Today human civilization and the biosphere face two existential threats: catastrophic climate change, and thermonuclear war. Each of these disasters could cause mass extinctions, and each could make large portions of the earth permanently uninhabitable. The hubris of oligarchic leaders in the United States is leading the world directly towards both these threats; and this is particularly true after the nightmarish 2016 November election, which brought an unstable, violence-advocating, racist, narcissistic, climate change denier to the White House.
Donald Trump’s proposed Cabinet is heavy with aggressive retired generals, and for Secretary of State, he has picked Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. In his campaign speeches, Trump promised that of elected, he would pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. As President-Elect he has said that he would end NASA’s climate research, and he has threateningly demanded a list of all scientists who worked with the Obama Administration on the issue of climate change.
Meanwhile, the Arctic is warming at a completely unprecedented rate. If the shallow polar seas become ice-free in the summers, there is a danger that the enormous amounts methane, stored on sea floors in the form of hydrate crystals, will be released into the atmosphere, triggering a feed-back loop leading to even more rapidly accelerated warming. If Arctic warming continues, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet will produce sea level rises that will eventually drown coastal regions throughout the world.
In the long run, feedback-driven climate change could lead to a massive loss of life, comparable to the Permian-Triasic Extinction, during which 90% of all marine species and 70% of all land-based vertebrate species vanished forever.
Equally worrying are the hubristic attempts of US oligarchs to dominate the world through military force. Both Russia and China are seen as threats to US military and economic dominance, and each of these enormous nuclear-armed countires have been surrounded by threatening rings of US bases, themselves armed with nuclear weapons. It is doubtful that leaders of any country actually wish to initiate a catastrophic nuclear war, but when such omnicidal weapons are used as threats in the power games of governments, there is a great danger that they will actually be used. The documentary film maker John Pilger has recently released a film entitled “The Coming War With China”, which will hopefully make the public more aware of these dangers.
If we wish to understand how the Russians and Chinese feel when surrounded by aggressive nuclear-armed US bases on their very doorsteps, we can remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the Kennedy Administration was thrown into a panic by the fact that nuclear missiles had been brought close to the United States. Do not the Russians feel similarly threatened by the US-supported coup in Ukraine, and by massive NATO military exercises on their borders? Does not China feel threatened by the US bases and naval buildup in the South China Sea?
European countries have been in the habit of blindly following US leadership. This habit dates back to World War I and especially to II, when Europe owed its deliverance from fascism to American military and economic power. Today, however, the United States itself has a government that might be described as neofascist; and the old habit has become a very bad habit indeed. We must declare our independence. Europe must not be a vassal to Trump’s USA!
Some suggestions for further reading
John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org