from the burning of coal, oil, and gas may ba ondangering the global environment
144 • Billions and Billions precautions are not considered prudent capitalists because they don't waste money on implausible contingencies. They are considered criminals. There are laws to make sure bridges and skyscrapers don't fall down. Shouldn't we also have laws and moral proscriptions treating the potentially far more serious environmental issues?
I want now to offer some practical suggestions about dealing with climate change. I believe they represent the consensus of a large number of experts, although doubtless not all. They constitute only a beginning, only an attempt to mitigate the problem, but at an appropriate level of seriousness. To undo global warming and bring the Earth's climate back to what it was, say, in the 1960s will be much more difficult. The proposals are modest in another respect as well—they all have excellent reasons for being carried out, independent of the global warming issue.
With systematic monitoring of the Sun, atmosphere, clouds, land, and ocean from space, aircraft, ships, and from the ground, using a wide range of sensing systems, we should be able to diminish the range of current uncertainty, identify feedback loops, observe regional pollution patterns and their effects, track the withering of the forests and the growth of deserts, monitor changes in the polar ice caps, in glaciers, and in the level of the oceans, examine the chemistry of the ozone layer, observe the spread of volcanic debris and its climatic consequences, and scrutinize changes in how much sunlight arrives at Earth. We have never before had such powerful tools to study and to safeguard the global environment. While spacecraft of many nations are about to play a role, the premier such tool is NASA's robotic Earth Observing System, part of its Mission to Planet Earth. Escape from Ambush • 145
When greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere, the Earth's climate does not respond instantaneously. Instead it seems to take about a century for two-thirds of the total effect to be felt. Thus, even if we stopped all CO2 and other emissions tomorrow, the greenhouse effects would continue to build at least until the end of the next century. This is a powerful reason to mistrust the "wait-and-see" approach to the problem—it may be profoundly dangerous.
When there was an oil crisis in 1973—79, we raised taxes to reduce consumption, made cars smaller, and lowered the speed limits. Now that there's a glut of petroleum we've lowered taxes, made cars larger, and raised the speed limits. There's no hint of long-term thinking.
To prevent the greenhouse effect from increasing still further, the world must cut its dependence on fossil fuels by more than half. In the short term, while we're stuck with fossil fuels, we can use them much more efficiently. With 5 percent of the world's population, the United States uses nearly 25 percent of the world's energy. Automobiles are responsible for almost a third of U.S. CO2 production. Your car emits more than its own weight in CO2 each year. Clearly, if we can get more miles per. gallon of gasoline, we'll be putting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Nearly all experts agree that huge improvements in fuel efficiency are possible. Why are we—self-professed environmentalists—content with cars that get only 20 miles to the gallon? If we can drive at 40 miles per gallon, we'll be injecting only half as much CO2 into the air; at 80 miles per gallon, only a quarter as much. This issue is typical of the emerging conflict between short-term maximizing of profits and long-term mitigation of environmental damage. No one will buy the fuel-efficient cars, Detroit used to say; they'll have to be smaller and so more dangerous; they won't 146 • Billions and Billions accelerate as quickly (although they certainly could go faster than the speed limits); and they'll cost more. And it is true that in the middle 1990s, Americans have been increasingly driving gas-guzzling cars and trucks at high speeds—in part because petroleum is so cheap. So the American auto industry fought and more indirectly still fights meaningful change. In 1990, for example, after great pressure from Detroit, the Senate (narrowly) rejected a bill that would have required significant improvements in fuel efficiency in American automobiles, and in 1995—96 already-mandated fuel efficiencies in a number of states were relaxed.
But downsizing cars is not required, and there are ways of making even smaller cars safer—such as new shock-absorbing structures, components that crumble or bounce, composite construction, and air bags for all seats. Apart from young men in the throes of deep testosterone intoxication, how much do we lose in forgoing the ability to exceed the speed limit in a few seconds, compared with how much we gain? There are quick-accelerating gasoline-burning cars on the road today that get 50 or more miles per gallon. The cars might cost more to buy, but certainly would cost far less to fuel: According to one U.S. Government estimate, the added expense would be recouped in only three years. As far as the claim that no one will buy such cars, this underestimates the intelligence and environmental concern of the American people— and the power of advertising let loose in support of a worthy goal.
