrote of a steady state economy where the blind drive for more and more material wealth is replaced by moderation and stability. "It is scarcely necessary to remark that a stationary condition of capital and population implies no stationary state of human improvement. There should be as much scope as ever for all kinds of mental culture and moral and social progress; and as much room for improving the art of living , and more likelihood of its being improved." By giving up the insatiable appetite for more and more possessions, and ever increasing incomes, we gain a life of far greater depth and meaning, of beauty and peace of mind; there is no loss involved, but a gain of incomparable value.
Borrowing, Credit Accounts and Bankruptcy
The nations have built up a world-wide structure of debt that is a real nightmare. In America alone we have gone from being a creditor nation to a debtor nation, with the greatest national debt in the world (a total of about 12 trillion); a debt incurred by corporations, private individuals using credit cards, and the federal government. Our ability to pay off our national debt has continually declined, and we go more heavily into debt with each passing day. Americans have had a child-like faith in the ability of the federal government to solve all financial problems, and until 1993 simply could not imagine the possibility of national bankruptcy. Most Americans have not learned the importance of thrift and living within their means, and so they have run up incredible debts using their credit cards.
The deterioration in credit is widespread, and has had an effect on every nation. The big banks in the United States, Japan and Europe have more than half their assets in the international markets, and almost all banks have at least a third in those markets. Developing nations have debts totaling more than $800 billion, and they find it increasingly difficult to repay even the interest on their debts. For the average Latin American country just to meet the interest payments requires 38 to 40 percent of their export earnings, and as we have seen, the nation of Sudan requires 80 percent of export earnings if they service their debt. This has created an intolerable situation for those nations, and they have had to borrow even more to cover the balance of the interest payments not covered by export earnings.
Even though in the 1980s and 1990s the real income of wage earners in the United States has been falling, Americans continue to borrow to buy cars and almost every luxury item, or imagined "necessity", possible. At the same time there has been an ever increasing number of homeless families and individuals, people living at or below poverty levels, increasing unemployment (although the official figures may go up, most of the additional jobs are part-time positions), and a record number of home and farm foreclosures. Average household debt amounts to about 19 percent of annual income, and installment buying (credit cards) surged by 67 percent after 1982 to about $548.7 billion. By the end of 1986 the total consumer debt (mortgages, credit card balances, junk bonds, auto financing, etc.) reached a total of $4 trillion (corporation debt also reached $4 trillion), and by the end of 1987 the rates of default on mortgage and personal debt stood at an all time high, and it has continued to increase. Personal bankruptcies in 1992 broke all previous records, and in the first half of 1996 the numbers were even higher. The homes Americans live in carry a burden of $1.4 trillion of debt, more than triple the level of a decade earlier. Americans save only 4.6 or less of their incomes, the lowest figures since the government began keeping records in 1959, which compares most unfavorably with the 17.2 percent saved by the Japanese, and the 12.9 percent saved by West Germans.
Despite the steady deterioration of national economies in the 1990s, the nations of the world continue to maintain huge armies. Contrary to the statements of government and industry leaders, money invested in armaments rather than domestic production, leads to decreased employment, because the armaments industry is not very competitive and excess profits are astronomical. Not only is the armaments industry a leading cause of national debt and waste of precious resources, but it inevitably results in the loss of millions of lives, and the destruction of nations. World-wide yearly expenditures on armies and armaments at this time, exceeds $600 billion. We impoverish ourselves in order to commit suicide.
Financial Mismanagement and Greed
Corporations, in their unending drive to increase profits and to expand, have shifted to heavy reliance on debt capital. Despite the growth of long-term debt by corporations, it has not been sufficient to appease the capitalistic appetite for accumulation of profits and power. With the collaboration of banks and other financial institutions, corporations now depend more on short-term borrowing for new investment in plant and equipment, and for their everyday operations. In the 1980s Felix Rohatyn, an investment banker on Wall Street, put much of the blame for this situation on his own profession. "Not only in size, but in the types of corporate transactions, we have often gone beyond the norms of rational economic behavior. The tactics used in corporate takeovers . . . create massive transactions that greatly benefit lawyers, investment bankers and arbitragers, but often result in weaker companies, and do not treat all shareholders equally and fairly . . . In the long run, we in the investment banking business cannot benefit from something that is harmful to our economic system."
Beginning in the 1980s, as government controls and restrictions weakened, the greed of financiers led to an unprecedented wave of leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers of companies. Many of the mergers, takeovers and leveraged buyouts of the 1980s accomplished nothing more than the shoring up of the vanity of the principal traders. The deals brought the investors millions of dollars in superfluous fees, cost thousands of people their jobs, and did little or nothing to improve the efficiency of the companies taken over. The predators repaid their loans, acquired through the sale of junk bonds, with money from the liquidation of the assets of the victim companies, and they paid off the executives who expedited the sales with goodbye gifts often worth up to $20 million. They then told the public of the great blessings they had bestowed on the stockholders and the American people, but their deals have invariably resulted in the contraction rather than the expansion of wealth, and the earnings of the victim companies have serviced the newly acquired debt rather than being invested in future development and improvements, which has resulted in the bankruptcy of many large American companies. When the workers in companies control the stock, as discussed in the chapter on industry, these destructive practices motivated by unbridled greed will not be possible and will no longer be able to threaten a nation's economy and industrial stability.
As collaborators with corporations operating closer and closer to the edge of financial failure, banks have impaired their own liquidity by their furious rate of loaning. The entire intricate, interrelated debt structure has reached such a critical point that it is too late to retreat. These institutions should keep a reasonable ratio between loans and deposits to cover unexpected contingencies.
The percentage of loans to deposits in banks passed 82 percent in 1974 and continued to increase thereafter. Banks rely on equity capital (bank stockholders' original investment plus accumulated profits) to cover any unexpected loan losses, thus preventing loss of deposits. But after 1960 the ratio of equity capital to outstanding loans dropped steadily. The steadily mounting number of bank failures will not alarm the public until the situation becomes critical, when it is too late to remedy without great loss to taxpayers.
The massive failure of S&Ls which resulted from the fraud, greed and incredibly bad investment practices on the part of the owners of the thrifts, has cost the American tax payers some $50 billion a year to cover losses. Banks, insurance companies and S&Ls have suffered and continue to suffer from bad loans for development of shopping malls, housing projects and other questionable development projects, which has brought incredible profits to a few, and astronomical losses to the general public.. If property were publicly owned and leased out to individuals and businesses, this could not occur, but under the existing systems of the twentieth century it is a major factor in the failure of financial institutions, and individual bankruptcies.
The stock market has never been a true auction market, but more of a financiers' gambling casino, where the innocents are fleeced daily. To predict what the stock market will do on the basis of past activity does not take into account the manipulations of the specialists who control buying and selling, working for their own benefit and that of brokers and wealthy customers. The wild swings of the stock market resulting from the manipulations of the stock exchange members with large capital resources and greater credit (20 to 1) serves to shake the millions of small investors loose from their savings which they believe to be safely invested in companies of the Western nations. In the future, with firms completely or partially owned by workers, and financed by government or cooperatively owned banks, stock markets will not be necessary to provide start-up capital or operating funds.
With increased used of credit by members of the stock exchanges, huge amounts of credit capital (read junk bonds, debt papers, derivatives, etc) has poured into the stock market and financial institutions, and when this "house of paper" finally collapses it will make the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression seem mild by comparison. The entire financial structure is distorted and mismanaged by incompetent financiers and weak government leaders, and afflicted with the dread disease of unrestrained greed.
Another important factor in the instability of international financial transactions is the use of "electronic money". International foreign exchange transactions, in 1987, reached a total of $87 trillion, or about twenty-three times the United States gross national product, and several times the Gross World Product. According to Peter Schwartz of the Shell Oil Company, cited in the book Media Lab by Steward Brand, the international money market and electronic money exchanges are out of control; it is a system which nobody understands. He remarked that "nobody knows what the meaning of that money is... and every time in history, the thing that precipitated a depression was the collapse of the meaning of money...When these mechanisms evolve that way, completely out of control, there is enormous danger." This is only one of the factors contributing to an economic collapse; the others that we have mentioned are the world debt problems, failure to regulate banks and other financial institutions, the unprecedented concentration of wealth and land ownership, leveraged buyouts of corporations, mergers of corporations, unfair tax structures, inefficient and badly managed multinational corporations, and top-heavy bureaucratic governments.
