11 August 2010


U.S. FAIL. It came to my attention yesterday that the United States is NOT a member of the International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal which prosecutes individuals (including heads of state) for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. The Court is located in The Hague, Netherlands, and currently has 111 member nations. A further 36 countries, including Russia and the U.S., have signed but not ratified the founding statute. (See map above -- green denontes member nations, orange denotes nations who have signed but not ratified.)

It is a grim testimonial to U.S. isolationism, as well as our inflated, sanctimonious view of our own self-importance, that we consistently refuse to join other nations in environmental and human rights endeavors. It is noteworthy that among the nations which are not ICC members are Iraq, China, North Korea, Indonesia, Israel, the Sudan, and India -- nations whose attitude toward human rights is at best negligent, and at worst homicidal. What is the U.S. afraid of? Perhaps our leaders fear that they will be held accountable for acts which violate our own founding principles, not to mention fundamental standards of decency and respect that transcend cultures. From Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to both Bush presidents, as well as certain Secretaries of Defense, our leadership has made epic military and political decisions on the world stage which were morally bankrupt, and deserve to be held accountable. Why should we hold ourselves to a double standard? What are we afraid might be revealed? We talk the talk, it's long past time that we walk the walk.

ABANDON SHIP. In 1965, during my senior year in high school, I recall becoming involved in a debate over the future of humanity. Specifically, my position was that humans are quickly over-populating the planet, and must choose between drastically reducing our numbers, or finding other habitable planets to which to migrate. Even at the callow age of 18, I intuited a reality that has only become more urgent during the intervening years.

Consider -- in 1965 the world population was 3.35 billion people. In 2009 the world population had doubled to 6.79 billion people (see graph above, click to enlarge). Human overpopulation lies at the root of every social and environmental problem we face -- from economic recession to global starvation, from habitat destruction and species extinctions to global warming. The Earth could reasonably sustain about one tenth the number of people who are alive today -- if that smaller number were stable, not growing.

Forty-five years later, my adolescent conjectures have been vindicated by no less an eminence than Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist whose depth and breadth of thought have been compared to Albert Einstein. In a recent interview, Hawking observed that the exponential growth of human population, coupled with our effects on the planet, have crossed a threshold. The momentum of changes we have wrought has taken on a life of its own, and our survival as a species lies in peril. Hawking suggests that we can wait around and undergo a painful extinction, or we can face reality and seek to expand our home from this planet to many others.

My own view has evolved -- I do agree that we should be pouring more resources, creativity and planning into space exploration (and far less into military spending). But I also think that we should be doing everything humanly possible to rescue our garden planet, protecting all species and habitats and the environment which sustains us all. Only by becoming responsible stewards will we deserve to continue to exist. Anything less, and we are simply a cancer on the face of the Earth, and our demise would be a blessing for all other life forms.

CHIVALRY AND THE YOUNG. I happened upon this video taken at a baseball game. The guy does something which should make his girlfriend seriously question his integrity. Particularly revealing is his behavior while being interviewed (and skewered) by a sportscaster after the event. See what you think.

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