Speed limits are established, driving licenses mandated, and many other restrictions levied on the drivers of automobiles in order to save lives. Automobiles are recognized as potentially so dangerous that it is the obligation of the government to set some limits on how they're manufactured, maintained, and driven. This is even more true once we recognize the seriousness of
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global warming. We've benefitted from our global civilization; can't we modify our behavior slightly to preserve it?
The design of a new, safe, fast, fuel-efficient, clean, greenhouse-responsible class of autos will spur many new technologies, and make a great deal of money for those with a technological edge. The greatest danger for the American automobile industry is that if it resists too long, the necessary new technology will be provided (and patented) by foreign competition. Detroit has a particular and parochial motivation to develop new greenhouse-responsible cars: its survival. This is not a matter of ideology or political prejudice. It follows, I believe, directly from greenhouse warming.
The three big Detroit-based auto manufacturers—prodded and partly financed by the federal government—are sluggishly but collaboratively attempting to develop a car that will achieve 80 miles a gallon, or its equivalent for cars that run off something other than gasoline. If gasoline taxes were to rise, the pressures on automakers to build more fuel-efficient cars would increase.
Lately some attitudes have been changing. General Motors has been developing an electric automobile. "You must incorporate your environmental directions into your business," advised Dennis Minano, the vice president of Corporate Affairs at GM in 1996. "Corporate America is beginning to see that it is clearly good for business. . . . There's a more sophisticated market now. People will measure you as you take environmental initiatives and incorporate them to make your business successful. They're saying, 'We won't call you green, but we'll say you have low emissions, or a good recycling program. We'll say you're environmentally responsible.' " Rhetorically, at least this is something new. But I'm waiting for that affordable 80-miles-per-gallon GM sedan. 148 • Billions and Billions
What is an electric car? You plug it in, charge its battery, and drive away. The best such autos, made of composites, achieve a few hundred miles per charge, and have passed standard crash tests. If they are to be environmentally sound, they will have to employ something other than massive lead-acid batteries— lead is a deadly poison. And of course the charge that makes an electric car go has to come from somewhere; if, say, it's a coal-fired electric power plant, it has done nothing to mitigate global warming, whatever its contribution to reducing pollution of cities and highways.
Similar improvements can be introduced throughout the rest of the fossil-fuel economy: Coal-fired plants can be made much more efficient; large rotating industrial machinery can be designed for variable speeds; fluorescent rather than incandescent lamps can be made much more widespread. Innovations in many cases will in the long run save money and help us to extricate ourselves from a risky dependence on overseas oil. There are reasons to increase the efficiency with which we use our fuels wholly independent of our concern about global warming.
But increasing the efficiency with which we extract energy from fossil fuels isn't enough in the long run. As time goes on there will be more of us on Earth, and greater power demands. Can't we find alternatives to fossil fuels, ways of generating energy that don't produce greenhouse gases, that don't warm the Earth? One such alternative is widely known—nuclear fission, releasing not chemical energy trapped in fossil fuels, but nuclear energy locked in the heart of matter. There are no nuclear autos or airplanes, but there are nuclear ships and there certainly are nuclear power plants. The cost of electricity from nuclear power is, under ideal circumstances, about the same as that from power Escape from Ambush • 149
plants that run off coal or oil, and these plants generate no greenhouse gases. None at all. Nevertheless . . . As Three Mile Island and Chernobyl remind us, nuclear power plants can release dangerous radioactivity, or even melt down. They generate a witches' brew of long-lived radioactive waste that must be disposed of. "Long-lived" meUns really long-lived: The half-lives of many of the radioisotopes are centuries to millennia long. If we want to bury this stuff, we have to be sure that it will not leach out and enter into the groundwater or otherwise surprise us—and not just over a period of years, but
generates no greenhouse gases but presents other well-known dangers
150 • Billions and Billions over periods of time much longer than we have been able in the past to plan for with confidence. Otherwise, we are saying to our descendants that the wastes we will to them are their burden, their lookout, their danger—because we couldn't find a safer way to generate energy. (Indeed, this is just what we now do with fossil fuels.) And there's one other problem: Most nuclear power plants use or generate uranium and plutonium that can be employed to manufacture nuclear weapons. They provide a continuing temptation for rogue nations and terrorist groups.
