The Global Environment: Critical Issues for the Next Century - Henry W. Kendall Memorial Symposium at MIT (1/5)
VEST: Good morning. I'm Chuck Vest, president of MIT. And it's my pleasure to welcome all of you to this remarkable session.
At a series of dinners I host every year in the President's House here on campus, I tell each and every one of MIT's graduating seniors that their goal should be to leave the world a little better place for their having been here. I know it sounds trite and terribly old-fashioned to them. But the fact is, in the life of Henry Kendall lies proof-positive that that is the right goal and that, indeed, it can be accomplished.
For as we stand here at the threshold of a new millennium, the world, indeed, is a better place for Henry's having been here. And we would all be even better off if he were still here to help us wrestle with our challenges, our plans for a better future, and our efforts to educate tomorrow's leaders.
In fact, Henry Kendall was exactly the kind of leader that we will be needing more than ever. An exceptionally talented scientist, who never accepted limits on the scope and variety of his professional interests, revered and effective teacher, and a dedicated and outspoken advocate for policies having planetary reach and profound consequences for the global community he sought to serve.
He remains a model for our faculty, a model for our students. And we are very fortunate that his legacy remains a central part of the MIT tradition.
This is a tradition or a spirit that embraces an appreciation for non-traditional thinking, flexibility to support new and unproven ideas, the interdependence-- respect for the interdependence and cross-fertilization among disciplines, a sense of public service on national and global scales, a commitment to diversity in our programs and in our people, and a fierce dedication to excellence in all that we do. Henry literally embodied each and every one of these qualities and more.
Very shortly before his death, I had a very common experience. I got socked in by the fog at Logan Airport. But it turned out this time it was a great good fortune, because Henry Kendall was also there, both of us missing by two hours our intended flight. And it was a wonderful opportunity to spend two hours simply talking with Henry about his exceptionally wide range of interests.
And as all of you know, as is true of every conversation with him, it was truly an education. His understanding of the world ranged from subatomic physics to issues of the technologies of war and peace, from environmental protection and public health, to photography and underwater exploration. It is an indication of Henry's own influence in so many domains that so many distinguished people have come here to MIT today to take part in this tribute to his life and work.
On behalf of the Institute, I am proud to welcome all of you to this program. Henry Kendall set the highest possible goals for himself, his students, his colleagues, and the global community he helped to build and that he strove so hard to not only preserve, but to improve.
In focusing on the larger issues about which he cared so much, we do more than serve his memory. We also serve our own best interests-- and more importantly, the interests of our precious, fragile, and beautiful planetary home.
Welcome to Cambridge. Thank you all for joining us today. And now I would like to ask the head of our Physics Department, Marc Kastner, to come forward. Marc?
KASTNER: Thanks, Chuck. First of all, welcome to all of you on behalf of the Physics Department, in which Henry was a faculty member, and the Laboratory for Nuclear Sciences, of which he was a very proud member in which he did his research.
I want to thank Kurt Gottfried and Jerry Friedman and [? Frances ?] [? Loeb ?] for organizing what I think we will find to be a fascinating and interesting day, and Isabel Cunha-Vasconcelos who did a lot of the hard work to make this happen.
In physics, we love heroes. And Henry was a hero. He was a hero of our department. He was a hero of the Laboratory for Nuclear Sciences. He was a hero of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He was a hero of many others who admired him without any formal connection.
In physics, of course, our heroes are the people who break new ground, who are pioneers, who discover things we didn't know and make us think about things in ways we hadn't thought about them before. And Henry certainly did that.
Henry was passionate about many, many things. And I think what we're really going to see today are the array of the things that he was passionate about. He certainly was passionate about physics. And he was passionate about issues of society.
I think I'd like to say a word or two about things he was passionate about which you may not know so much about. Henry was passionate about education, especially hands-on education.
For many years he taught the freshman laboratory course. Imagine what it was like to be a freshman arriving at MIT and to go into your first mechanics course and told you were going to have a lab. And then you arrive at the lab, and here is a Nobel Prize winner to explain to you how things work. It was an amazing experience for these kids.
Henry was passionate about young people, and about giving graduate students and junior faculty a chance to pioneer the way he pioneered. He was passionate about many things. And he didn't hesitate to tell his department head when he thought the department head was doing the wrong thing where one of his passions was involved.
