We give our children loving care, but it
makes no sense to do so unless we do everything in our power to give them a
future world in which they can survive. We also have a duty to our
grandchildren, and to all future generations.
Today we are faced with the threat of an environmental
megacatastrophe, of which the danger of catastrophic climate change is a part. We also face
the threat of an all-destroying nuclear war.
Finally, because of population growth, the
effect of climate change on agriculture, and the end of the fossil fuel era,
there is a danger that by the middle of the present century a very large-scale
famine could take the lives of as many as a billion people.
We owe it to our children to take urgent
action to prevent these threats from becoming future realities. We must also
act with dedication to save our children from other social ills that currently
prevent their lives from developing in a happy and optimal way, for example
child labor, child slavery, starvation, preventable disease and lack of
education. These, too, are threats to our children’s future.
The climate emergency: Urgent action is needed
The annual Emissions Gap report from the
U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP), released on November 26, 2019, warned that nations’ commitments under the
Paris climate accord – from which U.S. President Donald Trump began formally
withdrawing this month – are not nearly sufficient to bring about the
widespread changes needed to avert climate catastrophe.
The report stated that global temperatures
are on track to rise as much as 3.2$^o$C by the end of the century, meaning
only drastic and unprecedented emissions reductions can stave off the most
devastating consequences of the climate crisis. What is needed, according to
the report, is a complete halt in the production of fossil fuels.
Renewable energy is now cheaper than
fossil fuels, so the transition to renewables could be driven by economic
forces alone, if governments worldwide would stop their sponsorship of fossil
fuel industries, to which they currently give enormous tax benefits and other
Other urgently needed actions are a halt
to deforestation, combined with massive reforestation, substitution of other
building materials for cement, better climate coverage in the mass media,
abandonment of growth-oriented economic goals, shift to more plant-based diet,
and deep cuts in military activities.
We must rid
the world of nuclear weapons
A Treaty banning nuclear weapons was
adopted by an overwhelming majority vote on the floor of the UN General
Assembly, following the precedent set by the Arms Trade Treaty. The Treaty on
the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was passed on 7 July, 2017. It prohibits the
development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and
threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to
the prohibited activities. For nuclear armed states joining the treaty, it
provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified
and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons programme.
The International Campaign to Abolish
Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) campaigned vigorously for the adoption of the Treaty,
and was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts. Although
bitterly opposed by nuclear weapons states, the Treaty has great normative
value, and one fervently hopes that the force of public opinion will eventually
force all governments to give their citizens what the vast majority long for: a
It is generally agreed that a full-scale
nuclear war would have disastrous effects, not only on belligerent nations but
also on neutral countries. As long as there are nations that possess nuclear weapons, there
is a danger that they will be used, either deliberately or through a technical
or human error, or through unconcontrollable escalation of a conflict. Only a
nuclear-free world will be safe for our children and the biosphere.
We must address the threat of widespread famine
As glaciers melt in the Himalayas,
depriving India and China of summer water supplies; as sea levels rise,
drowning the fertile rice fields of Viet Nam and Bangladesh; as drought
threatens the productivity of grain-producing regions of North America; and as
the end of the fossil fuel era impacts modern high-yield agriculture, there is
a threat of wide-spread famine. There is a danger that the 1.5 billion people who are
undernourished today will not survive an even more food-scarce future.
People threatened with famine will become
refugees, desperately seeking entry into countries where food shortages are
less acute. Wars, such as those currently waged in the Middle East, will add
to the problem.
What can we do to avoid this crisis, or at
least to reduce its severity? We must urgently address the problem of climate change; and we
must shift money from military expenditure to the support of birth control
programs and agricultural research. We must also replace the institution of war
by a system of effective global governance and enforcible international laws.