If these issues of operational safety, radioactive waste disposal, and weapons diversion were solved, nuclear power plants might be the solution to the fossil fuel problem—or at least an important stopgap, a transitional technology until we find something better. But these conditions have not been satisfied with high confidence, and there does not seem to be a strong prospect that they will. Continuing violations of safety standards by the nuclear power industry, systematic cover-up of those violations, and failures of enforcement by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (driven in part by budgetary restrictions) do not inspire confidence. The burden of proof is on the nuclear power industry. Some nations such as France and Japan have made a major conversion to nuclear energy, despite these worries. Meanwhile, other nations—Sweden, for example—that had previously authorized nuclear power have now decided to phase it out.
Because of widespread public uneasiness about nuclear energy, all U.S. orders for nuclear power plants placed after 1973 have been canceled, and no new plants have been ordered since 1978. Proposals for new storage or burial sites for radioactive wastes are routinely rejected by the communities involved. The witches' brew accumulates.
There is another kind of nuclear power—not fission, where atomic nuclei are split apart, but fusion, where they are put
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together. In principle, fusion power plants might run off sea-water—a virtually inexhaustible supply— generating no greenhouse gases, posing no dangers of radioactive waste, and wholly uninvolved with uranium and plutonium. But "in principle" doesn't count. We're in a hurry. With enormous efforts and very high technology, we are now perhaps at the point where a fusion reactor will barely generate a little more power than it uses up. The prospect for fusion power is a prospect of hypothetical, enormous, expensive, high-technology systems, which even their proponents do not imagine being available on a commercial scale for many decades. We do not have many decades. Early versions are likely to generate stupendous quantities of radioactive waste. And in any case, it's hard to imagine such systems as the answer for the developing world.
What I've talked about in the last paragraph is hot fusion— so called for a good reason: You have to bring materials up to temperatures of millions of degrees or more, as in the interior of the Sun, to make fusion go. There have also been claims for something called cold fusion, which was first announced in 1989. The apparatus sits on a desk; you put in some kinds of hydrogen, some palladium metal, run an electric current, and, it is claimed, out comes more energy than you put in, as well as neutrons and other signs of nuclear reactions. If only this were true, it might be the ideal solution to global warming. Many scientific groups all over the world have looked into cold fusion. If there's any merit to the claim, the rewards, of course, would be enormous. The overwhelming judgment of the community of physicists worldwide is that cold fusion is an illusion, a melange of measurement errors, absence of proper control experiments, and a confusion of chemical with nuclear reactions. But there are a few groups of scientists in various nations that are continuing to look into cold fusion—the Japanese Government, for 152 • Billions and Billions example, has supported such research at a low level—and each such claim should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Maybe some subtle, ingenious new technology—wholly unforeseen at this moment—is just around the corner that will provide tomorrow's energy. There have been surprises before. But it would be foolhardy to bet on it.
For many reasons, developing countries are particularly vulnerable to global warming. They are less able to adapt to new climates, adopt new crops, reforest, build seawalls, accommodate to drought and floods. At the same time they are especially dependent on fossil fuels. What is more natural than for China, say— with the world's second largest coal reserves—to rely on fossil fuels during its exponential industrialization? And if emissaries from Japan, Western Europe, and the United States were to go to Beijing and ask for restraint in the burning of coal and oil, wouldn't China point out that these nations did not exercise such restraint during their industrialization? (And anyway the 1992 Rio Framework Convention on Climate Change, ratified by 150 countries, calls for developed countries to pay the cost of limiting greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.) Developing countries need an inexpensive, comparatively low-technology alternative to fossil fuels.