And I learned an awful lot from him because of that. I'm not going to say any more. He always will be one of our heroes. And I think at the end of the day today, if you don't already, you'll see why. So let me now turn the program over to Adele Simmons, who is the vice chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
SIMMONS: Thank you, Marc.
Many thanks to Chuck and to Marc for co-hosting this event with UCS. I'd like to welcome all of you here. I am the vice chairman of UCS, a position which I took on following Henry's death, because I believed so strongly in the importance of what UCS does and wanted to ensure and work to ensure that it remains a strong and powerful voice for issues we care about.
UCS was founded at MIT in 1969. And for those of you who don't know, it is a research, policy, an advocacy organization that works on issues that can only be understood if you get the science right. The current focus is on arms control and the environment-- and within the environment, particularly climate change and issues relating to agriculture.
Henry was the chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists for 26 years. Every board meeting was, for me, a seminar-- a seminar, I always felt, that was specially designed to help me as a college president and then a foundation president as I tried to lead the organizations I was running.
Henry always had ideas. He always pushed us to be bolder, to be more courageous, to be more outspoken. His leadership in those meetings was truly extraordinary. And as the big ideas, I remember as much as the wonderful stories about his last climb, the Nobel Prize dinner, or his latest dinner in Hollywood.
During this time, Henry worked very hard to expand the constituency for the issues he cared about. And six years ago, as the climate change issue was beginning to attract public attention and the Endangered Species Act was under threat, the Pew Trust established the National Religious Partnership to bring religious organizations into the environmental movement. Pew asked the Union of Concerned Scientists to serve as its science advisor.
One part of the National Religious Partnership program was an 11-minute video, which we're showing today. It may seem a little dated, but it's the last film with Henry on it. It is a reminder of his willingness to engage diverse audiences and build unusual partnerships for the causes he believed in. And it is a reminder that Henry was always ready to use the media other than the written word, or in addition to the written word.
And as far as I'm concerned, the concept of James Earl Jones as God is a pretty good one. Thank you. We're going to show the video right now.
[MYSTERIOUS MUSIC PLAYING]
- In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the Earth, the Earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.
Then God said, let there be light. And there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness "night."
All the light that we have ever known is contained in a thin layer that wraps around the surface of the Earth. Its mysteries challenge human comprehension. The search to understand them and their deepest meaning is at the heart of both science and religion. Some call this the creation. Some call this the biosphere. No matter what their perspective, all behold this vision with all.
And God said, let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures. And let birds fly above the Earth, across the dome of the sky.
- We relate to God through God's handiwork. Nature is God's textbook. It's God's gift to existence. So to read God, we read nature.
- So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves of every kind, and every winged bird of every kind. And God said that it was good.
And God made the wild animals of the Earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps up on the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
- The creation, it's something to be deeply valued. It's precious for all of us. And I like to say that it doesn't matter how you view the origin of the creation-- you come to the same conclusion. Diversity of life that surrounds us, it's a gift. It's something that was bequeathed to us. And it's something that we bequeath back down on to our descendants.
- Let's see. Let's have the possum next. Then can we have the snake? Then let's have the bush.
- Oh, okay.
- When the cathedral first announced that there would be a procession of animals to the altar for blessing, there was a great deal of uncertainty, skepticism, curiosity, and doubt as to how it would be received. But when we opened the great, 2-ton bronze doors in the cathedral, there were 4,000 silent people in this great sacred space.
And we watched an elephant, and a camel, and a llama, an eagle, a hawk, a pony. And as they all moved down the nave, the length of two football fields, people wept.
And as nearly as I could understand, people were experiencing a moment of reconciliation.
The challenge is for churches and synagogues to open their doors more fully to life itself. Invite life in-- the wonder of life, the reverence of life. It doesn't have to be an elephant or a llama coming down the nave to the altar. It just can be a sense that what's out there now belongs in here, inside our congregations and inside our hearts.
- So God created the humankind. Male and female, God created them. And God blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and multiply. And fill the earth and subdue it. And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the Earth.
- Human beings are clearly distinct in creation-- a strange combination of the dust of the Earth and the breath of God. We have a God-given creativity, which we can use to improve the world and improve our lives.
And at the same time, that creativity, which is our God-likeness is constantly restricted by our creatureliness, if you will. The idea that, even though we're unique in creation, there are absolute limits on human behavior and our choices of how we use God's world.
