After the Storm

2012 Was a Year of Trials
We Hope for a Better 2013
Henry J. Stern is the founder and president of New York Civic.
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

As the year 2012 limps to a soggy close, we look back at what has occurred during our most recent circuit of the sun.

The most important event of the year, however was not man made, unless you believe the people who say the changing climate is the result of our failed stewardship of the planet.

It is true that we have plundered the earth by extracting its valuables, polluting its skies and oceans, and destroying protective layers of the stratosphere. But we are not ready to believe that any calamity that society faces is the result of human greed.

This thought recurs to me: What did our ancestors do to bring about the Ice Age and then to cause it to depart, a process which continues today?

I believe that some products currently in use will be found to have varying levels of toxicity which may shorten people’s lives. When one looks at the now anachronistic tobacco advertising of a half century ago, with “doctors” in white coats extolling particular brands, one wonders which substances we consume readily today will similarly be found to have less salubrious effects than those advertised.

Much of the television advertising that promotes a variety of remedies is now required to contain so many caveats and warnings that cautious people might hesitate to purchase the product offered for sale. That could be an intermediate step toward state control (the nanny state); first comes labeling, then description of consequences and limitations on container size and ingredients, then restriction of purchases and, ultimately, prohibition. This may be wise or foolish; that depends on the effects on human beings of the material in question. The process should be subject to scientific standards of truth.

In a world where scientific knowledge is rapidly advancing (except, it is said, in public schools in the United States) we should be aware that there are questions today which we will be able to answer in the future, and we should respect species of animals and plant life which will be impossible to generate once they become extinct.

To summarize these intuitive thoughts, we would urge our society to proceed with care in matters relating to ecosystems.

There is, unfortunately, a real conflict between unbridled capitalism or any sense of authority and preservation of life. The most vivid example today may be the indiscriminate slaughter of elephant calves because of the high value of ivory. A corporation may purchase a mountain top to strip its vegetation and flatten it, purchase a lake and fill it in or buy a forest and clear-cut it, removing every tree. There are often similar situations which have not been publicized, and private owners may be as unrelenting as public agencies.

The fact is that governments in much of Africa are too weak to combat the ivory traders, just as other governments are not strong enough to prevent the flow of narcotics from African and Asian poppy fields to European and North American consumers.

The problems our planet faces today include the risk of nuclear proliferation, the spread of chemical weapons of mass destruction or biological poisons to terrorists, both state and non-state.

None of the above problems should discourage any of us from good works. We should, however, keep in mind that all our neighbors may not have the same value systems or reverence for life that we aspire to. Others have grievances that may have fostered for millennia.

Meanwhile, we should be grateful for the blessings we enjoy today, starting with life and liberty. We should do whatever we can to extend these blessings to everyone. Those of us who are so inclined may consider this our holiday message.

Follow rule 19 – B:  Be kind to man and beast.

New York Civic extends to all of you our best wishes for the new year.

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Comments

How ironic that living longer creates financial chaos!

When Social Security was created it was designed to begin
making payments after most people died.

Underfunded pensions, shortages in Medicare reserves, exhorbitant nursing home expenses, etc. would all be unknown today if people continued to smoke and drink as they did at least for the first 2/3 of the 20th Century. They would be dead before becoming a drain on society.

When the causes of all sicknesses are eliminated, the result may be
poverty for the masses required to support those who are no longer productive members of society. We should be careful what we wish for.

Rey Olsen

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