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Statement on Consciousness


The Global Community Vs Global Problems

by David M. Petersen


It is becoming increasingly clear that by a process that can only be seen accurately over a time-span of thousands of years, we are evolving from a relatively disconnected collection of human civilizations into one global civilization that is becoming more and more interconnected. As this gradual transformation progresses, a growing awareness of global problems is increasing also. One hundred years ago no one dreamed of looking at the environment in a global way, or that there would be such a serious threat from the heavens in the form of comets and asteroids. As this awareness of global problems increases, so too must our willingness to confront these problems head on in order to move successfully into the future. Towards this end, this writer wishes to express the opinion that when seven major interrelated problems facing the global community are researched somewhat and placed in a certain order, a probable sequence of interactions towards the solutions of these problems is illuminated.


The likely evolutionary path of the human race:

The future of Man


The first major problem that is facing our global community in the above mentioned order is the need for access to the Internet for all people around the world. At first glance this might not seem like such a burning issue, however, it can be shown that solving this problem will have a dramatic effect on later global problems this essay will cover. As most people know, access to the internet for the industrialized world is progressing by leaps and bounds; the problem lies not in wiring the industrialized nations, but in wiring the third world countries. For example, according to The Network Society Map web page sponsored by Hewlett Packard, The United States has 21.82 Internet hosts per 1000 people, but South Africa has only 1.37 Internet hosts per 1000 people and Mexico has only .15 per 1000 people(1). These figures suggest that third world countries have been far slower at gaining access to the internet, for obvious economic reasons. However, progress is beginning to move faster. Take Africa for example. In an article by Gideon F. For-Mukwai, a writer for the IDG news service, For-Mukwai writes: "From July 1998 to January 1999 the number of (African) Internet hosts grew at a rate of 38 percent, from 7,800 to 10,703, while the worldwide average growth rate stood at 18 percent."(1) These figures showing the growth of Internet connectivity in Africa are very heartening, because Africa is one of the least wired continents in the world right now. For- Mukwai goes on to say that "One factor driving the growth is the assistance provided by various foreign organizations. In particular, there is strong support from various Francophone support agencies concerned about the dominance of English on the Internet" (1). This information shows that it is highly probable the third world countries will eventually be wired, due to the drive for the industrialized nations to stake out the territory of Internet connection in third world countries. Beyond the economics of it, the need for equal access to the Internet for all people of the world is an extremely important issue because of its direct bearing on the next three global problems discussed in this essay.

The next two global problems facing us, ending territory disputes and phasing out nuclear weapons, are similar in many respects and can be discussed together. Both are directly effected by the solution of the previously mentioned problem. Territory disputes, such as the one involving Iraq and Kuwait, and nuclear missiles aimed at other countries such as Russia's arsenal aimed at the United states are both direct results of the old paradigm that has dominated on the earth. This is the paradigm of the nation-states: the familiar pattern of nations being separate from and often in conflict with other nations for land, resources, etc. This paradigm is slowly eroding due to various forces and is accompanied by the rise of international non-governmental agencies and multinational corporations. Saskia Sassen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago writes:

Privatization and deregulation -- two key features of economic globalization -- have shifted power away from public bureaucracies and onto the world of private corporations and markets. Shrinking state functions linked to social welfare broadly understood have relocated a range of responsibilities in this domain onto civil society. The weakening of international law and the strengthening of market forces in the international system have produced growing inequalities in the socio-economic situation of people worldwide and a diminished will and fewer resources in the formal political system to address these. A growing number of international and non governmental organizations have stepped in (1).

This quote by Sassen graphically illustrates this slow erosion of the nation-state paradigm by complex forces and the rise of these international and non governmental organizations in their place. Because of this erosion, governments of nation-states are slowly losing power and the borders of these nation states are becoming obsolete because of the growing cross border influence of the above mentioned international agencies and corporations. Because of this trend, as well as the growing interconnection of the world due to the above mentioned total access of the Internet by all people, after a number of generations people will have become more and more aligned with the global community and less and less aligned with nation-states that need their borders defended by territory disputes and nuclear weapons.