- The human species-- where do we fit in the great diversity of life that surrounds us? For thousands of years, the concept of dominion has been an important theme in religious thought.
- The scriptural view is, dominion does not mean abusive use. It means Earth-keeping. It means creature-keeping. If we decide to take charge, which we have, as human beings on Earth, then we, as good stewards of the creation are obligated not to destroy that over which we have been given dominion.
[GENTLE MUSIC PLAYING]
So this dominion really is service. It's the same sort of thing that's reflected in Genesis 2:15. Adam is asked to serve the garden.
- And the Lord God planted the garden in Eden, in the east. And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to serve it and to keep it.
- Adam is asked to serve the garden. That's a really interesting concept, because what comes out of that is that recognition that the garden, or the creation, more broadly, serves us, serves all their creatures with the fruits of creation. But we also serve it. And so there's a kind of con-service, or a conservancy, or a conservation.
- The command is a basic command. It's the first command, to keep the garden and to care for it. And I think that we have to understand that. I mean, it's elemental. I mean, that's there in Genesis before you get the 10 Commandments.
Caring for the creation is a fundamental call that the Lord places upon us all.
[MUSIC AND CHIRPING CONTINUE]
- Our relationship to the Earth is also a subject of profound interest to scientists.
- Humanity, we were created here. We evolved here. This is our home, to which we are adapted in exquisite detail. That means that the levels of oxygen that we breathe, the humidity, the temperature-- all things maintained in equilibrium-- it's a pretty steady state by all these millions of organisms in the midst of which we live, is exactly what our bodies need.
In other words, we have a superb environment, beautifully adapted to us now. We should be attempting to conserve it for our own good.
- As we better understand how the biosphere protects us, we are realizing that instead of protecting it, we have been altering it at an ever-accelerating pace.
- This is the first time in the history of people on Earth that we are having a tremendous impact on the entire biosphere of the Earth. We're beginning to appreciate the magnitude of that influence. Never before have we had as many people on Earth. Never before has the use of the resources, the biological resources of the planet been as great as it is now.
And the impact that we are having is absolutely astounding and, frankly, quite frightening.
[SOMBER MUSIC PLAYING]
- We could lose as many as 20% of the species of plants and animals on Earth, particularly on the land surface where most of the damage is occurring right now, in the next 30 years or so if we don't take stronger measures.
The only way to save the rest of life is through the preservation of the natural environment-- habitats, reserves.
- What we need is a much broader recognition of the problems that careless human activities are bringing upon us-- a realization that we cannot be rescued by science and technology, because these problems at their root are human problems, and have to be dealt with as such. And it's clear to the scientific community that this is the case.
- Thanks to our scientific understandings, we know now we didn't know before. We know the damage we're causing. And we know the consequences of our actions. And I think that changes the situation greatly in terms of the ethical nature of the dilemmas we're facing.
- We really have to save the creation, and we have to save the planet. And we can only do that if we feel that it is a unitary goal, that we all have something at stake here.
- I think we have to look deeper in our hearts, if you like. This is a problem of values. It's not a problem of techniques or approaches or science. It's a question of values. It's a moral and ethical challenge as to how we, this living generation, treats the environment that we so critically depend on.
- I think that this issue, more than any other issue, has the potential to overcome race, class, gender, whatever divisions that are plaguing our society, that we can come together on this.
- I think the articulation of the environmental crisis has made me think a lot more deeply about what is the biblical vision of humanity's position in the world and in the cosmos. And I think that the biblical material has a great deal to say on this subject.
[SOMBER MUSIC PLAYING]
- And God said to Noah, make yourself an ark. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the Earth. You shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you.
- The first endangered species act is where Noah is asked by the creator to take two of every kind and preserve their lineages. And it's interesting that the cost of this endangered species act is immense. Noah spends perhaps something like 100 years, immense resources, very valuable wood, a great deal of time, and then perhaps the most devastating of all to most of us would be the derision that one would get if one would spend hundreds years building a very large boat on absolutely dry land.
But the result is that he is the one who is faithful in preserving the species and preserving their line. And the rest of the people perish from the Earth.
[OMINOUS MUSIC PLAYING]
- And God said to Noah, this is the sign of the covenant, which I make between me and you and every living creature.
I so set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth.
- The covenant is with all life, with every creature. And of course, what this means is that, as we look at the rainbow, what we're supposed to do, according to biblical teaching, is to remember that every species-- all the things that have been preserved from that deluge in the past-- are worthy of our effort of preservation today.
