The World Is On Fire

OK, I’m going to blame this posting on Postcard Jodi.  Jodi can’t help but post a steady stream of chocolate-box Facebook sententia.  Her saccharine aphorisms, however, are often thought-provoking [so, keep them coming].  And while it’s only a rumor I started, I do believe she use to write copy for Hallmark in college.

Yesterday, she passed along this little quote:

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According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Iron Dome has had a 90 percent success rate.  It is truly remarkable that Israel can withstand the constant threat [and bombardment].  And while there is always another side to the story, as Hemingway said, “All stories, if continued far enough, end in death …”  Unfortunately, this story is destined to always end in death.

The world is on fire, and to some that’s recent news.  Although there was a respite in worldwide conflict during the ’90’s after the particularly bloody ’80’s [making the much-maligned Clinton look, in retrospect, really good as a world leader], things seem to be throttling back up; but, in reality, the recent casualties are relatively minimal [when put into a historical context].

In the bloody 80’s, the Iran-Iraq border war alone claimed almost a million victims, while the Third Indo-China War threatened to include the Soviet Union in a war that had the potential to destroy Asia [while still managing to hit 100,000+ casualties].  The Sino-Soviet split saw China amass an army 1.5 million strong at the Soviet border in a testy readiness for a full scale invasion.  However, not much of that left an indelible mark on America because we weren’t directly involved like we are in this MidEast conundrum.  Our last ineradicable memory is Vietnam.

War in the Middle East is nothing new.  Over a period of 500 years, from 1000 AD to 1500 AD, the Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent bore witness to an astounding death toll of an estimated 60-80 million people.  Keep in mind that the population of the entire world in 1000 AD was only 300 million [and 500 million by 1500 AD].  Today, that would be equivalent to killing off about 1.5 billion people.

One of the most overlooked international crimes of terrorism was the brutal colonization of the Congo by Belgium from 1885 to 1908 that left over 20 million dead.  [Wikipedia] “Private forces under the control of Leopold II of Belgium carried out mass murders, mutilations, and other crimes against the Congolese in order to encourage the gathering of valuable raw materials, principally rubber.  Significant deaths also occurred due to major disease outbreaks and starvation caused by population displacement and poor treatment.”

But that pales in comparison to the European genocide of the indigenous Americans.  Colonization, disease, ethnic cleansing and war accounted for upwards of 100 million casualties.  Of course, the 80 million dead in WWII proved that Europeans were pretty adept at killing each other as well.

When I was a kid there were only 3 billion people on Earth, and I have lived long enough to see it climb past 7 billion.  Did we really need another 4 billion people?  What kind of stress does an extra 4 billion inhabitants put on our social, economic, and political structures worldwide?  To think that it took 12,000 years to ramp up from 3.5 million to 3.5 billion people, and then we just doubled it in a mere 45 years.  This is the root of all our challenges, and it is only going to exacerbate every issue as the population climbs.

The battle lines are being drawn, but not where you might think.  The enormous stress caused by this unchecked population explosion will either lead to worldwide anarchy or totalitarianism [it might be time to re-read 1984].  Technology is the available weapon of choice for both [as is a worldwide nuclear arsenal].  My money is on totalitarianism, but never discount the allure of fascism.


When we were young, we were all ready to build bomb shelters and quote George Orwell.  Then we rose up and thought we changed the world, but all we did was change the banking laws.  Today, hedge funds, derivatives, the international money-cult, the internet, social media, and our vapid celebrity culture have potentially paved the way for Orwell’s ominous warning of psychological and electronic tyranny.  1984 may not have arrived as predicted,  but it isn’t out of the question.  Fortunately, there’s a new generation, and they aren’t as foolish as my generation proved to be.  Maybe they can figure it out.  Maybe they’ll build an app that …  OK, you got me, the next generation is just as bad, if not worse.  Just one look at social media, and I rest my case.  But …

Of course, the wild card is still disease and famine.  They go together like greed and money.  Add in a little totalitarianism, and you get 50 million starving to death in China during the Great Leap Forward under Mao.  [Wikipedia] “State violence during this period further exacerbated the death toll, and some 2.5 million people were beaten or tortured to death in connection with Great Leap policies.”  Talk about good times!

So, if you think you have the answer, let us all know.  The world awaits your opinion [and solution].  In the meantime, you might want to start wearing a face mask when you fly.

As for me, I’ll be busy trying to help keep America safe.  Cybersecurity and all that stuff.  If the world is going to have a chance, it’s going to really need the United States of America.  Hey, just trying to do my part.

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Emerging Infectious Diseases: Threats to Human Health and Global Stability
David M. Morens  Published: July 04, 2013

The inevitable, but unpredictable, appearance of new infectious diseases has been recognized for millennia, well before the discovery of causative infectious agents. Today, however, despite extraordinary advances in development of countermeasures (diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines), the ease of world travel and increased global interdependence have added layers of complexity to containing these infectious diseases that affect not only the health but the economic stability of societies. HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the most recent 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza are only a few of many examples of emerging infectious diseases in the modern world; each of these diseases has caused global societal and economic impact related to unexpected illnesses and deaths, as well as interference with travel, business, and many normal life activities. Other emerging infections are less catastrophic than these examples; however, they nonetheless may take a significant human toll as well as cause public fear, economic loss, and other adverse outcomes.

Determinants of Emergence and Reemergence

Historical information as well as microbial sequencing and phylogenetic constructions make it clear that infectious diseases have been emerging and reemerging over millennia, and that such emergences are driven by numerous factors. Notably, 60 to 80 percent of new human infections likely originated in animals, disproportionately rodents and bats, as shown by the examples of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Lassa fever, and Nipah virus encephalitis [2]–[4]. Most other emerging/reemerging diseases result from human-adapted infectious agents that genetically acquire heightened transmission and/or pathogenic characteristics. Examples of such diseases include multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant (MDR and XDR) tuberculosis, toxin-producing Staphylococcus aureus causing toxic shock syndrome, and pandemic influenza.

Although precise figures are lacking, emerging infectious diseases comprise a substantial fraction of all consequential human infections. They have caused the deadliest pandemics in recorded human history, including the Black Death pandemic (bubonic/pneumonic plague; 25–40 million deaths) in the fourteenth century, the 1918 influenza pandemic (50 million deaths), and the HIV/AIDS pandemic (35 million deaths so far).

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