Poor Economic Intelligence
An eminent economist of Yale University, Irving Fisher, announced in 1929 that the economy was on a "permanently high plateau," and one week later the stock market collapsed. In 1993 economists and government officials were contradicting one another, and they continue to do so today; some prophesying a temporary recession followed by prosperity, some stating that the economy is expanding and others swearing that it is moving too slowly, and still others warning of unprecedented depression. Milton Friedman, of the old guard, conservative economists, admitted, "we have often claimed more than we can deliver," the understatement of the century. In the 1980s and 90s government leaders have promoted economic policies influenced by such men as Laffer, Friedman, and Keynes, who in turn have been influenced by Adam Smith's ideas, policies totally unsuitable in a modern, technological, world-embracing economy.
In a book entitled The Long Waves in Economic Life the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff expounded on his theory that capitalist economies rise and fall in cycles of from fifty to sixty years. Perhaps it is related to the cycle mentioned in Leviticus in the Bible, Chapter 25:10, wherein the Jews were instructed to set aside every fiftieth year as a time of jubilee, when all debts would be forgiven. Kondratieff noticed that commodity prices coincided with this cycle, rising to a peak during the development of the economy, and then falling in the years immediately preceding a collapse into depression. Of course his theory has a certain validity even if the timing of his cycles is off. With publicly owned natural resources such fluctuations in commodity prices can be largely eliminated. Economists such as the late Schumpeter accepted Kondratieff's theory, and believed that the cycles were caused by new technologies and products that set off a wave of investment that peaked when the change effected by the innovations was complete.
I believe that a simpler, less scientific but perhaps more realistic explanation is possible. In a sensate culture and a materialistic age, people in the industrial nations repeat the same errors motivated by greed and the desire for power. A depression occurs in one generation and then two or three generations later, more or less, the children and grandchildren of those who were responsible for the previous depression, commit similar errors reflecting the same character flaws. They have had time to forget or to ignore the lessons learned by their grandparents, and when they take over the economy the same errors are committed, although modified in extent and details by the changing circumstances due to altered technology, increased population, etc. That is why the same basic conditions that led to the 1929 Great Depression, but on a much larger scale, are being repeated in these times. It is not the changing technology that causes depressions, it is the creators of technology, and the interrelationships of people and their basic moral or spiritual characters. A change in the spiritual attitudes of people will result in a change in the structure of society and of the economy, so that fluctuations in prosperity will not be the result of economic collapse or depression, but will be due to weather, resource availability, etc. and they will not be as severe as they have been.
Conventional, establishment economists have tried to reduce economics to a science governed by mathematics and "natural laws", and more recently by the so-called "laws of chaos". They have largely failed to take into account the unpredictable nature of humans, and the effect of spiritual regression in a society. The extent to which greed will lead individuals to act against their own best interests is astonishing. The unexpected hysteria that can lead to bank panics or stock market crashes cannot be predicted by such economists. The masses will long suffer indignities inflicted upon them by the wealthy and powerful, without complaint, and then suddenly and unexpectedly, when the burden becomes unbearable, they will turn against their oppressors. The increasingly confusing financial structure and mounting world debt are beyond the ability of any conventional establishment economist to regulate or unravel, despite momentary successes, and with their inability to appreciate the human element in economics their proposed remedies are largely unworkable and irrelevant.
Economic Systems in Flux
Conservatives and capitalists rejoiced when they saw the failure of the system of state planning in the communist nations, but they should keep in mind the warnings of wiser economists such as Robert Heilbroner and Kenneth Galbraith. In his book Business Civilization in Decline Heilbroner remarked that "...what the conservatives fail to see is that there is no alternative to planning if capitalism is to be kept alive at all." Galbraith, in The New Industrial State observed that what we already have in the capitalistic nations is substantially a "planned economy." As both Heilbroner and Galbraith indicate in their books, a market economy successfully and equitably regulates prices and industry through supply and demand only when businesses are small. In economies with national and multi-national corporations controlling the economy, the effectiveness of a market economy diminishes and disappears. Both economists correctly forecast the end of the sort of capitalism or radical socialism which have been dominant in the economies of the world during this century.
The Common Market nations of Europe, since the second World War, have trended (until recently) more and more toward mixed economies and greater social justice, to a far greater extent than in the United States. Although those in the medical profession in the U.S. claim that they have the most advanced medical practices and equipment in the world, such equipment and services are available primarily to those who can afford them, and so hundreds of thousands of citizens go without adequate medical or dental care. The U.S. has failed to establish any public health care system available to everyone, whereas all the Common Market nations of Europe still have some form of socialized medical care, available to all their citizens. Well-off Americans like to refer to our national economy as a "welfare economy", yet it is far from that, and lags far behind the advanced, industrialized nations of Europe. President Clinton introduced a plan for national health care, but he faced formidable opposition from vested interests in the medical profession, the insurance companies , the pharmaceutical companies and others.
In West Germany there are over 800 savings banks owned by municipalities and counties. They have over 300 publicly owned, non-profit housing corporations and hundreds of others owned by churches or trade unions. Many regional governments own insurance companies offering coverage for a wide variety of needs. In three provinces of Canada the state run, no-fault insurance companies offer cheaper rates than do private companies, and the investment of premiums is in public control The primary function of all these publicly owned banks, housing cooperatives and insurance firms is to finance the economic growth and to serve the public through lower rates, and lower interest charged on loans.
Evolving Financial Institutions
The banking structure of the future might well resemble that proposed by Eugen Loebl in his book Humanomics, with some of the features of the cooperative banks of Mondragon, Spain which are discussed in the chapter on industries, and which provide low-interest loans to cooperatives after having assurance of their viability. All banks will be locally owned by the citizens or local governments, except for state or federal banks. Banks will not rely entirely on local deposit-loan ratios, and the governments will supply additional deposits not supplied by the private sector. This will make it necessary to charge only enough interest to cover the operating costs of the banks, their risks, and any necessary maintenance and expansion costs for facilities, thus easing the profit motive which has led to such a frenzy of debt build-up in these times, and which has been the cause of so many failures of financial institutions. The economy will be spared the ill-effects of constantly fluctuating interest rates and money will be less expensive to borrow.
Banks will continue to loan for commercial and personal needs, and be free of the control of large central banks that today siphon off money from small community banks to loan to large corporations to the detriment of small communities and businesses. As in the Mondragon Cooperatives, bank loans to firms will require that the feasibility of the enterprises be carefully ascertained by the banks. Banks will maintain boards of management, advisors for business firms they finance. The raison d'etre of banks today is profit, but with that need reduced to covering costs of operation, the principal aim of banks will be to promote community welfare, to develop small businesses, and to aid in home financing with low interest loans and low monthly payments. Banks modeled on this plan have proven successful in Europe, and if adopted throughout the world I believe that they will be a major factor in the redistribution of wealth and of economic stability.
Savings and loan companies will not be necessary in the future, banks will provide all necessary services. Insurance companies will be owned by cooperatives, communities or states, as some are in Germany or Canada. If insurance is provided automatically for everyone by the state, being paid for by taxes, this could provide protection for accidents of all sorts, financial hardships, and funeral and burial expenses. In whatever level of operation is considered most desirable, insurance companies should be owned by those insured, and earnings should be used to keep rates as low as possible. Any investments by publicly owned insurance companies should be for community improvement, and closely supervised.
The few large companies that will remain in the steady state economies of the future will obtain their funds from employees buying shares in the companies, and the balance will come from banks, as explained in the previous chapter. There will be no publicly owned stock; stock markets will be unnecessary, and their negative effects eliminated. The government will retain an advisory seat on the board of such a company, and be instrumental in averting such actions as are harmful to the welfare of the workers or the public. Management will be democratically run to the extent possible in large firms, through a worker elected board of directors, and the government representative would have only one vote. The democratic process will be more effective with a strong board of directors, without any outside stockholders to influence decisions.
In the past when large corporations failed, workers were dismissed without being consulted, as if they were commodities to be bought and sold at the whim of company management. Often such workers lost all of their accumulated benefits or pensions. Some corporations such as Chrysler or Lockheed, and financial institutions such as banks or savings and loan companies, were rescued from their bankruptcy by huge government loans or direct grants, which ultimately came from the pockets of taxpayers. In the future there will be no need for huge enterprises except for ship building, construction of large aircraft, and other large projects beyond the capacity of small firms.
Firms should not be permitted to buy other companies manufacturing items not related to their products. Firms will be limited in size, and any mergers will have to be approved by the governments to assure optimum operating efficiency, to avoid exceeding reasonable size limits, and to guarantee worker ownership and democracy in the workplace. If there is no clear public or worker benefit in merging two small companies with related products, such mergers will be prohibited.