- The covenant that we hold is a covenant with God for the whole of creation-- human and nonhuman-- and that in this present crisis, which reminds us and holds us accountable to that kind of responsibility for all God has made.
[SOFT MUSIC PLAYING]
- In a certain sense, we conduct a continuing conversation with God as we move through God's creation in the natural world. If that's true somehow, every act which destroys a species circumscribes our conversation with our creator. The destruction of a species of God's creation is metaphorically like tearing a page out of scripture.
- When you're looking at the planet from outer space, you see lights at night. You see clusters of lights in the large cities. The planet isn't dark from outer space. It is dotted with lights. Well, that is the human presence.
How many lights can the planet tolerate? It's a question that runs through my mind. If we succeed in lighting up the planet at night, will we have done good for the Earth? Or will we have destroyed it?
- Thus, the heavens and the Earth were finished. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it. Because on it, God rested from all the work done in creation.
- Rather than working and changing and creating unceasingly, the Sabbath teaches us to say, enough. It teaches us to stop creating and changing and doing. But you really appreciate and sanctify the world as it is.
[GENTLE MUSIC PLAYING]
Another aspect of the Sabbath is that the land has a Sabbath of its own.
- When you enter the land I'm going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord. In the seventh year, there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land.
- One of the things that we are asked to do in the scriptures is not relentlessly press creation. That is done through the teaching of the Sabbath-- the Sabbath not only for human beings, but also the Sabbath for the land.
If we relentlessly press the land, then what we do is to interfere with the capacity of the land to restore and rejuvenate itself. If we do that, we begin to erode the very home upon which human life depends.
- As human pressure on the natural world increases, scientists warn about the long-term effects.
- I think that it's very difficult to know where the limits are. Oftentimes, you don't know it until it's too late. I think that we, as humanity, need to do something different than just say to scientists, help us understand where the limits are-- which is appropriate, but I think that it's also a social issue, and a social and moral question that involves how we view this world that we're using and what the limits are.
- If we're really honest about our own lives, we have not only violated the Sabbath for the Earth, but we also have violated the Sabbath for ourselves. We have gotten on what we call the treadmill, the rat race. We spend a lot of time racing around.
And there is a necessary first step. And that is, we have to scale back in some of our frenzied activity to the point where we can reflect on who we are, why we're here, and where we're going.
- If our descendants come to realize that in a couple of generations we have destroyed a large part of the creation by carelessly extinguishing species and allowing species to grow extinct, they are going to consider us a ship of fools.
[INDISTINCT CHILDREN'S VOICES]
They're going to consider us as being one of the most destructive generations of all time, in terms of what matters the most to them.
[CHILDREN'S VOICES CONTINUE]
[SOFT MUSIC PLAYING]
- I think there's a growing movement that is accepting this moral responsibility and saying, things aren't right. This is not the way it's supposed to be. What do we do about it? And that's where I see a partnership between science and religion serving a very powerful, very, very important role.
- We are called to be stewards of the Earth. And that is part of my faith commitment. It is part of my faith journey, that this must be an important part of, that I must take it very seriously-- that, as we are called to keep the garden, that we understand that. And I pass that around-- that it's not that it becomes part of my faith journey, that I become a missionary for the planet.
- There are many levels on which these set of challenges, this great thicket of difficulties has to be met-- on the individual level, where people realize and accept changes-- not necessarily damaging changes, but just more careful use of resources-- recycling, supporting others in recycling, and so forth. But also, at a larger national, international level, there has to be support for changes in the way governments approach these problems.
And the support starts at the grassroots.
- The most important thing in stewardship really is that we be able to make our institutions work to be stewards. We can't just think of ourselves in the society as just individual actors. Our action is always through institutions. And by and large, is through institutions that will make a new future.
[GENTLE MUSIC PLAYING]
- I think we need to remember that everything is a piece of a puzzle, including us. And it's not ours to pull apart.
There's a prayer that I love that we say every Sabbath. And it says that, even if our own mouths were as full of song as the sea, and our lips as full of praise as the breaths of the heaven, and our eyes as bright as the Sun, and our hands as outstretched as the eagles of the sky, and our feet as swift as gazelles, we could not thank you enough.
And I think there's an important lesson, in that, in some way, all of creation praises God. And every voice in that chorus is needed.