We must eliminate child labor and child slavery
Worldwide 10 million children are in
slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labor, forced
recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and other illicit
activities, according to the International Labor Organization, (ILO). 151.6
million are estimated to be in child labor (ILO). 114 million child laborers
are below the age of 14 (ILO). 72 million children are in hazardous work that
directly endangers their health, safety and moral development (ILO). More than 700
million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. More than
one in three (about 250 million) entered into union before age 15 (UNICEF).
300,000 children are estimated to serve as child soldiers, some even younger
than 10 years old (UNICEF). 15.5 million children are in domestic work
worldwide – the overwhelming majority of them are girls (ILO).
Child labor is undesirable because it
prevents children from receiving an education. Furthermore,
when parents regard their children as a source of labor or income, it motivates
the to have very large families, and our finite earth, unlimited growth of
population is a logical impossibility. Population growth increases the threat
of large-scale famine as well as ecological catastrophe.
Child slavery is unacceptable, as is any form
of slavery. Forced marriage, and very early marriage of girls as young as 9 in
some countries are also unacceptable practices. The international community has
a duty to see that existing laws against these practices are enforced.
We must reduce starvation and preventable disease
According to a recent report published by
the World Health Organization, in 2018 alone, 15,000 children died per day
before reaching their fifth birthday. A WHO spokesman said, “It is
especially unacceptable that these children and young adolescents died largely
of preventable or treatable causes like infectious diseases and injuries when
we have the means to prevent these deaths,” the authors write in the
introduction to the report. The global under-five mortality rate fell to 39
deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, down from 76 in 2000 – a 49% decline.
“Despite advances in fighting childhood
illnesses, infectious diseases remain a leading cause of death for children
under the age of 5, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia,” says
the report. Pneumonia remains the leading cause of death globally among
children under the age of 5, accounting for 15% of deaths. Diarrhoea (8%) and
malaria (5%), together with pneumonia, accounted for almost a third of global
under-five deaths in 2018. “Malnourished children, particularly those with
severe acute malnutrition, have a higher risk of death from these common
childhood illnesses. Nutrition-related factors contribute to about 45 per cent
of deaths in children under 5 years of age,” warns the report. The
estimates also show vast inequalities worldwide, with women and children in
sub-Saharan Africa facing a higher risk of death than in all other regions.
Level of maternal deaths are nearly 50 times higher for women in sub-Saharan
Africa compared to high-income countries. In 2018, 1 in 13 children in
sub-Saharan Africa died before their fifth birthday – this is 15 times higher
than the risk a child faces in Europe, where just 1 in 196 children aged less
than 5 die.
We must provide universal reformed education
Illiteracy in the less developed countries
exceeded that of the developed ones by a factor of ten in 1970. By 2000, this
factor had increased to approximately 20. As our economies become more
knowledge-based, education has become more and more important.
Besides universal education, educational
reforms are urgently needed, particularly in the teaching of history. As it is
taught today, history is a chronicle of power struggles and war, told from a
biased national standpoint. Our own race or religion is superior; our own
country is always heroic and in the right.
We urgently need to replace this
indoctrination in chauvinism by a reformed view of history, where the slow development
of human culture is described, giving adequate credit to all who have
The teaching of other topics, such as
economics, should be reformed. Economics must be given both a social conscience and an ecological
conscience. The mantra of growth must be abandoned,
and the climate emergency must be addressed.
Childhood should be a time of joy
Children’s play is not a waste of time. Children at
play are learning skills that they will use later in their lives. Let us allow
our children to play and learn, while we work to give them a secure future
world. Let us give our children, not predominantly material goods, but rather
the love, happiness and future that they deserve.
A new freely
I would like to announce the publication of a book, which examines
the steps that we must take to give our children and their children a world in
which thet can survive. The book may be freely downloaded and circulated from
the following link:
Other books and articles about global problems are on these links
I hope that you will circulate the links
in this article to friends and contacts who might be interested.
Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel
Peace Prizefor their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and
World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND
Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of
Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group
and the Danish Peace Academy andreceived his training in theoretical physics
and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the
University of London. Article provided
to Other News by the author on December 3, 2019