Another major problem facing the global community is the need to get our global population under control. This is of course one of the more complex problems, with no easy solution. According to noted demographer John Bongaarts, "instead of being near the end of the (population) "explosion", we are just past its midpoint. After a record breaking increase of 2 billion people over the past 25 years, the same increase is projected over the next 25 years" (Population Council 1). Bongaarts goes on to say that "Large increases in population growth are expected in Africa, Asia, and Latin America" because "Fertility is still 50 percent above the 2 child level needed to bring about population stabilization" (Population Council 1). Obviously this large growth projected by Bongaarts is a major problem, as we need to reach population stabilization due to the limited amount of people the earth can support. According to the Population Council, a large organization with extensive funding, tens of millions of women around the world experience unintended pregnancies every year (Population Council Brief 1). They go on to say that "In much of the world, emergency contraception is one of the most underused reproductive health technologies" (Population Council Brief 2). In light of this information and in my opinion, the development that will have a great effect on this the global population problem is this new emergency contraception method, or "morning after pill". It is logical that this form of contraceptive could be far more effective then the types that require planning or action during the "heat of the moment", for obvious reasons. The above mentioned Population Council has recently started an extensive campaign to distribute this pill in third world countries, and this campaign has a good chance of working because this is a very large, extensively funded organization. There is another force that this writer believes will contribute to the global population problem that is a direct result of the previously mentioned access to the Internet for all people. Saskia Sassen writes "There is little doubt that the Internet is an enormously important tool and space for democratic participation at all levels, the strengthening of civil society, and the formation of a whole new world of transnational political and civic projects"(2). What Sassen is talking about here is the "democratization" effect of the entire global population gaining Internet access. When people everywhere all have access to the same information, it naturally tends to "pull them up to the same level" awareness-wise. This is one reason why it is so important to wire our third world countries as soon as possible. Under this global influence it will become less and less attractive, or seemingly necessary, for all women to have more than one or two children. It is my opinion that these two trends, emergency contraceptive and Internet access for all people of the globe, could pull together to eventually stabilize the global population.

The problem that is next in our order, one of the biggest and possibly the least known problems facing the global community, is the threat posed by the not just possible but probable collision of large comets and asteroids with earth. According to Gregory H. Canavan, Senior Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, there are many different frequencies of impact and sizes of objects that are continuously raining down on the earth, and all of these different objects would require different methods of detection and reflection. While many of these objects pose a great threat to our planet, the truly frightening objects are the so called "Long Period Comets." According to Canavan:

LPC's represent a significant fraction of threat. They have more stringent detection requirements and require more rapid response. They could require search times measured in days and interceptors maintained in readiness, both of which favor space basing of key elements. They are a more stressing threat and will require further development of the technologies for detection, computation, and negation(4).

This quote from this esteemed scientist rams home the fact that because no one knows how many of these things are out there and there is no technology in place to deflect them, we humans are basically sitting ducks. The last major LPC impact is widely believed to have killed off the dinosaurs. Scientists agree that the first requirement is a search and categorization of objects system that must be built and maintained in both hemispheres of the planet. This fact is one illustration of how this is a truly global problem and will have to be dealt with by the entire global community, because we need installations in the southern hemisphere and these tend to be third world countries. The next requirement will be a vast system built for the destruction of these objects, and this is also a massively problematic task. Both of these undertakings will require a tremendous amount of ongoing research to be effective. As Canavan has pointed out, both the search and destruction of these objects will require space based installations, and these will obviously take enormous global resources and manpower to put in place and maintain. To truly have a system that does not leave the fate of the human race up to chance, we must have installations out in space that can spot dangerous objects immediately and send as many manned interceptions as is necessary. It follows that the deeper out into space we go and the more resources we have out there, the better our chances to survive this impending confrontation. This issue of threatening objects from space is one of the most important issues in our order of problems because besides being immediately necessary for our survival, solving this problem can directly effect the next two global problems discussed in this essay.