- Both science and religion and call upon us to keep the Earth. All of our voices are needed.
SIMMONS: We can have the lights, too, for the room, I think. Some of you may not remember that one of the important outcomes of this partnership with the religious community was the Endangered Species Act, which was renewed shortly after the Gingrich Congress was elected. And I'm not sure how many you remember the news clips of the demonstrators from the religious partnership outside of Congress, which was a powerful part of ensuring the renewal of the Endangered Species Act.
You all have Tim Wirth's biography in your program. He's the current head of the United Nations Foundation. He served as a member of Congress for 18 years, including six years in the Senate, and was Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs between 1993 and 1997-- a new position created by the administration.
I've known Tim for years. And what distinguishes him are his values and the energy and passion with which he pursues the issues that he cares about.
And in this, Tim and Henry were much alike. Tim cares about energy, population, climate, the environment. And he wants to get results. And he does get results.
Within the US government, he shaped the United States' position heading into the Cairo UN Conference on Population. There is no question. And I should say, one thing I remember-- going to Baltimore with him. We were both speaking at a Pugwash Conference. But there, he talked about his last trip to Baltimore, which was to meet with the Catholic leadership in the city. So he, too, was reaching out to new constituencies.
But the result of Cairo has really shifted the way in which all of us think and work towards dealing with the important population issues. Without the US leadership and without Tim's leadership, Cairo would not have happened the way it did, and the US would not have had the position that it did.
And Tim did the same thing around to Kyoto Agreements. He really worked very hard within the government, and also with those of us who are outside the government-- advocacy groups-- to develop an agenda for Kyoto that was as strong and as powerful, and as based in science as possible.
Tim knew Henry very well. And he is going to both reflect on his own experiences with Henry and provide a framework for the next series of panels, which will be addressing several of the critical issues of the next decade-- issues that were very much a part of Henry's foremost concerns. Tim?
WIRTH: Well, thank you very much, Adele. It's a great pleasure for me to be here with you this morning, even if the reason for the gathering makes this pleasure somewhat bittersweet. The untimely death of Henry has deprived us of a great and graceful warrior in this struggle for a better world.
But we can take credit and create comfort in knowing that Henry Kendall's life will long be remembered, for he was the kind of man that Shakespeare had in mind when he penned the words, "He lives in fame that died in virtue's cause."
One of the things I most admired about my friend and Henry was his willingness, indeed, his determination to get involved, to do something about problems that so many people are merely content to complain about. Henry wanted science to serve the common man and woman. And he trusted the public's common sense to produce good decisions if scientists gave them an honest picture of reality.
When I think back on all that Henry accomplished in the political arena, it's amazing that he found time to do much science. But he was, as you all know, as gifted and indefatigable in the research lab as he was in political organizing. And he was justly recognized for his enormous contributions when he shared the Nobel Prize with Jerry Friedman, who is here this morning, in 1990.
Henry was, in short, one of the premier citizen scientists of our age. He was a great friend of ours. We were planning to have him on the Grand Canyon this summer. And we had a great trip anyway, but missed Henry tremendously.
Despite my sadness at his death, I'm really honored to be here to memorialize him today. And one of the best ways, I think, to do so is for us to carry on with his work.
So in thinking about this this morning, I asked myself, what would Henry be doing if he were here with us today? I reflected back on the November, 1992, UCS statement, a manifesto drafted by Henry, entitled "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity," signed by some 1,700 of the world's top scientists. UCS warned that, quote, "human beings and the natural world are on a collision course."
Alas, since this publication, most of these problems have only gotten worse. Global warming, for example, is no longer a theoretical danger. Our best scientists have declared that there is, quote, "a discernible human influence on the world's climate." And the consequences are increasingly apparent.
Forest loss, too, is accelerating. And scientists recently discovered that the Amazonian rain forest is being destroyed twice as fast as previously thought. Ominous news, considering the current global rate of loss will leave the planet with no rain forest at all by the year 2050.
The GEO-2000 report, released last month by the United Nations Environment Programme, draws an equally disturbing conclusion about species loss. 25% of the world's mammal species and 11% of bird species are at significant risk of total extinction.
And as for water, the shortages Henry warned about in 1992 have now become, in UNEP's words, a "full-scale emergency." if present trends continue, two out of every three persons on Earth will live in water-stressed conditions by 2025.