So if not fossil fuels, and not fission, and not fusion, and not some exotic new technologies, then what? In the administration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a solar-thermal converter was installed in the roof of the White House. Water would circulate and on sunny days in Washington, D.C., be heated by sunshine and make some contribution—perhaps 20 percent—to White House power needs, including, I suppose, Presidential showers. The more energy supplied directly by the Sun, the less energy that had to be drawn from the local electric power grid, and so the less coal and oil that needed to be spent to generate elec-
converted to electricity is a safe, promising solution to many of the world's energy dllemmes tricky for the electric power grid around the Potomac River. It didn't provide most of the energy needed, it didn't work much on cloudy days, but it was a hopeful sign of what was (and is) needed. One of the first acts of the Presidency of Ronald Reagan was to rip the solar-thermal converter off the White House roof. It was somehow ideologically offensive. Of course it costs something to renovate the White House roof, and it costs something to buy the additional electricity needed every day. But those 154 • Billions and Billions responsible evidently concluded that the cost was worth the benefit. What benefit? To whom? At the same time, Federal support for alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear power was steeply cut, by around 90 percent. Government subsidies (including huge tax breaks) for the fossil fuel and nuclear industries remained high through the Reagan/ Bush years. The Persian Gulf War of 1991 can be included, I think, in that list of subsidies. While some technical progress in alternative energy sources was made during that time—little thanks to the U.S. Government—essentially we lost 12 years. Because of how fast greenhouse gases are building up in the atmosphere, and how long their effects last, we did not have 12 years to waste. Government support for alternative energy sources is finally increasing again, but very sparingly. I'm waiting for a President to reinstall a solar-energy converter in the White House roof. In the late 1970s there was a federal tax credit for introducing solar-thermal heaters into homes. Even in mainly cloudy places, individual homeowners who took advantage of the tax break now have abundant hot water, for which they are not charged by the utility company. The initial investment was recouped in about five years. The Reagan Administration eliminated the tax credit.
There is a range of further alternative technologies. Heat from the Earth generates electricity in Italy, Idaho, and New Zealand. Seventy-five hundred turbines, turned by wind, are generating electricity in Altamont Pass, California, with the resulting electricity sold to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. In Traverse City, Michigan, consumers are paying somewhat higher prices for wind turbine electrical power to avoid the environmental pollution of fossil fuel electrical power plants. Many other residents are on a waiting list to sign up. With Escape from Ambush • 155
allowance for environmental costs, wind-generated electricity is now cheaper than electricity generated by coal. All of U.S. electricity use, it is estimated, could be supplied by widely spaced turbines over the windiest 10 percent of the country—largely on ranch and agricultural lands. Moreover, fuel made from green plants ("biomass conversion") might substitute for oil without increasing the greenhouse effect, because the plants take CO2 out of the air before they're made into fuel.
But from many standpoints, it seems to me, we should be developing and supporting direct and indirect conversion of sunlight into electricity. Sunlight is inexhaustible and widely available (except in extremely cloudy places like upstate New York, where I live); has few moving parts, and needs minimal maintenance. And solar power generates neither greenhouse gases nor radioactive waste.
One solar technology is widely used: hydroelectric power plants. Water is evaporated by the heat of the
Sun, rains down on highlands, courses through rivers running downhill, runs into a dam, and there turns rotating machinery that generates electricity. But there are only so many swift rivers on our planet, and in many countries what is available is inadequate to supply their energy needs.
Solar-powered cars have already competed in long-distance races. Solar power could be used for generating hydrogen fuel from water; when burned, the hydrogen simply regenerates water. There's a great deal of desert in the world that might be gainfully employed in an ecologically responsible way, for harvesting sunlight. Solar-electric or "photovoltaic" energy has been routinely used for decades to power spacecraft in the vicinity of the Earth and through the inner Solar System. Photons of light strike the cell's surface and eject electrons, whose cumulative flow is a current of electricity. These are practical, extant technologies.
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But when, if ever, will solar-electric or solar-thermal technology be competitive with fossil fuels in powering homes and offices? Modern estimates, including those by the Department of Energy, are that solar technology will catch up in the decade following 2001. This is soon enough to make a real difference.
Actually, the situation is much more favorable than this. When such cost comparisons are made, the accountants keep two sets of books—one for public consumption and the other revealing the true costs. The cost of crude oil in recent years has been about $20 a barrel. But U.S. military forces have been assigned to protect foreign sources of oil, and considerable foreign aid is granted to nations largely because of oil. Why should we pretend this isn't part of the cost of oil? We abide ecologically disastrous petroleum spills (such as the Exxon Valdez) because of our appetite for oil. Why pretend this isn't part of the cost of oil? If we add in these additional expenses, the estimated price becomes something like $80 a barrel. If we now add the environmental costs that using this oil levies on the local and global environments, the real price might be hundreds of dollars a barrel. And when protecting the oil motivates a war, as for example the one in the Persian Gulf, the cost becomes far higher, and not just in dollars. When anything approaching a fair accounting is attempted, it becomes clear that for many purposes solar energy (and wind, and other renewable resources) is already much cheaper than coal or oil or natural gas. The United States, and the other industrial nations, ought to be making major investments in improving the technology further and installing large arrays of solar-energy converters. But the entire Department of Energy annual budget for this technology has been about the cost of one or two of the high-performance aircraft stationed abroad to protect foreign sources of oil. Escape from Ambush • 157
Invest now in fossil fuel efficiency or alternative energy sources, and the payoff comes years in the future. But industry and consumers and politicians, as I've mentioned, often seem focused only on the here and now. Meanwhile, pioneering American solar-energy corporations are being sold to overseas firms. Solar-electric systems are currently being demonstrated*ln Spain, Italy, Germany, and Japan. Even the largest commercial American solar-energy plant, in the Mojave Desert, generates only a few hundred megawatts of electricity, which it sells to Southern California Edison. Worldwide, utility planners are avoiding investments in wind turbines and solar-electric generators.
