1. The population crush: absolute mandates are horrible, but making an early personal decision to have maybe just one or two cherished children (and contributing to a population replacement rate that gradually reduces the population) does seem to be a highly responsible decision - for all of us.
2. CO2 and reducing meat consumption: if every school form had cooking classes for delicious vegetarian food and every school child took at least a year of these courses, this could possibly reduce our massive meat consumption. And even knowing how to cook a basic fast and healthy repertoire in ANYTHING is a useful skill which is certainly getting lost in the U.S.
3. Biodiversity for all: whoever said that the front lawn is the defining look in suburbia? Why not woolly thyme? And pink poppies? Envelopes of endangered wild flower seeds sprinkled around every spring? New initiatives for inner-city cottage gardens?
4. Nature reserves: it is estimated that in this century half of the species in the world today will become extinct or be on the verge of extinction. But, as Harvard entomologist and Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson underlines in The Diversity of Life and in The Future of Life, there may be a solution in reserving half of the globe’s land surface from overpopulation and development. That seems like a big task. But more optimistically, according to the same source, it seems that just 2% of the world’s surface contains 50% of the species. Shouldn’t we be purchasing this land now for the creation of global reserves? How do we go about doing this with no adverse effects on the local population?
5. Education: I recently read a newspaper discussion among college educators about revamping the majors in the U.S. university system for more cross-subject expertise in new cross-curricular majors: air, water, energy, land, language, finance, religion. It is an interesting idea that would reflect the priorities of this century. Funny how things come full circuit; the first four call to mind the four classical Greek elements air, water, fire and earth.
6. CO2 and reducing traffic: speaking out as an inner-city resident, I think it would be utopian if at least one or two of the car-parking spaces in front of every house were reserved for a bike stand with sheltered parking for bicycles. The whole act of getting out the bike and taking it to the market or the subway would be so much easier. Even better is the long overdue rent-a-bike scheme that is supposed to start in July in Hamburg. The idea: pick up a bike and drop it off anywhere else in the city center. The types with comfortable baskets, This system could eliminate the problems involved (theft, vandalism) in keeping your own bike. I do hope that the plan is a success.
7. Guilt and global warming: how can anyone ever justify the thousands of tons of carbon dioxide each of us pumps into the stratosphere every time we fly to the U.S. or around the world? Do we just ignore it? What about Kant’s imperative: what if everyone did it? Does anyone else feel as guilty as I do about long-distance flying? Or as uneasy about the buy-your-way-out-of guilt donation programs?
8. Ecosystem: during a recent flight to Tokyo I felt that looking down at a stretch of 12,000 km of the world from the air gave me a great sense of the fragility of the whole globe, how few fertile unpopulated areas there are, actually! How delicate and small this planet is! Gosh.
originally published in Currents Aug/Sep 2009