In the chapter on industry I mention the need for nations to share technology with one another, to help every nation to become independent and self-sustaining in manufacturing and agriculture as much as possible. Such sharing of technology and other information will take into consideration the special needs and skills of every nation, the limitations of the environment, and the natural resources. An international currency must be established, ending all arbitrage in national currencies. An international minimum wage scale will have to be worked out to help in raising the living standards throughout the world. Any loans made to nations should be channeled through an international monetary fund, with interest rates low enough to cover bookkeeping costs of the international agency, and never high enough to impose hardship on the debtor nations. It may sound visionary to suggest such changes in attitudes between the peoples of the various nations, but the reality is that when we share our knowledge and do our utmost to assist one another, everyone benefits and the world becomes a place of peace and unity.
Redistribution of Wealth
At the beginning of this chapter I mentioned the maldistribution of wealth as being one of the principal causes of inequity and strife throughout the world, as well as being a major contributing factor to economic recessions and depressions. Abdu'l-Baha, in talks throughout the United States and Europe, mentioned the solution to this problem. "... the principal cause of these difficulties lies in the laws of the present civilization; for they lead to a small number of individuals accumulating incomparable fortunes, beyond their needs, while the greater number remain destitute, stripped and in the greatest misery. This is contrary to justice, humanity, to equity; it is the height of inequity, the opposite to what causes divine satisfaction... Consider an individual who has amassed treasures by colonizing a country for his profit; he has obtained incomparable fortune and has secured profits and incomes which flow like a river, while a hundred thousand unfortunate souls, weak and powerless, are in need of a mouthful of bread. There is neither equality nor benevolence. So you see that general peace and joy are destroyed, and the welfare of humanity is negated to such an extent as to make fruitless the lives of many. For fortune, honors, commerce, industry are in the hands of some industrialists, while other people are submitted to quite a series of difficulties and to limitless troubles; they have neither advantages, nor profits, nor comforts nor peace.
"The rules and laws should be established to regulate the excessive fortunes of certain private individuals and meet the needs of millions of the poor masses; thus a certain moderation would be obtained. However, absolute equality is just as impossible, for absolute equality in fortunes, honors, commerce, agriculture, industry would end in disorderliness, in chaos, in disorganization of the means of existence, and in universal disappointment; the order of the community would be quite destroyed. Thus difficulties will also raise when unjustified equality is imposed. It is therefore preferable for moderation to be established by means of laws and regulations to hinder the constitution of excessive fortunes of certain individuals, and to protect the essential needs of the masses..."
David Obey, chairman of the U.S. Congressional Joint Economic commission remarked: "It is disturbing that 90 percent of the American families who are not on the top end of the economic totem pole appear to have suffered a loss of almost 10 percent in their share of the national net worth <in the 1980s>...This trend runs counter to the belief of our citizens that wealth is being equitably distributed." This excessive wealth in the hands of a few families or individuals does not necessarily bring them happiness. In his book Money and Class in America, Lewis Lapham remarked that he "...noticed that with notable but relatively few exceptions... the lives of the heirs <to great fortunes> were marked by alcoholism, suicide, drug-addiction, insanity and despair." Laura Rockefeller, one of the few wealthy people who devoted their lives to social service, said:"...My having so much inherited money and my children's having it in time is not a circumstance I would have chosen for myself or for them. It violates my sense of what is fair. I also feel increasingly that it's just as unhealthy for the wealthy ones as extreme poverty is for the poor..."
Unfortunately being wealthy does not increase a person's generosity at all. In 1985 in the United States 17 percent of the really poor gave to charity, and only 4.2 percent of those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 per annum. Of those earning above $100,000 a year, only 1.5 percent gave to charity ! One might think that although there are very few donors among the affluent, they must have given more. Actually those in the income bracket considered to be at the official poverty level in the U..S. at that time, donated twice as much to charity as those earning three to five times more. Excessive wealth has led to much of the unhealthy and destructive speculation in business that contributes to the decline of the world's economy. Speculation is not the same as sound investment, and it is the source of leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers of corporations that has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and bankruptcy for many corporations, as discussed earlier in this chapter.
In 1978 Proposition 13 ballot initiative in California sparked an anti-tax revolt that has led to the spread of a wave of irresponsibility across the nation. In the United States we have some of the lowest taxes in all of the industrialized nations, and yet the people want increasing government services without paying for them. This has led to a decline in the quality of education for the young and a deteriorating infrastructure, and it is a contributing factor in the creeping, albeit momentarily invisible to most, recession.
During the Reagan and Bush administrations the progressive income tax structure was virtually nullified, and the only ones to benefit were the rich. The so-called "tax reform" of that era was supposed to create a "fair" tax structure but the poor ended up paying a much larger share of their incomes as taxes than before, and the incomes of the wealthiest increased by 74 percent or more. Following the Great Depression of 1929 feeble efforts were made by the U.S. Congress to redistribute national wealth , but under the Reagan administration's "supply-side" economic policy all that was reversed.
Lord Keynes, despite his belief that dishonesty and greed were necessary for a time to establish an economy, also believed that ultimately the economic health of a nation required a more nearly equal distribution of wealth. He favored progressive taxes, combined with various measures of social insurance and public services to help redistribute income. He also advocated a permanent policy of keeping interest rates low, because it would discourage the growth of a rich rentier class, and because it would stimulate investment. John Stuart Mill wrote: "I know not why it should be a matter of congratulation that persons doubled their means of consuming things which gave little or no pleasure except as representatives of wealth." The eminent jurist Louis Brandeis said, "... we can have democracy in this country <U.S.> or we can have great wealth in a few hands, but we can't have both." That a few should control the world's wealth while millions starve is morally indefensible and a cruel injustice. Even in America, the land of "liberty and justice for all", one of the most striking injustices is the fact that today more than 34 million live at or below the poverty level, and some have to sleep on doorsteps along the streets, while the top one-fifth of the population consume 40 percent of the nation's wealth. Again we return to the underlying problem, nothing will change to improve our society until there is a genuine spiritual revival, not a return to church, mosque or synagogue, but an inner spiritual resurrection that breaks the chains of materialism.
Wealth is most efficient when widely distributed, creating potential markets for goods and a general sense of well-being. Free enterprise and individual initiative are still essential features of a successful economy, but that should not mean an increasingly grotesque and unjust accumulation of wealth. Past history and events clearly demonstrate that when vast fortunes are accumulated by a few families or individuals, while the masses are deprived of the very necessities of life, the people will often rise in revolt against such cruelty and inequity.
Future development of worker owned firms will be a strong force toward the elimination of extremes in incomes. The average 70 to 1 ratio of incomes that exists in the U.S. is in sharp contrast to the 5 to 1 or 7 to 1 ratio at the Mondragon cooperative firms in Spain. The actual ratio must be established to allow enough difference to provide some financial incentive for those who require such inducement to improve themselves, and to encourage creativity and innovation, but at the same time prevent any excess that would be used for personal power or needless luxuries. Herman Daly in Toward a Steady State Economy proposes that incomes be limited to a 20 to 1 ratio as a starter, but I believe that a ratio of 7 to 1 would be acceptable to most people in a mature society, and it is certainly adequate to provide incentives for advancement, improvement and leadership. It would obviate the continuous envy caused by the exaggerated and unjust differences in pay scales that exist today.
All regressive taxes such as sales taxes, value added taxes, etc. should be eliminated except when absolutely essential for the conservation of scarce resources, because such taxes contribute to the maldistribution of incomes. A single progressive income tax will take care of the needs of governments and simplify the entire bureaucratic tax collection structure, which will be of considerable benefit to any economy. There will be no "loopholes" and no deductions except for dependents; just a straight, progressive tax on incomes. With an upper limit on incomes any salary paid above the limit would be taxed 100 percent. With such a limiting tax it will not be long before incomes will be limited to the maximum allowed, since there will be little incentive to earn more than the limit.
It might be best if all taxes are collected at the county or province level, and the province or county governments will then pay a per capita share to the state governments, which will in turn pay a per capita share to the federal governments. The subject of collection of taxes must be investigated to keep it as simple, straight-forward, honest and efficient as possible, to prevent errors and hardships in reporting incomes and to discourage centralized bureaucracy.
For those temporarily unemployed there will be a guaranteed minimum income, and the immense bureaucracy of the punitive welfare system that exists in the United States, which probably costs more than the aid it provides the unfortunate, will be unacceptable. However, unemployment will be the exception, because with the redistribution of wealth more money will be available for new small industries, public works, improving the infrastructure, beautifying communities, reforestation, encouraging and assisting the arts, providing health care for everyone, and improving the quality of life in general.
The accumulation of excessive fortunes will also be restricted, so that the immense fortunes that presently exist, where one individual might have greater wealth than an entire nation, will not be possible. Some economists have proposed a net worth tax, which would increase progressively according to the amount of accumulated wealth, reaching 100 percent of the excess above some fixed ceiling. Vance Packard in his book The Ultra Rich suggests that the accumulated wealth tax should have a ceiling of $25 million, but I believe that a ceiling of $10 million (today's values) will be more suitable in the prevention of excessive wealth in too few hands.