Nevertheless, there are some encouraging signs. American-made small-scale solar-electric devices are beginning to dominate the world market. (Of the three largest companies, two are controlled by Germany and Japan; the third, by U.S. fossil fuel corporations.) Tibetan herders are using solar panels to power light bulbs and radios; Somalian physicians erect solar panels on camels to keep precious vaccines cold in their trek across the desert; 50,000 small homes in India are being converted to solar-electric power. Because these systems are within the reach of the lower middle class in developing countries, and because they are nearly maintenance free, the potential market in solar rural electrification is huge. We can and should be doing better. There should be massive federal commitment to advance this technology, and incentives offered to scientists and inventors to enter this underpopulated field. Why is "energy independence" mentioned so often as a justification for environmentally risky nuclear power plants or offshore drilling—but so rarely to justify insulation, efficient cars, or wind and solar energy? Many of these new technologies can also be used in the developing world to improve industry and standards of living without making the environmental mistakes 158 • Billions and Billions of the developed world. If America is looking to lead the world in new basic industries, here's one on the verge of taking off.
Perhaps these alternatives can be quickly developed in a real free-market economy. Alternatively, nations might consider a small tax on fossil fuels, dedicated to developing the alternative technologies. Britain established a "Non Fossil Fuel Obligation" in 1991 amounting to 11 percent of the purchase price. In America alone, this would amount to many billions of dollars a year. But President Clinton in 1993-96 was unable to pass legislation even for a five cent per gallon gasoline tax. Perhaps future administrations can do better.
What I hope will happen is that solar-electric, wind turbine, biomass conversion, and hydrogen fuel technologies will be phased in at a respectable pace, at the same time as we greatly improve the efficiency with which we burn fossil fuels. No one is talking about abandoning fossil fuels altogether. High-intensity industrial power needs—for example, in steel foundries and aluminum smelters—are unlikely to be provided by sunlight or windmills. But if we can cut our dependence on fossil fuels by half or better, we will have done a great thing. Very different technologies are unlikely to be here soon enough to match the pace of greenhouse warming. It may well be, though, that sometime in the next century new technology will be available—cheap, clean, generating no greenhouse gases, something that can be constructed and repaired in small, poor countries around the world.
But isn't there any way to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, to undo some of the damage we've already done? The only method of cooling down the greenhouse effect which seems both safe and reliable is to plant trees. Growing trees remove CO2 from the air. After they're fully grown, of course, it would be missing the point to burn them; that would be
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undoing the very benefit we are seeking. Instead, forests should be planted and the trees, when fully grown, harvested and used, say, for building houses or furniture. Or just buried. But the amount of land worldwide that must be reforested in order for growing trees to make a major contribution is enormous, about the area of the United States. This can only be d<5ne as a collaborative enterprise of the human species. Instead, the human species is destroying an acre of forest every second. Everyone can plant trees—individuals, nations, industries. But especially, industry. Applied Energy Services in Arlington, Virginia, has built a coal-fired power plant in Connecticut; it is also planting trees in Guatemala that will remove from the Earth's atmosphere more carbon dioxide than the company's new facility will inject into the air over its operational lifetime. Shouldn't lumber companies plant more forests—of the fast-growing, leafy variety useful for mitigating the greenhouse effect—than they cut down? What about the coal, oil, natural gas, petroleum, and automobile industries? Shouldn't every company that puts CO2 into the atmosphere be engaged in removing it as well? Shouldn't every citizen? What about planting trees at Christmastime? Or birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. Our ancestors came from the trees, and we have a natural affinity for them. It is perfectly appropriate for us to plant more.