To be sure, there has been progress. Thanks to the Montreal Protocol, fewer CFCs is being produced around the world than in 1992, and a complete phase-out is scheduled for 2010. Yet, even this good news is compromised by the fact that the ozone layer won't return to normal till at least 2050.
Likewise, with population-- global growth rates have fallen significantly since 1992. Humanity is now growing by 77 million a year, rather than 100 million. Nevertheless, even the most optimistic foresee at least 8 billion humans on the Earth before population stabilizes around 2050. That's sobering, considering that ecosystems already are stretched by today's 6 billion people.
There's been some progress, as well, on greenhouse gas emissions. DuPont recently startled a skeptical world by announcing that the company would reduce its emissions by 65% by the year 2010-- 65%. United Technologies has announced 25%. BP and Shell are each committed to 10% over a short period. But the administration and Congress continue to fiddle while the globe warms.
In the face of these immense challenges, it may be tempting to throw up our hands and give up. Yet here, again, I think of Henry. And I can almost hear him heaping scorn on such defeatism.
Did I mention that another of his signal traits was tenacity? He was, after all, a world-class mountaineer. Steep challenges didn't deter him. They only spurred him on. So succumbing to despair is not an option for us either.
Instead, in my remaining time this morning, I'd like to suggest some ideas for addressing our environmental predicament and, more important, for resolving it. Guided by Henry's spirit, I specifically want to recruit all the scientists here to join this cause, for our civilization will not overcome these challenges without the active and sustained engagement of the scientific community. And that's not flattery. It's fact. And I mean the entire scientific community.
The challenges embedded in the environmental crisis cut across disciplines and demand an integrated approach. We need help from physicists like Henry, but also from biologists, chemists, engineers, economists, psychologists, and anthropologists.
Your fellow citizens need you to inform us with your research, inspire us with visions of a better future, and push us when we act with insufficient boldness. With your help, we may still be able to bring our collective behavior into balance with the natural systems that make our lives on Earth possible.
I think that five central issues demand our immediate attention-- weapons of mass destruction, population growth, consumption, species extinction, and our food supply in a global economy.
I'll begin with nuclear weapons, because they represent the greatest and perhaps most immediate threat to continued habitation of the planet. And Dick Garwin will extend this conversation with much greater expertise later in the day.
I realize, of course, that humanity has made extraordinary progress against this threat in recent years. But there is a long way to go before we're out of the nuclear woods. 10,000 nuclear warheads remain in each of our arsenals-- Russian and American. And many of these are still poised on hair-trigger status, which makes accidental nuclear war all the more possible.
Meanwhile, Russia's economic collapse has exacerbated the problem of keeping nuclear weapons away from the Saddam Husseins of the world. There are 150 tons of plutonium lying around the former Soviet Union, often poorly guarded. In a land where organized crime makes a mockery of the rule of law, such laxness invites disaster.
How to proceed? We should begin with the simplest steps-- fully fund the expanded Threat Reduction Initiative, which pays for taking apart Russian nuclear weapons and employs Russian nuclear scientists in commercial fields so they won't go to work for Iran and Iraq.
We should work to lower the risk of accidental war by insisting that Russia and the United States take their forces off launch-on-warning status and making no-first-strike pledges. We should begin shrinking our arsenals as close to zero as possible.
And the time has come to formulate and implement a program of comprehensive nuclear disarmament, including an overhaul of today's inadequate system for being for keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, rogue states, and criminal bosses. This is a complex set of tasks. And it demands, as before, the deep engagement of the scientific community.
The continuing list of immediate but no less hazardous storm clouds on the horizons must next include population, which has to be at the center of our analysis and activism. Population growth, 95% of which occurs among the world's poor, is not alone the all-powerful environmental culprit that some people claim. That consumption patterns of the wealthy are more damaging.
But the laws of mathematics cannot be denied. Even at lower consumption levels, more people means more demand for food, water, and other resources, not to mention production of more pollution. Human ingenuity can increase the efficiency of our consumption pattern, but technical fixes can only do so much.
If we want a habitable planet in the 21st century, population stabilization is essential. Nevertheless, most politicians dodge this issue, as do most major environmental groups, because to talk about population, you have to talk about two of the most controversial subjects around-- religion and sex.
Our government used to seriously address population in the early 1970s. Then Congressman George Bush chaired the Population Caucus in the House of Representatives and was known affectionately to his colleagues as "Rubbers Bush."