An important means for the redistribution of wealth is through enlightened inheritance laws. The Manifestations of God, beginning with Muhammad, provided detailed inheritance laws which would have contributed to the redistribution of wealth had they been observed. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas by Baha'u'llah the laws of inheritance apply only when the person dies intestate. Above I mentioned a ceiling of $10 million for accumulated wealth, and as can be seen in the laws of the Manifestations, such wealth would be distributed as widely as possible among the heirs. Since all land will be publicly owned, the dwelling of the deceased can only be inherited by someone who does not already own a house on leased land. Otherwise the lease would pass to someone who purchases the dwelling, and the profit from the sale of the building divided among the heirs according to law.
It is important that everyone engage in some sort of creative, constructive work during their lifetimes, for their spiritual, intellectual health and progress, providing them the opportunity to demonstrate their own abilities, rather than having an advantage over others because of the hoarding of an ancestor. Living off the interest payments of wealth is a form of enslavement of others. Money will no longer be a means for individuals to control the lives of others, to live through the labor of others or to hinder their own personal character development through idleness and self-indulgence. Large inherited fortunes are too often spiritually and psychologically destructive to the heirs, and a redistribution of such wealth is not only a benefit to society as a whole, but to the heirs as well. Those who do inherit or accumulate fortunes within the imposed limits, and who voluntarily share their wealth through charitable works, or public services, not only earn the respect of society, but gain great spiritual bounties. Concerning the station of work in the spiritual and intellectual advancement of the individual and in service to humanity, Baha'u'llah wrote: "The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty."
There has been great resistance to the idea of sharing wealth in almost every nation of the world, at least among those who control the wealth. In Europe and America most people feel that they must continually have more material possessions, and that it is their moral obligation to look out only for themselves and to reject as an alien ideology any thought of major sacrifice for the welfare of the community at large. Middle income Americans have been conditioned to worship wealth, and to idolize wealthy people, unaware of the harm such concentrations of wealth do to the economy or to their own future welfare. A few enlightened economists and writers recognize the need, and the inevitability of the redistribution of wealth. Today our society is emerging from immaturity and entering the age of spirituality, and people should now begin to understand the interrelationships that exist in the economy and in society. The time has come to establish true democracy, providing for the happiness and security of everyone without regard for race, sex or nationality.
No government or economy can function properly without obeying the spiritual laws given by God, and expressed in the writings of Prophets and sages. As a government becomes more distant from the people, it tends to become less responsive to the needs of the people, and so a certain degree of decentralization is essential to improving democracy. A spiritual society will accept a more equitable distribution of wealth, understanding its importance in maintaining a harmonious, stable and peaceful society with equity for all. This new awareness of human values and the spiritual Law of Life will lead to concern for people throughout the world, and the triumph of honesty and justice on earth.
^ CHAPTER 13
DEMOCRACY AND WORLD FEDERATION
"Behold the disturbances which, for many a long year have afflicted the earth, and the perturbations that hath seized its peoples. It hath either been ravaged by war, or tormented by sudden and unforeseen calamities. Though the world is encompassed with misery and distress, yet no man hath paused to reflect what the cause or source of that may be. Whenever the True Counselor uttered a word in admonishment, lo, they all denounced Him as a mover of mischief and rejected His claim...We cherish the hope that the light of justice may shine upon the world and sanctify it from tyranny...There can be no doubt whatever that if the day star of justice, which the clouds of tyranny have obscured, were to shed its light upon men, the face of the earth would be completely transformed." Baha'u'llah
The Present State of Democracy
The moral condition of our society has been such that no form of government, including existing democracies, no matter how well conceived, can function properly. People in every nation seem unaware of their role in the overall deterioration, and they express discontent with governments and politicians. However, officials who run a nation, whether they be elected or rule by force, are an expression of the general spiritual and psychological condition of the masses within the nation. We usually get what we deserve, because of our failure to be concerned with the welfare of others within our own nation, or throughout the world. The leaders of nations reflect the attitudes of the peoples, and as Abdu'l-Baha said, "...any agency whatever, though it be the instrument of mankind's greatest good, is capable of misuse. Its proper use or abuse depends on the varying degrees of enlightenment, capacity, faith, honesty, devotion and high-mindedness of the leaders of public opinion." Such leaders of public opinion reflect the general moral and intellectual level of their people.
There have been, and are, many forms of democratic government in the world, as in Sweden, Switzerland, England and the United States. In general democracy works best in small nations or states. Real democracy cannot be fully realized in over-sized nations with more or less unitary governments, because the larger and more centralized an organization becomes, be it a corporation or a government, the less influence individuals have on decisions of the officials or elected representatives, or on the choice of representatives. The quality of individuals elected to represent the people is of utmost importance, and as the moral and educational level of society falls, so does the quality of leadership. In the 1980s and 90s many of the top leaders of the nations throughout the world have been elected on the basis of foolish promises or personal charisma, with little concern for their moral character, or quality of intellect or education. Abdu'l-Baha in The secret of Divine Civilization wrote: ". . . What an extraordinary situation now obtains, when no one, hearing a claim advanced, asks himself what the speaker's real motive might be, and what selfish purposes he might not have hidden behind the mask of words. You find, for example, that an individual seeking to further his own petty and personal concerns, will block the advancement of an entire people...To maintain his own leadership, he will everlastingly direct the masses toward that prejudice and fanaticism which subvert the very base of civilization."
Today, in elected governments, only the wealthy or those supported by the wealthy, can run for an elected office because of the expense of campaigns, and the process of elimination in political parties which disposes of those who stray too far from conventional, establishment thinking, or who displease those who control the wealth. In the United States we separate the public still further from direct choice of their representatives by the use of primary elections. In the case of presidential elections the candidates must attempt to become known to the people throughout the entire nation, a hopeless task costing millions of dollars. Although a detailed examination of the subject is not possible here, it is clear that the electoral process must be simplified, with the elimination of all political parties, and a new approach adopted in the selection of presidents or prime ministers.
Election of Trustworthy and Capable Officials
Anyone who desires to run for an elective office must prove that he or she is fully qualified by education, experience and moral character for the position sought, and that he or she is free of obligations to any organizations or individuals which might influence their decisions. Candidates will then have free and equal media exposure to explain their beliefs and goals in serving the public, and there will be full public disclosure of their qualifications, past experience and acts. They will be restrained from personal campaign expenditures in order to preserve equality and fairness in elections. The sorts of campaigns that mark elections in these times, where truth is in such short supply, will be forbidden. The actual mechanics of electing or selecting the winning candidates will depend on conditions such as populations, communications, transportation, etc. and should be kept as simple, honest and direct as possible. Elections for offices higher than city or county governments might be best accomplished through electoral bodies elected by the people, an indirect election, and the electors will make the final choice for higher government offices Abdu'l-Baha, in The Secret of Divine Civilization, describes the desirable qualities of elected officials: "While the setting up of parliaments, the organizing of assemblies of consultation, constitutes the very bedrock of government, there are several essential requirements which these institutions must fulfill. First, the elected members must be righteous, God-fearing, high-minded, incorruptible. Second, they must be fully cognizant, in every particular, of the laws of God, informed as to the highest principles of law, versed in the rules which govern the management of internal affairs and the conduct of foreign relations, skilled in the useful arts of civilization, and content with their lawful emoluments.
While living in Arizona in 1970 or so, I wrote to the state representative in the U.S. Congress and mentioned the desirability of eliminating all political parties so that those elected would be free of party control and their limited programs and points of view, so that people would be able to elect representatives solely on the basis of ability and not party affiliations. He responded that he was opposed to communism, and that our two party system was the only truly democratic way. What a strange and limited understanding ! Having no political parties is not the same has having one political party as in the communist system. If we have people who are free of the narrow restrictions of the party system, and who can work for whatever is best for their country without losing the chance of being elected because they are not party members, we will have a much more effective and pure democracy.
Simplified and Decentralized Governments
In the Writings of Baha'u'llah a House of Justice or legislative body of the future is described, and its duties outlined. Abdu'l-Baha provided further details about the operation and formation of the Houses of Justice. They are to function strictly as unicameral legislative bodies with as many members as necessary, the minimum being nine members. There are to be such elected legislative bodies at every level of government, city, county or province, state and federal, and the members of these bodies are to be elected in the manner described above, that is, democratically and free of party systems. In the writings of Abdu'l-Baha there is also mention of a supreme tribunal and a government or executive, but there is no description of those bodies. Following are my suggestions for future governments on state, provincial or county, and national levels.
