Civilization is in peril because of six global threats: nuclear war, global warming, famine, pandemics, nuclear contamination, and cyberattacks. Each of these disasters could kill a billion people, so we can and must solve them all. Instead, however, we tend to prioritize them, as if the less important threats would just queue up and wait their turn to be solved. Of the six threats, the public has been paying attention only to global warming and nuclear war--especially the former. Bill Gates warned us about pandemics too, but few have listened.
It's hard to account for the rise and fall of issues, but it has something to do with the sense of urgency--speed. In 1982 people worried about nuclear war, and more recently about greenhouse gases. But now we forget about carbon dioxide, as we confront Covid-19.
Viruses replicate fast. In the 1980s, the nuclear arms race seemed fast too. We even knew the specific date when the missiles would be installed in Europe and we knew how fast they would fly. So, we acted.
Those missiles still exist, ready to kill millions, but they haven't moved yet, and maybe they're even rusty. The climate seems more urgent--though even the climate isn't changing fast enough to alarm everyone. Greta Thunberg says she could not believe at first that the world was in such peril, for if it were, we would be talking about nothing else.
And suddenly we are talking about nothing else--a new virus! When we planned this issue of the magazine, there was no concern about Covid-19, and we received not a single article submission about it. But within two weeks, the future of humankind changed.
So far, there has been no grand societal awakening, no new collective plan. We are on our own as individuals and know that our lifestyle will never be the same again. We witness acts of compassion and solidarity--but also thoughtlessness and hoarding. The Italians are buying up all the pasta and the Russians are inexplicably buying up all the buckwheat. Everyone is buying up toilet paper. Handshaking is over. Maybe we'll start bowing, as they do in Tokyo. Most groups have cancelled their events, even including the Jai Jagat march from Delhi to Geneva, and our April 28th visit with 48 Japanese activists. We have no alternative plan. We wait, calculating the virus--s doubling time.
Yet life goes on--or so we hope. Peace Magazine wishes you many more healthy years. And please devote a few of those years to solving the other five global threats. Existential threats cannot be prioritized. We have to solve them all.