That is true. By the time Mr. Bush served in the Reagan White House and ran for president, however, he had changed his tune entirely.
His about-face is typical of countless other good leaders who know better, but have shrunk back in fear of the Catholic Church and other opponents of abortion, even though those opponents are nowhere near as numerous or powerful as politicians think. The irony is, the Catholic Church as an institution has done so much to help disadvantaged people around the world, yet the unintended result of its population stance is to counteract that legacy.
Let me emphasize that in urging attention to population, neither I nor anyone else seriously engaged with the issue is proposing to force birth control, much less abortions, on the world's women. Quite the contrary.
The great breakthrough of the Cairo Conference on Population, mentioned by Adele-- 1994-- was its recognition that women, properly empowered, can make decisions for themselves about the size of their families and the spacing of their children. And this is the surest route to lower birth rates.
When the status of women is raised by keeping girls in school, instituting legal equality, assuring women access to family planning and reproductive health care, the effects are unmistakable. Fertility rates fall. So do child mortality rates, because fewer pregnancies mean healthier pregnancies and healthier children.
And the economic benefits are pervasive. The result is to help break the vicious cycle by which poverty encourages the high birth rates that keep people poor.
To get population back on policy, back on track, we need to reopen the public conversation on this issue and make our case with clarity and compassion. A sensible approach to family planning is both environmentally essential and crucial to fighting poverty the world over. This public outreach is another area where we need the scientific community's help.
Of course, calling for population stabilization can only be politically credible if reducing consumption receives equal emphasis-- my third point. The GEO-2000 report calls for a 10-fold reduction in resource consumption in industrialized countries in order to free up environmental space needed by environmental nations fleeing poverty.
I believe that we can achieve the 10-fold reduction, and without degrading living standards. But this will require strong leadership from government, fundamental reforms of our economic system, major shifts in consumer and corporate behavior, and, again, effective and sustained input from the scientific community.
The first step is efficiency-- not doing without, but doing with less. In his new book, Cool Companies, former Assistant Secretary of Energy Joe Romm documents how such firms as 3M, Xerox, and Compaq are fattening their bottom lines while sharply reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, simply by improving energy efficiency.
Another new book, Natural Capitalism, co-authored by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, describes literally hundreds of existing technologies that increase efficiency, not only in energy, but also water, construction, transportation, and agriculture-- indeed, virtually all aspects of our society.
Improving efficiency is essential, because it buys us time to develop alternative technologies and get them up and running. We can do simple things like regularizing efficiency standards across the OECD countries and helping highlight the best practices of leading international companies like BP, 3M, and ABB.
We can pull technology in markets, as we once did for computers, by requiring that governments purchase cars only if they're powered by hybrid electric or fuel cells. We can help close the cost gap between renewable and coal-fired power by concerted and consistent national policies. And the list goes on.
Other opportunities will certainly be found in the unfolding deregulation of the electricity business, from encouraging consumer choice in the source of energy, to allowing the demobilization of cost-ineffective and environmentally destructive plants. This efficiency strategy is not new. It just hasn't been tried.
Nor would it be costly to the taxpayer, because we can spend existing budgets more wisely. The United States government devotes about $30 billion a year to subsidizing fossil fuels and nuclear power, but less than $1 billion on efficiency, solar, and renewables. That ratio can change.
Another promising mechanism is the environmental tax shift, whereby government raises taxes on what it wants to discourage-- pollution and resource degradation-- while lowering taxes on what we want more of-- jobs and investment. Your colleague at Harvard, Professor Dale Jorgenson, former chair of the Economics Department and a professed conservative, has done path-breaking and breathtaking work that shows how such a tax shift is revenue-neutral, sharply lowers pollution, and has marked economic benefits.
To borrow business tech terminology, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. If our economic accounting systems were environmentally honest, our society would now be perilously close to chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Today, the market prices clean air, fresh water, and other ecosystem services at or close to zero, so people waste them. But if prices reflected true environmental cost, the market could become a major force for reform. We need help from economists and other social scientists in recognizing these basic facts and adjusting our behavior accordingly.
But as important as the economics are, if we forget the basic biology of all of this, we're lost-- which brings me to a word I'm only going to use once this morning-- "biodiversity." Probably everyone in this room knows what this term means, but I assure you that the general public does not.
So my plea here is simple. Would you please come up with a new, layperson-friendly term for what may be the single most immediate environmental threat facing us.