As indicated by the organization of the Houses of Justice, or legislative bodies, by whatever name they might be designated, should follow this model, and the bicameral legislative systems abandoned. The second legislative body, such as the Senate in the U.S. or the House of Lords in Britain, tends to obstruct legislation without adding much of value, and to lessen the effect of democracy. Such bodies are not truly democratic, as in the U.S., for example, the Senate is composed of two members from each state, regardless of the population or size of the state. This may have had some value when the United States was first formed, but it is no longer reasonable. The Houses then, should represent all the people, and private lobbies must be absolutely forbidden. No outside interference with the elected members of the legislative body should be allowed, except for the concerns of state and county or provincial governments, if and when they have important suggestions for national legislation. Terms of office for legislators should be limited to from two to four years.
In the twentieth century the powers of chief executives, such as presidents and prime ministers, gradually increased. If we desire a closer approximation to democracy the powers of that office will have to be drastically reduced and limited. In the United states a president can declare war, take secret action through the Counter Intelligence Agency thereby jeopardizing the lives of millions, violate the civil rights of American citizens through the National Security Agency or the Drug Enforcement Agency, invade the territories of 111 maritime nations, veto the legislation of the elected representatives in Congress, or create legislation by failing to carry out the duties of a president or by deliberate misinterpretation of legislation passed by Congress. This is a frightening amount of power to be placed in the hands of one man, and that power has too often been abused. This is an especially dangerous power in the hands of one man if he is uninformed about world affairs, has a poor general education, is out of contact with the public and the conditions within the nation, represents only one segment of the population, and has a weak moral character; this has been the problem in a recent administrations in this country and in Europe. None of these powers should reside in the office of the chief executive, but should be controlled by the House of legislators.
The primary function of the chief executive should be to see that the laws passed by the legislative body are effectively carried out, without attempting to alter them through personal interpretation or evasion. The chief executive should not have veto power requiring a two-thirds vote by the legislative body to override, but should only be permitted to ask for a reconsideration of legislation, and then the override will be made by a simple majority vote if the House disagrees. The cabinet of the executive will be made up of the heads of the various government departments as described below, and they will be enforced to carry out the laws and to act as an advisory body to the executive office.
To provide for continuity in the executive office, to contribute to stability in government, and to obviate the problems of excessive individual influence over the government, I suggest that there be from three to five "presidents", "prime ministers", or executives serving in the office simultaneously and cooperatively. All decisions of that office would be made by a majority vote of the three to five executives. Each executive will serve from three to five years, and the terms of the three or five officers will be staggered so that there is continuity as well as experienced members in the body at all times. These executives will be elected from the House of legislators by the House members, since such members will no longer be members of any political faction, and be elected by the people as described above.
If any nation has a monarchy, and the people wish that it be continued, then it should only be as a "constitutional monarchy", without any governmental powers. The king or queen will then serve in a symbolic role, adding to the sense of continuity and dignity in government. They should also strive to set an example for their people by their spiritual conduct and lives. Concerning the role of kings in this age, Baha'u'llah wrote: "One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind. Only in order to proclaim the Cause of God and spread abroad His Faith will anyone be willing to bear this grievous weight. Well is it with him, who, for the love of God and His Cause, and for the sake of God and for the purpose of proclaiming His Faith, will expose himself unto this great danger, and will accept this toil and trouble."
In the near future, when the nations of the world eliminate most of their national armies , there will be no need for the secret police and agents provocateurs, so the vast spy-intelligence networks will be unnecessary and considered a threat to international relations. The elimination of secret police and spies throughout the world will be a major contribution to goodwill among nations and true democracy within nations.
Judicial systems will be carefully regulated to prevent the courts from assuming the powers of legislation through the power of interpretation. Laws will be very carefully written to be clear and unambiguous to everyone who reads them. Limited interpretations by judges must be allowed because different situations continually arise where the "intent of the Law" rather than the "letter of the law" must be observed. However, interpretations of the law must be continually reviewed by the legislative bodies to prevent building up a body of laws based on interpretations and precedents that ultimately deviate from the intent of the original legislated law, and which, in themselves, constitute a form of undemocratic legislation. Judges should not be permitted to rule on subjects about which they are ignorant, but they should defer to other judges more qualified in such matters.
The existing system in the United States of trial by adversary, is obviously defective. Both the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney should strive to discover the truth about any situation, and to present the truth as clearly as possible to the jury. The system of a jury of "peers" has also proven to be inadequate, and should be replaced by professional jurors who can travel from trial to trial, who are not misled by misrepresentation of information by lawyers and "expert" witnesses, who are free of regional affiliations or biases, and who are proven to uphold the highest standards of justice.
The supreme or highest courts within nations, provinces or states should not be allowed to determine whether legislation passed by the House is constitutional. The constitutions, where they exist, whether national, state or provincial should be considered evolutionary, changing with the needs of society, not frozen in time and limited by the opinions of a handful of judges. However certain human rights should be guaranteed and not threatened by any governments or courts. Judges of all courts, including the highest courts, should be selected solely by merit, and promotion from lower courts, serving terms defined by the Houses, and with reasonable ages of retirement mandatory.
The various states or units within a federation, should adopt uniform laws for the control of crime, commerce, communication, etc. They should cooperate fully in the control and prevention of crime.
Government departments, such as those for agricultural development, commerce, foreign relations, etc. should be headed by professionals who reach these positions through education, experience in those or related departments, and examinations. If they are found unfit for the office after a trial period, they should be returned to their former positions and replaced by the House with some other candidate from that department who fulfills the requirements. Except in unusual circumstances the heads of the departments will come up through the ranks of the departments, for this is only manifest justice and makes for better administration. Department heads will act as advisors for the executive body in the execution and enforcement of legislation.
When governmental functions become too centralized, and federal governments become too strong relative to their component states or provinces, the forces of democracy are diminished, and bureaucracy takes hold, leading to waste, corruption, and inefficiency. Federal governments should act as coordinating bodies for the states or provinces on projects such as dams, irrigation, infrastructure for transportation and communications, and in international relations through the world federal government.
Since all lands will be publicly owned and controlled as described earlier, federal lands will be returned to the states or provinces to administer in cooperation with the other states in the federation, with the understanding and guarantee that the land will remain a public trust and be administered by a uniform set of laws. The power of taxation will remain in the hands of the states or provinces as mentioned in the previous chapter. The power of federal or central governments to withhold funds from states or provinces in order to enforce their wishes, will not be possible. Instead the federal governments will act as centers for cooperative help between the wealthier states and provinces and those less fortunate.
Governments, like the economy, must always be flexible and evolve as society progresses and situations change. We should not be enchained by archaic concepts of government or economics, nor try to form any static system in our society or in our individual lives. Rather, we should continually search for new truth to improve our lives as individuals or as a society. This means spiritual evolution, not simple change for the sake of novelty, but rather intelligent, wise and careful improvements in our attitudes, our ways of living and in our governments, avoiding any extremes.
World Federal Government
Ongoing cataclysmic events, and the disintegration of civilizations and empires, is preparing the way for the ultimate establishment of a world federal union. This cannot be fully attained in a decade or so, but must be carefully worked out through international consultation and cooperation, until it evolves, step by step, into a true federation of nations of the world. Such a world federation will have a sound spiritual foundation, otherwise it will not last. Once that has been realized, we will enter an era of universal and lasting peace. Concerning this, Abdu'l-Baha wrote: "... The Most Great Peace cannot be assured through racial force and effort; it cannot be established by patriotic devotion and sacrifice; for nations differ widely and local patriotism has limitations. Furthermore, it is evident that political power and diplomatic ability are not conducive to universal agreement, for the interests of governments are varied and selfish; nor will international harmony and reconciliation be an outcome of human opinions concentrated upon it, for opinions are faulty and intrinsically diverse. Universal peace is an impossibility through human and material agencies; it must be through spiritual power. There is need of a universal impelling force which will establish the oneness of humanity and destroy the foundations of war and strife. None other than the divine power can do this; therefore, it will be accomplished through the breath of the Holy Spirit."