The next issue in our order of problems that are facing us is the need to insure that the global economy remains stable. According to Lee E. Preston of the University of Maryland, "the major international economic regimes--IMF (International Monetary Fund) and GATT/WTO(General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization), along with various supplementary groups such as the G-7(an international economic summit),etc. -- actually perform significant communication and collaboration functions within the global economy, confirming its existence and facilitating(if not controlling) its operations"(8). Preston is confirming the phenomenon that could be described as the rise of the global economic agencies. The GATT, for example, started out in 1947 and only involved tariff reductions between 23 countries. It has evolved into a comprehensive agreement between many more countries on goods, services, intellectual property and a new dispute settlement mechanism, as well as the establishment of The World Trade organization, which gave the previously looser affiliation of countries much more legal status (World Trade Organization 4). As the world becomes more and more "hooked up" by these types of economic groups that span more and more of the globe and gain more and more power, one can start to see how a form of "galvanization" of these agencies and hence the entire global economy by the above mentioned threat from space could occur. The idea here is that the need for the immense systems necessary to insure that the human race is not annihilated by the outside threat of a comet or asteroid will provide the same type of boon to the global economy that the outside threat posed by World War II did for the economy of the United States. In American Economic History by Jonathan Hughes, we read the following about World War II's effect on the American economy: "the American unemployment problem vanished at last.When the war ended and a revitalized (American) economy began postwar economic life, it was at levels and growth rates that made the fabled 1920's look small" (472). The rise of Americans to the challenge of World War II is a graphic example of the human ability to rise to an outside threat and perform above and beyond expectations, becoming more unified and stronger under the pressure. This kind of "shot in the arm" or unification under pressure for the global economy could occur just by planning and organizing for the threat of objects from space, or would really be kicked into gear by an actual near miss from the sky. Just imagine the beehive of activity after the discovery of an impending hit! It is clear that while the rise of global economic agencies will have its own stabilizing effect on the global economy, the threat from the sky could exert a very large "focusing influence" on them, thereby having a unifying effect on the world. This issue of maintaining a stable global economy is very important and can be shown to have a direct effect on the last problem in our order of global problems.

The last major problem facing the global community that this essay will discuss is the issue of insuring sound global environmental management. The first point to make about the global enviroment involves the economics of recycling. In a stint helping the City of Sunnyvale with their recycle day fair, this writer learned that it takes far less energy to recycle resources than to dig new ones up. For example, motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty, and it actually takes one third of the amount of energy to recycle oil than it does to make new oil from crude with the results being indistinguishable. This far more efficient method for obtaining resources will become extremely important later in time because of the simple fact that it will be so much cheaper for the world to recycle. If there is money to be made at something, one can be sure it will eventually be exploited! On to the second point about the global environment. Lee Preston writes that "The difficult truth about the (global) economy and the (global) environment is that both of them are simultaneously causes and effects, inputs and outputs of each other. The environment contains all the resources that can be used in the economy and the use of resources for economic purposes continuously creates new environmental situations" (3). This quote illustrates the growing awareness that the global environment and the global economy are so interrelated that they should essentially be seen as one entity; hence the future of the global environment is clearly linked to the above mentioned rising global economic agencies. These global agencies will clearly interconnect more and more into the future and become more and more efficient at the management of their domain, simply because there can be no continuing global economy without the proper management of the global environment.

This essay is intended as an overview of some of the largest issues facing a global community that is becoming more and more aware of itself as an entity and consequently more and more aware of the need to protect itself from global problems that, correspondingly, it is also becoming gradually more aware of. It is this writer's great hope that this essay about the major problems facing the global community, specifically, Internet access for all people of the globe, the phase out of both territorial disputes and the threat of nuclear weapons, the control of the world's population, management of the threat of falling objects from the sky, the assurance of a stable global economy, and sound management of the global environment can help shed some light on what can easily seem like a bewildering array of unsolvable problems. Hopefully this essay has shown that when these seven major interrelated issues facing the global community are researched somewhat and placed in this order, the probable sequence of interactions towards the solutions of these problems is truly illuminated. Consequently, since two of these problems, access to the internet for all people on the globe, and protection of the human race from comets and asteroids bear directly on the other five, this is where we as a race should concentrate our energy. It is this writer's opinion that this kind of big picture analysis is a very necessary part of beginning to confront these issues, by getting at least a hint of where the human race must focus in order to insure the survival of all that we have built and achieved.



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Works Cited

Canavan, Gregory H. (Los Alamos National Laboratory)."Asteroid and Comet Defenses."
05.21.98.canavan.html. 1999. 1 - 4.

For-Mukwai, Gideon F. (IDG News Service). "Africa's Internet Due for Rapid Growth." The Standard Web Site.
0,1151,5214,00.html. 1999. 1.

Hughes, Jonathan. American Economic History. 2nd Edition. Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1987. 472.

Population Council Web Site, "Population Momentum."
pop_momentum.html. 1999. 1 - 2.

Population Council Web Site Briefs, "Improving access to Emergency Contraceptive Pills."
popbriefs/pb5(3)_3.html. 1999. 1 - 2.

Preston, Lee E. (University of Maryland). "Global Economy/Global Environment: Relationships and Regimes."
proceedings/engeo/preston/preston.html. 1996. 1 - 8.

Sassen, Saskia. (University of Chicago). "A New Geography of Power?" 1999. 1 - 2.

The Network Society Map web page sponsored by Hewlett Packard. 1999. 1.

World Trade Organization Web Site. "FAQ Link". 1999. 4.



.RTF file of above essay