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"History is a race between education and catastrophe."
-H.G. Wells

Denial is not a River in Iraq

by Dan Armstrong

Three critical and interdependent issues are likely to define the first quarter of this century. Depletion of petroleum reserves, global warming, and the rise of the radical Islamic terrorist movement pose serious and long range concerns for the global community. Though the lords of the business roundtable might call it naive, a steady diminishing of the use of fossil fuels would go a long way to alleviating all three of these concerns. Mindful conservation of petroleum reserves would extend the lifetime of one of our most useful natural resources, relieve our atmosphere of increasingly hazardous chemistry imbalances caused by carbon emissions, and ease the explosive politics of the Middle East. Instead we seem bent on burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow, effectively throwing gasoline on the raging fire of terrorism and accelerating the unknowns of global warming.

Stewardship of the biosphere need not be such a difficult proposition. With our planet's wide diversity of natural resources, life forms, and climatic conditions, maintaining a veritable paradise on earth is entirely within the reach of human enterprise and imagination. There are efficient and practical ways of managing natural resources while also keeping the water and air clean. And yet our profligate use of fossil fuels belies all pretense of forethought or reason.

Imagine planet Earth as a huge round three trillion-barrel oil tanker sailing through space encased in a bubble of recycled air. Humans have spent ten thousand years building a vast and elaborate civilization on the deck of this spherical spacecraft. In a one hundred year-flurry, however, we have consumed approximately half the contents of our tanker. In the process, we have dumped some 200 billion tons of carbon waste products into our ventilation system and caused a vicious worldwide cultural rift. Only one thing prevents us from gaining control of our self-destructive petroleum habit: Lemming-like denial.

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