Fidel: The Insanities of Our Time

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“The greatest contradiction of our time is the ability of our species to destroy itself, and its inability to govern itself.”

A reflection by Fidel Castro Ruz

[From Granma International, April 26, 2010, translated by Ian Angus for Climate & Capitalism. A different translation was published by Juventud Rebelde.]

We must call a spade a spade. Those who still have any common sense find it easy to see how little realistic thinking there is in today’s world.

When American President Barack Obama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Michael Moore said, “Now, earn it.” Many people liked the sharpness of that witty comment, though many thought the decision of the Norwegian Committee was an example of demagoguery that exalted the apparently harmless politicking of the new US President, an African-American, a good communicator and a clever politician at the head of a powerful empire enmeshed in a deep economic crisis.

The World Conference in Copenhagen was about to be held and Obama raised hope that the United States would join the world consensus for a binding agreement to prevent the ecological catastrophe that threatens humanity. What happened there was disappointing; international public was the victim of a painful deception.

At the recent World Conference of the Peoples on Climate Change and the Rights of the Mother Land held in Bolivia, proposals filled with the wisdom of the ancient indigenous nations were made, nations that were invaded and virtually destroyed by European conquerors who, in search of gold and easy riches, for centuries imposed selfish cultures that were incompatible with the most sacred interests of humanity.

Two news reports received yesterday reveal the philosophy of the empire that wants us to believe in its “democratic,” “peaceful,” “selfless” and “honest” nature. Just read the text of these press dispatches, both datelined in the US capital.

[For space reasons, we have omitted two U.S. news articles that Fidel quotes in full: one describes Obama’s proposal to deploy non-nuclear “super-bombs” on missiles that can hit anywhere in the world in an hour; the other announces last week’s launch by the U.S. Air Force of a top-secret military spaceship.]

Do they need anything else?

Today they face an enormous challenge: climate change that is already unstoppable. We’re told of unavoidable temperature increases of more than two degrees Celsius, with catastrophic consequences. In less than 40 years, a short time, the world’s population will increase by 2 billion reaching 9 billion people. Harbors, hotels, tourist resorts, roads, industries and other facilities close to the shores will be underwater in less than half the life of a generation. A wealthy and developed nation today selfishly refuses to make the least sacrifice to ensure the survival of the human species. Farming land and drinking water will be considerably reduced. The oceans will be contaminated; many marine species and other food sources will disappear.

We know this not simply from logical deduction, but from scientific research.

Through natural breeding and the transfer of various species from one continent to another, human being have been able to increase food and other useful crop yields per hectare, easing shortages of food such as maize, potatoes, wheat, flax and other essential products. Later, genetic manipulation and chemical fertilizers also contributed to meeting crucial needs, but they are now reaching the limits of their ability to produce healthy food for human consumption.

In just two centuries we have seen the depletion of hydrocarbons that it took nature 400 million years to create. Crucial non-renewable mineral resources, essential to the world economy are also being depleted.

At the same time, science has developed the capacity to destroy the planet several times over in a matter of hours. The greatest contradiction of our time is the ability of our species to destroy itself, and its inability to govern itself.

Humanity has managed to raise its mode of life beyond all the previous limits of survival, but in that struggle, we have consumed all available resources at an ever accelerating pace. Science has enabled us to turn matter into energy, through huge expensive nuclear technology – but there is no sign that the process can be reversed. Even with infinite investments in research it is impossible to recreate in a few decades what it took the universe tens of thousands of millions of years. Will the wunderkind Barack Obama tell us how?

Science has grown remarkably, but so too have ignorance and poverty. Can anyone prove that isn’t true?