We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
As the 100th anniversary of World War I rolls around, dignitaries and diplomats are commemorating the costly victories and tragic losses of that brutal and gaseous four-year melee which resulted in the deaths of somewhere between ten to sixteen million people. World War I set the stage for its horrific sequel, World War II, which showcased another four years of cataclysmic and agonizing destructive mayhem, replicated genocides, the ghastly human penchant for mass murder, and the creation of a Hell on Earth in which millions of people died on battlefields, in death camps, and of disease, starvation, and lack of sanitation in galactic pits of unfathomable misery and suffering. World War II then set the stage for the Cold War, in which the United States, the Soviet Union, and eventually other jingoistic nuclear powers held humanity hostage by means of threatening the aggressive use of apocalyptic warheads capable of annihilating human life on Earth. In the Cold War, the U.S and the U.S.S.R sparked numerous conflicts fought vicariously through various third-world states in a series of proxy wars that galvanized and stimulated the lethal weapons industry which then, as in now, fed off the manufacturing of bombs, tanks, war planes, guns, landmines, and bullets, and has killed millions of innocent men, women, children, and other beautiful forest and sea-dwelling creatures that had nothing to do with the insane quarrel between the bipolar megalomaniacal superpowers and the psychopaths who dragged the world the brink of thermonuclear oblivion. Due largely to these three conflicts (WWI, WWII, and the Cold War) and the implementation of economic policies stemming from flawed ideological bulwarks (Capitalism and Communism), as well as the flat-out neglect and heartlessness exhibited by the haves and projected upon the have-nots constituting the bulk of the global community (in 1945, the global population stood at 2.5 billion; by 1970 it was 3.5 billion; today, it is 7.2 billion, with 220,000 people added each day), the 20th century is calculated to be the bloodiest in human history where upwards of a hundred-million people are estimated to have died violent deaths. Enter the 21st century. Despite the ostensible end of these major conflicts, and within the context of a temporary, albeit mercurial, equilibrium of geopolitical power in the international arena, nine countries are currently stockpiling and maintaining an arsenal of over 16,000 nuclear weapons which can obliterate civilization on Earth instantaneously.
Today, as conflicts rage and tensions flare between nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, Pakistan, Israel, India, China, North Korea, the UK, and France), humanity stands the same distance from the edge of a nuclear holocaust as it stood during the height the Cold War, when weapons were being tested, developed, and shuffled around the world in planes, trains, and submarines by crazy men wearing suits and uniforms who perceived all those that appeared different from them as subhuman enemies, and treated the world as giant game of Risk. If the current course of international political affairs is maintained – with all these senseless and devastating wars, these inhumane conflicts that bring out the very worst in our species and see us reduced to cold-blooded barbarians on the battlefield and apathetic, desensitized, tax-paying automatons who do not see the indirect consequences of our decisions and actions at home – we will bear witness to the aggressive detonation of nuclear weapons between nations and it will likely set back the advancements made by our species by a thousand years. It is an absolute miracle that since August, 1945 a state has not yet again dropped a nuclear weapon on another state, but the laws of probability dictate that an eventual outcome of the deadly formula operating within the international arena will be nuclear war, it is only a question of when and where. Once this happens and humanity spirals into its darkest hour, we may realize what we have lost.
Image from: http://imgbuddy.com/earth-from-space-high-resolution-nasa.asp
We will have lost the greatest thing that we have ever known and that is the balance of life on this miraculous planet. We will have lost our chance to amend for our mistakes and restore the ecosystems that we have destroyed, to treat nature with respect and explore this rare and beautiful world in awe of the glorious wonders and fascinating creatures that exist and flourish upon it. We will have lost our humanity – the chance to work out our differences, to help others, to pick them up when they fall down, to learn from each other, to create art, to travel, to make friends, to make love, to have children and raise them so that they may live to realize their full potential. We will have lost the chance to discover the universe, to last long enough as a species to see if there are organisms living beyond our solar system and to have our minds blown by the contents of the worlds that revolve around other suns and distant stars. After a full-scale nuclear war, we will have lost everything.
Due to our high intelligence, humans often feel entitled to do with the Earth as they wish, to take what we want and partition it up as we please. Yet when the missiles fly over the surface of Earth there are no borders or nation-states mapped out below, there is just land and water and ecosystems and creatures. When a bomb detonates it detonates on Earth, destroying a part of the system of life that the party whom launched the weapon depends on for survival. As with environmental destruction, weapons also destroy innocent animals that have an interest to live out their time on Earth, but have no say or significant means of resistance as we slaughter the natural habitats of this planet wholesale. In a grand historical context, the human species has not been around for very long. If the age of the universe is represented by a 400-sheet roll of toilet paper, with the dinosaurs coming in on the 19th sheet from the end and going extinct at the 5th sheet from the end, then on this toilet paper timeline human beings appeared only on the last millimeter of the last roll.
Take care of this planet; stop abusing it and each other, rise up against injustice, remove those from power who would see that this world be carved up and sold off and humanity enslaved. Once different cultures realize the multitude of values that they share in common, including an appreciation for nature and humanity, we will see how we’re getting played against each other and will begin to dismantle the structure of power which threatens life on Earth, and we will begin to build a different structure which respects and preserves life. So let’s get our act together and clean this planet up, before the aliens arrive.
The conventional bombs of World War II were called ‘blockbusters.’ Filled with 20 tons of TNT they could destroy a city block. All the bombs dropped on all the cities during World War II amounted to some two million tons of TNT, two megatons. Coventry, Rotterdam, Dresden and Tokyo – all the death that rained from the skies between 1939 and 1945 – hundred thousand blockbusters, two megatons. Today, two megatons is the equivalent of a single thermonuclear bomb, one bomb with the destructive force of the second world war. But there are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The missile and bomber forces in the Soviet Union and United States have warheads aimed at over 15,000 designated targets. No place on the planet is safe.
The energy contained in these weapons – genies of death, patiently awaiting the rubbing of the lamps – totals far more than 10,000 megatons, but with the destruction concentrated efficiently, not over six years but over a few hours. A blockbuster for every family on the planet. A World War II every second for the length of a lazy afternoon.
The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 70,000 people. In a full nuclear exchange, in the paroxysm of global death, the equivalent of a million Hiroshimas would be dropped all over the world. And, in such an exchange not everyone would be killed by the blast and the fire storm and the immediate radiation. There would be other agonies. The loss of loved ones; the legions of the burned and blinded and mutilated; disease; plague; long-lived radiation poisoning the soil and the water; the threat of stillbirths and malformed children; and, the hopeless sense of a civilization destroyed for nothing. The knowledge that we could have prevented it and did nothing.