What is the Question?
Had he lived today, Hamlet would say with more conviction than ever: to be or not to be, that is the question. But it is not the skull of an individual that Hamlet would ponder, but the living Earth. Can we continue to “be” on this planet, or will we become extinct like the dinosaurs?
We are approaching a major watershed; a global tipping point. Our very survival is in question.
We are destroying the planet. The production of essential biological and physical resources has already peaked. Forests, species of fish, and coral reefs are damaged and disappearing, soils are impoverished by overcropping and by chemicals; diversity is reduced by genetic manipulation. The reserves of fresh water are diminishing; more than half the world’s population faces water shortages. And climate change threatens to make much of the planet unsuited for food production and habitation.
We are destroying the fabric of society. There is growing insecurity in countries both rich and poor and greater propensity to resort to terrorism and war. Islamic fundamentalism is spreading throughout the Middle East, religious fanaticism is growing in America, neo-Nazi and other extremist movements are surfacing in Europe. The gap is widening between the wealthy and powerful and the poor and marginalized. Eighty percent of the world’s domestic product belongs to one billion people, and the remaining twenty percent is shared by five-and-a-half billion. One in three urban dwellers live in slums, shantytowns and urban ghettoes; more than 900 million are classified as slum-dwellers.
If we continue in this way, changing weather patterns will create drought and hurricanes, harvest failures, and rising sea levels. Famine and frustration will fuel terrorism and trigger wars. The delicate balance of our global interdependence will be torn apart. In the ensuing global collapse no country, no population will be spared.
To be or not to be is the question. If we are to “be” on this planet, we must change. Will we change—and will we change in time?