In systematically digging the corpses of ancient beings out of the Earth and burning them, we have posed a danger to ourselves. We can mitigate the danger by improving the efficiency with which we do this burning; by investing in alternative technologies (such as biomass fuels, and wind and solar energy); and by giving life to some of the same kinds of beings whose remains, ancient and modern, we are burning—
the trees. These actions
160 • Billions and Billions would provide a range of subsidiary benefits: purifying the air; slowing the extinction of species in tropical forests; reducing or eliminating oil spills; providing new technologies, new jobs, and new profits; insuring energy independence; helping the United States and other oil-dependent industrial nations to remove their uniformed sons and daughters from harm's way; and redirecting more of their military budgets to productive civilian economies.
Despite continuing resistance from the fossil fuel industries, one business has moved significantly toward taking global warming seriously—insurance companies. Violent storms and other weather extremes that are greenhouse-driven, floods, drought, and so forth might "bankrupt the industry," says the president of the Reinsurance Association of America. In May 1996, citing the fact that 6 of the 10 worst natural disasters in the history of the country occurred in the previous decade, a consortium of American insurance companies sponsored an investigation of global warming as the potential cause. German and Swiss insurance companies have lobbied for decreases in greenhouse-gas emissions. The Alliance of Small Island States has called upon the industrial nations to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases to 20 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2005. (Between 1990 and 1995 CO2 emissions worldwide have increased 12 percent.) There is a new concern, at least rhetorical, in other industries about environmental responsibility— reflecting overwhelming public preference, in and to some extent beyond the developed world.
"Global warming is a grave concern likely to pose a serious threat to the very foundation of human life," said Japan, announcing that it would stabilize emissions of greenhouse gases by the year 2000. Sweden announced that it will phase out the nuclear half of its energy supply by 2010 while decreasing the
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CO2 emissions of its industries by 30 percent—to be done by improving energy efficiency and by phasing in renewable energy sources; it expects to save money in the process. John Selwyn Gummer, Britain's Secretary of the Environment, declared in 1996, "We are accepting as a world community that there are to be world rules." But there is considerable resistance The OPEC countries are opposed to reducing CO2 emissions, because it would take a bite out of their oil revenues. Russia and many developing countries oppose it because it would be a major impediment to industrialization. The United States is the only major industrial nation taking no significant measures to counter greenhouse warming. While other nations act, it appoints committees and urges the affected industries to adopt voluntary compliance, against their short-term interest. Acting effectively on this matter, of course, will be more difficult than implementing the Montreal Protocol on CFCs and its amendments. The affected industries are much more powerful, the cost of change is much greater, and there is nothing yet as dramatic for global warming as the hole over Antarctica is in ozone depletion. Citizens will have to educate industries and governments. CO2 molecules, being brainless, are unable to understand the profound idea of national sovereignty. They're just blown by the wind. If they're produced in one place, they can wind up in any other place. The planet is a unit. Whatever the ideological and cultural differences, the nations of the world must work together; otherwise there will be no solution to greenhouse warming and the other global environmental problems. We are all in this greenhouse together.
Finally, in April 1993, President Bill Clinton committed the United States to do what the Bush Administration had refused to do: join about 150 other nations in signing the protocols of the Earth Summit meeting held the previous year in Rio de
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Janeiro. Specifically, the United States pledged that by the year 2000 it would reduce its levels of emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels (1990 levels are bad enough, but at least it's a step in the right direction). Fulfilling this promise will not be easy. The United States also committed to steps to protect biological diversity in a range of ecosystems on the planet. We cannot safely continue mindless growth in technology, and wholesale negligence about the consequences of that technology. It is well within our power to guide technology, to direct it to the benefit of everyone on Earth. Perhaps there is a kind of silver lining to these global environmental problems, because they are forcing us, willy-nilly, no matter how reluctant we may be, into a new kind of thinking—in which in some matters the well-being of the human species takes precedence over national and corporate interests. We are a resourceful species when push conies to shove. We know what to do. Out of the environmental crises of our time should come, unless we are much more foolish than I think we are, a binding up of the nations and the generations, and even the end of our long childhood. CHAPTER 13
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