Humans still face looming challenges

(This letter was published in the Chapel Hill News, 13 May 2007.)

May 27 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, a woman of distinction who is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and brave scientists in modern history.

Some people have called Carson the mother of the contemporary environmental movement. She could rightly be compared to other great 20th-century women like Rosa Parks, the mother of the racial equality movement, or to Maria Montessori, a mother to teachers of children.

If, as Carson and so many other great scientists have courageously held forth, human beings evolved on Earth (did not descend from heaven or come here from some other place in the universe) and the emerging data of the environmental destruction of the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit are somehow on the right track, then humanity could soon confront daunting global challenges.

Scientific research from Chapel Hill’s very own Russell P. Hopfenberg indicates population scientists, demographers and economists in our time could be widely sharing and consensually validating inadequate understandings of the way the world in which we live works. By so doing, they appear to have failed to appreciate and communicate to the human community the necessity for regulating certain global human “overgrowth” activities. That is to say, humanity could soon be presented with an unacknowledged, unannounced and abhorrent predicament produced by increasing and unchecked per capita consumption of limited resources, seemingly endless expansion of production capabilities in a finite world, and unbridled species propagation.

Perhaps these unrestrained activities are occurring synergistically at a scale and growth rate that result in the needless loss of wildlife and wilderness, the reckless consumption of scarce resources, and the pernicious destabilization of the global ecosystems.

Huge and leviathan-like are the potential threats posed to humanity by certain unregulated, distinctly human consumption, production and propagation activities now overspreading our planetary home. Even so, we can take the measure of whatsoever the looming global challenges and find solutions to our problems that are consonant with universally shared values.


Steve Salmony
Chapel Hill

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