Countdown – responding to a global crisis


I have a recollection of a television play that created instant panic in many parts of the UK. I had not watched the play myself, but heard the later reports that it had started with a News announcement that Russian tanks were sweeping across Eastern Europe and would take over the continent in a matter of days. Many people who had not waited a sufficient time to realise that this was not a proper News item, must have
thought that World War III was imminent.
What I do remember very vividly was the day in 1962 when this was a very real threat. US president, John F. Kennedy, threatened to intercept ships carrying nuclear weapons en-route to Cuba under the direction of the Russian president, Nikita Khrushchev. The world held its breath!
I was standing on the platform of the very dismal Didcot station on my way from Swindon to a college in Oxford, when a train travelling at about 80 mph rushed through. In that instant I imagined the shock waves that would spread out across the country as the first nuclear bombs started to drop, obliterating everything that stood in their path.
In the event, Khrushchev backed down and recalled the ships thus averting the war that would probably have led to the extinction of almost all of humanity. However, this was not the only time that humanity was on the brink of the apocalypse.
In November 1983, NATO and US armed forces representatives were engaged in a paper exercise simulating the run up to a war with the Soviet Union. In the wake of provocative anti-Soviet rhetoric from US president, Ronald Reagan, the Soviet leadership had become convinced
that the US was planning a nuclear attack.
The tension and fear had been heightened by Reagan’s deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe capable of striking Russian targets within the space of 8 minutes. In response, the Soviet Union secretly mobilised its armed forces across European borders. On the 8th November, it was only reports from one of its top spies that convinced the leadership that US/NATO forces were not planning an actual attack.
When Reagan learnt later just how close to an apocalypse the world had come, he made friendly overtures towards Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to the historic Nuclear Non-proliferation Agreement.
Little did I believe then that anything other than a nuclear war
threatened human extinction – that is until I learnt of the threats posed by global warming and the unsustainable exploitation of non-renewable resources in the face of a continued rapid population increase in many parts of the world. Now, as then, the general public across the world
goes about its everyday activities as if there were no emerging crisis at all.
The difference is that now ignorance cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. The problem is that these very everyday individual activities lie at the heart of the problem and few are prepared to make the changes to their way of life, especially in the affluent world, that the situation demands.
In this book I will make the case that economics, the ‘science’ that determines the manner in which wealth is created and distributed, has been defined and operated in such a way that it will lead humanity on a downward path towards disaster for everyone. In a sense, humanity, dominated by the rich and powerful, has created a monster that is now driving this crisis to the point at which extreme forces of nature will finish the job of human extermination. I will argue that there is an
urgent need for a new process of world development guided by a new science that could take humanity on a hopeful path into the future.