The public responds instantly when environmentalists highlight the threat to warm and fuzzy creatures like panda bears and sea otters. But people also need to understand why it matters profoundly if the lowly dung beetle and earthworm disappear.
As it happens, this problem was one of Henry Kendall's main preoccupations the final year of his life. He was working with biologists on how better to communicate to the public their grave concern about the global epidemic of species extinctions. And I can think of no better way to honor Henry's memory than to solve this puzzle.
Let me now turn to my fifth point, food and globalization. How will humanity feed itself in the 21st century? Population momentum will give us at least 8 billion people to feed. And if living standards keep rising, those people will be consuming more food per capita than humanity does today.
But the basic inputs of our food system are already under enormous stress. Arable land is disappearing at frightening rates. Soil is eroding about 30 times faster than it's being created. And we're short of water, while the global nitrogen imbalance limits future fertilizer use.
Yet here again, there is ample scope for efficiency improvements. Drip irrigation, no-till cultivation, and integrated pest management are all known, tested, but inadequately deployed tools for much more efficient agriculture.
Many scientists also advocate another approach to feeding the world in the 21st century-- increased reliance on genetically modified organisms that resist droughts and pests and can raise crop yields. Who can doubt that the potential of biotechnology is great? The risks, however, are also significant.
For example, this summer, when it was widely reported that corn, genetically modified to resist the corn borer, ended up killing monarch butterflies as well, the public reacted rapidly and alarm bells went off. Now, maybe that was just bad luck. But biotechnology's ability to subvert ecosystems with unintended effects like super weeds and new viruses is so powerful that we, as a society, should pursue this technology with only the utmost deliberation.
That means, at a minimum, that all biotechnology innovations must undergo thorough, long-term testing by the proper authorities before being released on the environment. It also means that we must design a better public information system so that consumers know about and have faith in what they are ingesting.
These issues will surely be debated next month before the World Trade Organization. The WTO is one of the central institutions of globalization. And its upcoming meeting in Seattle may well be one of the defining moments in the struggle to define how globalization should operate.
Like biotechnology, globalization has great potential both to help and to harm. Genuinely free trade can lower costs and protect the world from the protectionism that contributed to the Great Depression. Sensible deregulation can do away with unwise subsidies.
But globalization does not deserve support if it does not serve basic values of our civilization, including respect for democracy, equality, and the environment. And here's where the WTO appears to be falling short.
In August, the WTO ruled that the European Union must drop an 11-year ban on US beef treated with hormones, or face sanctions. The United States has also complained to the WTO about Europe's resistance to genetically modified food, calling that resistance irrational.
But why shouldn't the Europeans be able to question genetically modified food? If we do not deal openly and rapidly with the issue of labeling and public information, the backlash to any genetic modifications can become so great as to derail any of the benefits of the new revolution in biology. And we'll still have to feed more than 8 billion people. Again, your help here is needed and needed now.
This is one of the immediate, visible, and pressing challenges of globalization. The market has a vital role to play in the environmental transition, but our governments have to keep the market environmentally honest.
We cannot allow the agendas of commercial interests alone to trump all other considerations. The truth is, everyone can make plenty of money in the environmental transition if we just use our heads.
In a world where one out of every four people live on less than $1 a day, and unemployment is at historically high levels, even in wealthy societies in Europe and Japan, economic revitalization is essential to environmental progress. Average people want to do the right thing environmentally. But no one can be expected to starve today to save the environment for tomorrow.
Luckily enough, they don't have to. Earth Odyssey, a new book by journalist Mark Hertsgaard, draws on interviews with top government and environment officials around the world to explain how we could actually turn a profit by making peace with the planet.
Following the digital revolution, the next great change will be the Global Green Deal to environmentally retrofit civilization from top to bottom and trigger another great economic boom-- a huge source of jobs and profits to workers and companies throughout the world.
The profit is limitless, says one Japanese official, because the market's limitless. After all, we're talking here about remaking everything, from our farms to our factories, our schools, houses, offices, and everything inside them. The money this could make would give a whole new meaning to the phrase "going green."
The opportunity, like the challenge, is immense. The question facing us is straightforward enough. Will we act quickly and decisively enough to earn ourselves a longer stay on this beautiful and bountiful planet?
To quote Shakespeare again, "delays have dangerous ends." But as I recall, our friend Henry Kendall had no patience for delays. So why should we? Thank you very much.