A preliminary step toward a world federal government will be the establishment of what Baha'u'llah referred to as the Lesser Peace, when the nations come together to abolish war. Once this is accomplished, as the people become aware of the real spiritual oneness of humanity, and have had the time to rebuild their nations sufficiently, then the peoples of the world can begin the labor of setting up a sound, lasting world federation of nations. Baha'u'llah describes how this will come about (i.e. the term "kings" herein refers to the heads of governments, such as presidents, prime ministers, kings, etc.): "We pray God -- exalted be His glory -- and cherish the hope that He may graciously assist the manifestations of affluence and power and the daysprings of sovereignty and glory, the kings of the earth -- may God aid them through His strengthening grace -- to establish the Lesser Peace. This, indeed, is the greatest means for insuring the tranquility of the nations. It is incumbent upon the Sovereigns of the world -- may God assist them -- unitedly to hold fast unto this Peace, which is the chief instrument for the protection of all mankind. It is Our hope that they will arise to achieve what will be conducive to the well-being of man. It is their duty to convene an all-inclusive assembly, which either they themselves or their ministers will attend, and to enforce whatever measures are required to establish unity and concord amongst men. They must put away the weapons of war, and turn to the instruments of universal reconstruction. Should one king arise up against another, all the other kings must arise to deter him. Arms and armaments will, then, be no more needed beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of their respective countries. If they attain unto this all-surpassing blessing, the people of each nation will pursue, with tranquility and contentment, their own occupation, and the groans and lamentations of most men would be silenced. We beseech God to aid them to do His will and pleasure. He, verily, is the Lord of the throne on high and of the earth below, and the Lord of this world and of the world to come. It would be preferable and more fitting that the highly-honored kings themselves should attend such an assembly, and proclaim their edicts. Any king who will arise and carry out this task, he, verily will, in the sight of God, become the cynosure of all kings. Happy is he, and great is his blessedness!"
The future world federal government will concern itself with affairs between nations, and will not interfere in their internal affairs except in most unusual and rare circumstances. The legislative body has been described by Abdu'l-Baha as a Universal House of Justice, and it would be a purely legislative body structured in a manner similar to the legislative houses we have described above, with certain additional features as God wills. Thus centralization in a world government, just as in national federal governments, will be assiduously avoided. In the words of Abdu'l-Baha: "It is very evident that in the future there shall be no centralization in the countries of the world, be they constitutional in government, republican or democratic in form . . . that is to say, each province will be independent in itself, but there will be federal union protecting the interests of the various states . . . To cast aside centralization which promotes despotism is the exigency of the time. This will be productive of international peace. Another fact of equal importance in bringing about international peace is woman's suffrage. That is to say, when perfect equality shall be established between men and women peace may be realized for the simple reason that womankind in general will never favor warfare..."
The world federal government will include an international court of justice to adjudicate differences between nations. The world federal government should have the power to prevent nations from violating human rights within their own boundaries, by a cease and desist order, followed by international cooperative military force, if the offense is serious enough to warrant such action. Thus human rights will be protected throughout the world, and everyone will be able to live in security and peace. If any nation attacks another nation, the world federal government will have the power to call all the other nations of the world to collectively suppress such aggression.
An international executive, modeled on the description given above for the nations, is suggested, to put into effect the laws legislated by the international House. This executive body will be appointed by the international House from their own members, selected on the basis of ability and character. The members of the international House will be appointed by the Houses of the various nations, from among the most highly qualified and experienced citizens of their nations. The international court and executive will be provided adequate power to enforce the international obligations and legislation. An international army or police force will replace contingents from national armies to carry out international laws, under the control of the international House, and it will be composed of men and women from all nations.
The many tasks of an international federal government, to assure the welfare and progress of all peoples, will be performed by international departments of health, education, commerce, environment, communications, agriculture, etc. These departments will be comprised of the best qualified specialists in each field, and they will serve as research bodies as well as the means of carrying out the laws enacted by the international House in cooperation with the executive body. The heads of the departments will act as an advisory body for the executive, as well as providing guidance and advice to the international House on their fields of specialization. Like the World Health Organization of the United Nations, which provides health care and assistance throughout the world, the department of health will provide similar services. The department of world education will help establish universal education, coordinating the efforts of the nations. Similarly the other departments will share their knowledge and expertise with all nations. Thus the universal order will be based on the spiritual values of justice, compassion, charity and wisdom.
The future world federal government (by whatever title it is given) will be made up of federated or individual nations, with representation according to population. Great care must be taken to avoid concentration of power or unnecessary centralization in nations as well as in the world federal government. Representatives in the international House must work only for the well-being of all humanity, and not for individual nations. The future world civilization will see decentralization throughout the world, and the end of multinational corporations, replaced by the proliferation of small worker owned firms. We will witness the return to small or moderate sized family or cooperative farms, the development of publicly owned banks and insurance companies, public ownership of land with the right to lease open to everyone, the creation of an international currency, the institution of universal labor laws and minimum wages, the protection of the environment as an international obligation, the adoption of a universal language, the establishment of universal education, the guarantee of adequate health care for everyone, the sharing of knowledge and technology, the fair distribution and conservation of resources, the equitable redistribution of wealth, and the universal acceptance of a steady state economy. The social, intellectual and spiritual equality of men and women will be universally recognized, and the rights of children will be safeguarded. The oneness of the races of humanity will be realized, and the limitations of class, sect, caste or tribe will disappear. Gradually the people of the world will understand that there is but one God, whatever the Name the people might use when referring to God, and that all the religions are expressions of the one Faith of God.
^ CHAPTER 14
THE AGE OF UNITY
When we look around us with clear vision we can more easily understand the mistakes which are leading to the destruction of our materialistic civilization, whether expressed under communism, capitalism or fascism, which has spread to all parts of the world. It is incumbent upon those of us who remain after these events have run their course, to never repeat these mistakes, and to arise in unity to create a civilization that embodies the highest spiritual qualities of humanity. All the attributes of body, intellect and soul must be integrated and in perfect harmony, to avoid the excesses resulting from undue emphasis on one or another of those human powers. We must turn to, and heed, the laws of God which are the very Laws of Life for mankind, and we must strive to reflect the highest attributes of spiritual beings in every aspect of our lives, in our society, in our work and in our governments.
What this world needs is a good dose of honesty. The degree to which rationalization can obscure and distort our vision of truth is astonishing. Honesty will not shine forth in all its beauty until there is a resurrection of those qualities of soul which are the glory of humanity. The powers and the knowledge we now control require a greater understanding of the importance of moral virtues and their vital role in all of existence. The spiritual nature of humans is the controlling force in all we do, and if we are weak in spirit we spoil all we touch, and become the greatest force for destruction on earth.
The masses, in their own materialism and lack of concern for others, have supported the rape of the earth by the wealthy and the powerful as well as by impoverished people everywhere, and most of humanity shares in the responsibility for what is happening. We cannot put the entire blame on the wealthy and the powerful, or on the great world financial and industrial institutions, because we have supported their continued existence and immoral acts, while seeking our own personal gain. We must realize and accept the fact that we must all make sacrifices for the benefit of the entire human race. Through such sacrifices the world will become a better place for everyone.
Just as the seed sacrifices its simple form to grow into a beautiful tree, so we must sacrifice our lower nature and attachment to material things, visible or invisible, in order to enter the spiritual condition of true man or woman. Real progress in life always requires the sacrifice of the lower to the higher, although until now it has not be easy for people to recognize or acknowledge the higher, or to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Instead of understanding that this material world and the creations of humans must be considered as "instruments" for the progress of the soul and the intellect, we have made idols of our possessions and wasted our lives in pursuit of the worthless and the transient. We have made the mistake of considering the material bounties of this earth and its physical pleasures as the highest goal in life, and following this path inevitably leads to regression and the destruction of civilizations. Our religious organizations and leaders have failed to awaken the people to the Law of Life, and the people themselves have made little or no effort to learn or to live by the ethical values. The people have been deaf and blind to the truth, and when the Light of God appeared, like bats they sought the darkness of denial.
In physical evolution the old life forms often disappeared in a cataclysm, and new, higher levels of life replaced them as the irresistible forces of evolution moved forward. The first, faint signs of a new race of humans have now appeared, a race that will establish a new and just civilization throughout the world, with universal peace and the organic unity of nations firmly established. The harbingers of the new civilization are now apparent to those with insight. In order to prepare the way for the new age, the old forms have to be demolished, and their shortcomings made apparent; the transition period will be accompanied by cataclysmic upheavals throughout the world.
Most people resist change because they fear the unknown, and are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary for the transformation and entry into a new age, clinging to the old ways with which they are familiar, even when those ways are dangerous and destructive, hence the catastrophic events ending the old order. The average citizens in any civilization have difficulty believing that their own civilization will ever end, even when in the midst of its final decay and disintegration. It is a tragic reality that great changes in civilization have usually been accompanied by chaos, destruction and the violent overthrow of cherished idols, as society "self-destructs". It has always been a minority of the people who bring new, evolutionary changes into society, and they are too often scorned, ridiculed and mistreated by the general public and their leaders, considered to be heretics.
