A leading article for The Ecologist Vol. 4 No. 8, August 1974. Republished in The Doomsday Funbook (Jon Carpenter Books, February 2006).
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Researchers have made the amazing discovery that there is plastic waste in the sea. Since in the UK alone we consume 1.5 million tons of plastic a year, and since our principal method of getting rid of all waste products is to dump them into the sea, one would not have expected this discovery to have caused quite so much astonishment.
Our researchers have also suddenly noticed with equal amazement that our beaches are covered with oil, and that our coastal waters are polluted with sewage. Why this amazement? Most of the waste oil from our garages and industrial installations end up in rivers. Tankers, in ever increasing numbers, clean out their holds – and where else can the waste oil go?
Also half-burnt hydrocarbons from, among other things, 200 million motor car engines are released into the atmosphere and returned to the surface of the planet, two-thirds of which is made up of the oceans. So massive quantities of oil must end up there, at least 10 million tons of it every year (according to the Study of Critical Environmental Problems report, 1971), and possibily very much more. The only other possibility is that some great benign fairy in the employ of the petrol companies just lifts her magic wand and wafts it away to another planet.
So, too, with sewage: the excrement from 3.7 billion people finds its way into the world’s rivers and seas. I suppose people believe that ‘natural’ processes will break it all down. They forget that it isn’t ‘natural’ to have 3.7 billion people on a planet designed for probably no more than 30 million, and that the bacteria that normally decompose human excrement are grossly overworked.
We are also astonished at the growing cancer rate: yet there is an exponential increase in the number of chemical and radioactive carcinogens we are subjected to in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
According to the WHO Chronicle: “The annual rates of increase in the number of x-ray examinations in technically advanced countries is estimated to lie between 5 percent and 15 percent”, which means that exposure is doubling every 5 to 15 years. Radiation is the best-documented carcinogen there is. Yet a single dental x-ray gives us, in less than 1/100th of a second, between 10 and 20 times the radiation we obtain in a single year from natural sources. It makes one consider just how many cancers are caused by the army of 6,000 radiographers employed in this country alone?
We are astonished at the increasing social chaos, at the crime, the delinquency, the drug addiction, the alcoholism and all the other symptoms of social disintegration – but we are doing everything possible to promote it. By promoting mobility on the present scale we make it impossible for the necessary bonds to develop to hold communities together. By forcing people into vast anonymous conurbations, we are creating an environment in which neither the family nor the community can hope to survive.
How do we react to these problems? The answer is – as if they didn’t exist. ‘Experts’ are hired to underplay their seriousness, while our government’s sole preoccupation remains to stay in office as long as possible, regardless of the cost to society.
Consider Mr. Healey’s recent mini-budget. He makes no effort to reduce the gross overspending of local governments which has led to the present steep rise in rates. Instead he prefers to subsidise rates so as to ingratiate himself with the local authorities and the ratepayers.
He makes no effort to reduce our absurd over-consumption of petrol and other consumer products, for that matter. Instead, so as to ingratiate himself still further with the electorate, he has chosen to subsidise consumption by reducing the tax on petrol and VAT on consumer goods. He makes no move to reduce massive government expenditure, the most obvious of all the causes of inflation, in order to finance this gross self-indulgence. Instead he borrows, for this purpose, £500 million from the Shah of Iran, thereby further worsening our financial situation.
By encouraging spending by government, local authorities and the consumer at large, inflationary pressures have been directly increased. The expected 1 percent fall in the cost of living is but a subterfuge, a gimmick of the most despicable nature designed to obtain votes and nothing more, quite apart from the fact that its ‘beneficial’ effect, in a year in which inflation is likely to be between 20 percent and 25 percent, will be felt by the pampered consumer for no more than a few weeks at the most.
The truth is that we already possess all the information we need to guide the correct public policy on such issues as pollution, degenerative disease, crime and delinquency, and all the other problems that beset our society. If we do not use this information, it is because we cannot face its implications, for it would mean abandoning the present goals of our society and moving in a very different direction.
The plea of ignorance and the chorus of demands for further research in practically all these fields are but feeble attempts to justify the maintenance of our society along the present catastrophic course in the interests of the short-term ‘benefits’ that this might bring to the totally irresponsible leaders of our degenerate society.
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