Some believe that humans are incapable of change, that we will always seek to gain an advantage over our neighbors, desiring only self-gratification, and that strife and warfare are natural expressions of humanity. We do have the choice of turning to those lower, regressive characteristics, or of striving for the higher and nobler attributes. The existence of wise and holy souls proves the potential that is within everyone, and there has been a slow evolution of human understanding on all levels through the countless centuries of human existence on this earth. The noble spiritual qualities of the soul do not, as some believe, appear in humans through trial and error, or "natural selection" as some psychologists have claimed, but have been revealed through the Manifestations of God through the centuries, gradually educating humanity. Abdu'l-Baha speaks of this need of a divine Teacher for humanity "There are some who imagine that an innate sense of human dignity will prevent man from committing evil actions and ensure his spiritual and material perfection. That is, that an individual who is characterized with natural intelligence, high resolve, and a driving zeal, will, without any consideration of the severe punishments consequent on evil acts, and for the great rewards of righteousness, instinctively refrain from inflicting harm on his fellow men and will hunger and thirst to do good. And yet, if we ponder the lessons of history, it will become evident that this very sense of honor and dignity is itself one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God. We also observe in infants the signs of aggression and lawlessness, and that if a child is deprived of a teacher's instructions his undesirable qualities increase from one moment to the next. It is therefore clear that the emergence of this natural sense of human dignity and honor is the result of education. Secondly, even if we grant for the sake of argument that instinctive intelligence and an innate moral quality would prevent wrongdoing, it is obvious that individuals so characterized are as rare as the philosopher's stone [which doesn't exist]. An assumption of this sort cannot be validated by mere words, it must be supported by the facts. Let us see what power in creation impels the masses toward righteous aims and deeds!"
Up to this day people have sought beliefs which they could consider as final, solid, unchanging and reliable "absolutes" which removed any need to make efforts to search for greater truth, and gave a false feeling of security. This attitude has been an obstacle which has prevented people from fully investigating and understanding their own religion, and has led them to reject the successive Manifestations of God and the evolutionary process of true religion. Although spiritual truths such as love, justice, compassion, etc. are absolute and unchanging, they are subject to expansion and greater understanding of their meanings and applications. Teachings and laws pertaining to temporal existence are, however, subject to evolution, change and progress as our spiritual capacities mature. Now we must realize that to progress on the material and spiritual levels we cannot tie ourselves to an unchanging and static set of theories and understandings. All creation is dynamic, and the old, apparently stable, clearly defined physical and social laws must be transformed. We must come to realize that the spirit and intellect of man is constantly evolving and progressing, always gaining greater knowledge of the higher truths in the material and spiritual realms, as life on the temporal level reflects with increasing fidelity the spiritual verities.
On the physical level we have come to realize that all is in motion. Our entire galaxy is moving through space at incredible speed, while at the same time our planet turns on its axis and describes an orbit around the Sun. Every particle in our bodies is in constant motion, nothing is static. Man must seek greater and greater knowledge, continuously progressing from the lower to the higher with faith, confidence and tranquility, obeying the Law of Life, which is the law revealed by God. We must not stagnate spiritually, for in the spiritual realm to be static, "neither hot nor cold", is likened to spiritual death. Everyone must continually search for truth and deeper understanding, aided by the accumulated knowledge of the past and inspired by the guidance of the great spiritual Lights from God such as Buddha, Christ, Zoroaster, Muhammad, the Bab, Baha'u'llah and He Who will be manifested, the All-Highest. We must become aware that our spirits must continually grow and advance, always approaching but never attaining Absolute Truth.
With the increasing awareness that there is but one supreme Being, there has been a gradual awakening to the truth that all the uplifting, ethical teachings originate from God, and the barriers we have imagined to exist between religions are man-made. Zoroaster, Christ, Moses, Muhammad and all the Manifestations or Prophets of God were concerned with the perfection and progress of humanity, not with dogmas, rituals and organizations that have been created by man, and which, until now, have separated and alienated people. When our religion becomes the cause of disharmony, separation, antagonism, strife and bloodshed it is no longer spiritual and has departed from the original intent of the revealed Truth. The pure, spiritual teachings of high ethical conduct remain essential to human progress, happiness and unity. In the future humanity will consider all the spiritual teachings of all religions to be important because they contribute to human perfection and evolution. Obedience to this Law of Life which governs our evolution and our relationship with our Creator and His creation, will change our attitudes toward governments, economics and our fellow men; then we will live in harmony with the universe. In the words of Baha'u'llah: "The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves. That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious beliefs, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are the rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated."
All the great Manifestations of God have taught the virtues of trustworthiness, honesty, justice, compassion, generosity, humility, modesty, courage, courtesy and love. The teachings of Baha'u'llah embrace the intellectual, spiritual and social equality of men and women, the oneness of all the races of humanity, the unity of religions, the absolute need for some form of universal federal government, the primary importance of the unending search for truth, the need for universal education available to everyone, and the development of intuitive and spiritual understanding and insight. True religion is the cause of human progress, ethically and intellectually, and is in harmony with valid scientific knowledge -- both manifestations of one human spirit, and both creations of the All-Highest God. The Revelation of God is continuous, according to the spiritual requirements of mankind, as stated by the Bab: "...in every case the Tree of Truth [God] regards the capacity of His people; whenever He sees that they are ready for the Manifestation in the mirrors of their hearts, He reveals Himself [through a Manifestation]."
The new society and the new economics we have proposed in these pages are to be considered a framework, suggestions for the future. In whatever we do in science, commerce, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry or any other field of creative human activity, we must consider the effects of what we do on others and on the ecology, striving to serve all humanity and to improve the quality of life for everyone. The requirements of justice, love, compassion and sharing must influence all we do in this life. As we mature spiritually our love becomes all-inclusive, embracing all humanity and all creation. It begins with love of family and grows to an awareness of our role in the community, to love of the nation, to recognition of the need for world federation, and finally to awareness of the unity of creation and the oneness of the Faith of God. This awareness of God's Faith is the crowning achievement in the evolution of humanity, and this is the force which unites the nations and peoples of the world, and assures lasting peace and justice on our planet.
Although the future society will be immeasurably improved and different from what we have known in past centuries, it will not eliminate challenges and tests in our lives. The trials will be of a different nature, a step beyond the sort of tests which were necessary in our adolescent, aggressive, physical level of development which is reaching its culmination today. The tests in the future will not be so involved with the materialistic, acquisitive aspects of intellectual pursuits, which has been so characteristic of our individual lives, our economics and our science. In the future the motivating drive will be to seek knowledge of the purpose of life, to grow in understanding of ourselves and of our relationship to God, and to seek fulfillment in life through the development of the soul and character. In such a civilization everyone must learn to reason clearly, -- carefully seeking out the truth of all matters for himself or herself, in order to never blindly follow authority figures or to accept without thought the statements of "leaders". It is a challenge that far surpasses anything we have experienced, and although the difficulties are of a different order, they will refine and strengthen our spirits.
The present "world" civilization will end violently, as we prepare for the final conflagration with a mad frenzy never before equaled, arming every nation, rich or poor, in the name of peace and "self-defense". The rich of the world accumulate greater and greater wealth with the promise that someday it will somehow help the poor who sigh in vain for a morsel of food. We produce enough food to adequately feed all the peoples of the earth, and then feed most of it to livestock to provide meat for the affluent, while over 150 million people face starvation or severe malnutrition. Leaders of the different religions have forgotten the teachings of their Faiths, and attack their own people over meaningless differences created by their priests and organizations. The warriors of the nations move to the battlefields to fight over their own graves, and the cries of the innocent children being killed and maimed in war reaches the heavens. The world's equilibrium has been disturbed by this materialistic civilization, and by the fires of hatred and anarchy, as we hasten toward the apocalyptic harvest of human greed. When all humanity is ready to say, "Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord," then, and only then, will the new age begin.
When and if this book is published many of the books listed in the bibliography will no longer be available. I hope that the most important books will survive in some of the university and public libraries.
Abdu'l-Baha The Secret of Divine Civilization, Wilmette, Baha'i Publ. Trust, 1957
Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, Haifa, UHJ, 1978
Some Answered Questions, London, Kegan Paul Trench Trubner, 1908
Archer, Jules Hunger on Planet Earth, New York, Thomas Crowell and Co., 1977
Augros, R. and
G. Stanciu *The New Biology, Boston, Shambala Press, 1988
Baha'u'llah Writings of Baha'u'llah, New Delhi, Baha'i Publ. Trust, 1986
Barnet, R.J. and
R.E. Muller Global Reach New York, Simon and Schuster, 1974
Barnet, R.J. The Lean Years, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1980
Barnett, L. The Universe and Dr. Einstein, New York, Bantam Books, 1975
Batra, Ravi The Great Depression of 1990, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1988
Beitz, C. and M. Washburn Creating the Future, New York, Bantam Books,1974
Bohm, David Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980
Borek, E. The Atom Within Us, New York, Columbia Press, 1980
Boyle, R.H. et al Acid Rain, New York, Lyons Books 1983
Brand, S. Media Lab, New York, Viking Press, 1987
Brown, Lester R. et al State of the World, 1990, New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 1990
Brown, Lester R. By Bread Alone, New York, Praeger, 1974
Building a Sustainable Society, New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 1987
Brown, Michael H. The Toxic Cloud, New York, Harper and Row, 1987
Burr, H.S. *Blueprint for Immortality, London, Spearman, 1972
Carnoy, M. and D. Shearer Economic Democracy, the Challenge of the 1980s, White Plains, M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1980
Commoner, Barry The Closing Circle, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1971
The Poverty of Power, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976
Coyle, D.E. The Day of Judgement, New York, Harper and Bros., 1949
Dale, T.and V.G. Carter Topsoil and Civilization, Norman, Univ. of Oklahoma, 1955
Davies, P. Other Worlds, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1982
Daly, Herman E. and J.B. Cobb Jr. For the Common Good, Boston, Beacon Press, 1989
Daly, H.E.-Editor Toward a Steady State Economy, Salt Lake City, W.H. Freeman and Co., 1973
Daly, Herman E. Economics, Ecology and Ethics, Salt Lake City, W.H. Freeman and co. 1980
Dasmann, R.F. Environmental Conservation, New York, J. Wiley and Sons, 1976
Denton, M. *Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, Bethesda, Adler and Adler, 1986
Downie Jr., L. Mortgage on America, New York, Praeger, 1974
Driesch, Hans *The History and Theory of Vitalism, London, Macmillan and Co., 1914
Eckholm, Erik P. Losing Ground, New York, Norton and Co., 1976
Ehrlich, P.R. et al Ecoscience, Salt Lake City, W.H. Freeman and Co., 1970
Eyre, S.R. The Real Wealth of Nations, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1974
Fellment, R.C. Politics of Land, the Nader Report, New York, Crossman Publ., 1973
Ferguson, M. The Aquarian Controversy, Los Angeles, J.P. Tarcher, 1980
Fukuoka, M. The One Straw Revolution,, Emmaus, Rodale Press, 1978
Gabor, D. and W. Columbo Beyond the Age of Waste, Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1978
Galbraith, J.K. The Great Crash 1929, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1954
The Anatomy of Power, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1983
The New Industrial State, New York, New Amer. Library, 1967
Garbarino, James The Future as if it Really Mattered, Elsevier Publ., 1988
George, Henry Progress and Poverty, New York, Doubleday, 1879
Golden, F. Quasars, Pulsars and Black Holes, New York, Pocket Books, 1977
Grasse', Pierre *The Evolution of Living Organisms, New York, Academic Press, 1977
Hadden, J.K. The Gathering Storm in the Churches, Garden City, Doubleday and Co., 1969
Haraway, D.J. *Crystals, Fabrics and Fields, New Haven, Yale Univ., 1976
Hawkin, Paul R. The New Ecology, New York, Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1983
The Next Economy, New York, Rinehart and Winston, 1983
Hayes, Denis Rays of Hope, New York, W.W. Norton, 1977
Heilbroner, Robert Business Civilization in Decline, New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 1976
The Worldly Philosophers, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1961
Henderson, H. Creating Alternative Futures, New York, Berkeley Publ. Co., 1975
Hewlett, S.A. A Lesser Life, New York, Wm. Morrow and Co., 1986
Hoyle, Fred *The Intelligent Universe, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983
Jung, Carl G. Questa a Una Filosfia, -----------
Kaku, M. and J. Trainer, Editors Nuclear Power, Both Sides, New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 1982
Koestler, A. The Roots of Coincidence, New York, Vintage Books, 1972
Kohr, Leopold The Breakdown of Nations, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1978
Kolaja, Jira Workers' Councils, the Yugoslav Experience, New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 1979
Kondratieff, Nikolai The Long Waves in Economic Life, ---------
Lapham, L.H. Money and Class in America, New York, Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1988
Lappe', F.M. Diet for a Small Planet, New York, Ballentine Books, 1982
Lappe', F.M. and J. Collins World Hunger, 10 Myths, San Francisco Inst. for Food and Development Policy, 1982
Food First, Beyond the Myth of Scarcity, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1977
Lekachmen, R. Greed is Not Enough, Reaganomics, New York, Pantheon Books, 1982
Loebl, E. Humanomics, New York, Random House, 1976
Lovelock, J.E. Gaia, a New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford, Oxford Press, 1978
Lovins, A.B. and
J. Price Non-Nuclear Futures, New York, Harper Colophon Books, 1975
Maslow, A.M. Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, New York, Viking Press, 1972
Mayer, M. The Bankers, New York, Weybright and Talley, 1974
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ECONOMIC INJUSTICE GROWS WORSE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, BUT ESPECIALLY IN THE UNITED STATES
United for a Fair Economy is the source of these statistics (www.ufenet.org/)
About a year ago I read that the gap between the wealthy and the poor throughout the world has been constantly increasing, even in the under developed nations. In America it has become a serious cause for concern, and a threat to future stability.
1. "If average pay for production workers had grown at the same rate as it has for CEOs during this boom, instead of barely outpacing inflation, their 1999 annual earnings would have been $114.035 instead of $23,753. If the minimum wage had risen as fast as CEO pay, it would now be $24.13 an hour, instead of $5.13."
"The government helped sink workers by leaving the minimum wage unchanged or changed inadequately as inflation eroded its value. The minimum wage used to bring a family of three with one full-time worker above the poverty line. Now it doesn't bring a full-time worker with one child above the poverty line. 'The real value of the minimum wage went up in the 1990s, but it's still down 27.0 percent since 1968."
"The pay gap between CEOs and workers is five times wider than it was at the start of the decade, and ten times wider than it was two decades ago. In 1990 , according to Business Week, CEOs at large companies made 85 times the pay of average factory workers, up from 42 times as much in 1980. In 1998 CEOs made 419 times the pay of workers ($10.6 million compared with $25,300), up from 326 times as much in 1997. If the CEO-worker wage gap increased this year at the same rate of growth as it did between 1997 and 1998 (28.5 percent), CEOs would make 538 times as much for 1999. In the year 2000 they would make 691 times as much."
2. "In 1989, the United States had 66 billionaires and 31.5 million people living below the official poverty line. A decade later, the United States has 268 billionaires and 34.5 million people living below the poverty line- about $13,000 for a three-person family." (Consider that house rents here in the country, far from cities, run from $400 to $700 a month for a two bedroom house. Difficult to get by with a family on only about $1000/month.) "At the dawn of the 21st century, the distribution of wealth has regressed to the perilous inequality of the 1920s. The top 1 percent of households has more wealth than the entire bottom 95 percent combined."
3. "Looking at after-tax income puts the growing disparities in even sharper focus. Between 1977 and 1999, the top fifth of households increased their annual income after federal taxes by 43 percent while the middle fifth gained 8 percent and the bottom fifth lost 9 percent. The top 1 percent of households gained 115 percent."
4. "Since 1977, the top 1 percent of households has doubled its share of the nation's wealth. The top 1 percent holds 40 percent of the nations's wealth, the top 5 percent has more than 60 percent. Financial wealth-net worth minus equity in owner-occupied housing - is even more concentrated. The top 1 percent holds nearly half of all financial wealth."
"Together, the 400 richest Americans are worth more than $1 trillion - about one-ninth of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States, the world's richest economy. The people in the Forbes 400 -they could all stay at New York's Plaza Hotel at the same time - have about as much wealth as the 50 million households in the bottom half of the population."
5. " The Dow has broken 11,000 but a lot of Americans are just plain broke. They have nothing to tide them over in case of a health crisis or unemployment, much less save for college or retirement. Nearly one out of five households has zero or negative net worth (greater debts than assets) Only one out of ten households had zero net worth in 1962."
"The nation's prosperity is cruising precariously in a sea of red ink. Total revolving consumer credit - most of it credit card debt - has more than tripled from $185.9 billion in January 1990 to $584.3 billion in October 1999."
"The personal savings rate dropped sharply over the decade. After hovering between 7 and 11 percent for 34 years, the personal savings rate dropped from 7 percent in 1993 to 2 percent in the third quarter of 1999."
"Total bankruptcies have more than doubled between 1989 and 1999. Business bankruptcies on the other hand are down 36 percent in the same period."
I have not included all the statistics, since these may be sufficient to illustrate the fact that American workers are spending themselves into debt, earning the same, or not much more, than they did 30 years ago. This, of course, makes the economy seem to be "booming and roaring" as the news people seem to believe because sales are high. The source of the sales is drying up, and anyone with foresight should be concerned.
It also illustrates the serious maldistribution of wealth in America, a problem that is universal, although not to the extent it is in America. When the U.S. economy collapses it will be felt around the world.
By John Carre E mail: