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The Demographic Dynamic of the 21st Century-The Challenge for the Global Scientific Community

(Paper presented at the Millennium Symposium, August 24-26, 2000 at Regina, Canada)


'We shall require a new manner of thinking, if mankind is to survive'.
-Albert Einstein

Simply put, the demographic dynamic entails essentially the resolution of the contradiction between two diametrically opposed projections: the demographic one of the world population reaching 10 to 12 billion by the year 2050; and the scientific estimate that the Earth's 'long-term' carrying capacity may not be much greater than a few billion. Because of this widening hiatus between what would be available and what the burgeoning population will need to live adequately, a sea change has to occur in the propagation and consumption patterns of human beings the world over.

What then would be an 'adequate' standard of living for the majority of human beings in the 21st century. Obviously, there would be a need to moderate the life styles at the two extremes: i.e. between the hedonistic over-consumption taking place amongst the most affluent at one end and the almost sub human existence experienced by the most wretched of the earth at the other. Rather than quantifying this mean by the modern yardstick of number of telephones, automobiles, per capita consumption of one item or the other, it would perhaps be more appropriate to settle for the view expressed by the French mathematician Marquis de Condorcet, who wrote in 1795:

"Population growth can be limited if people have a duty towards those who are not yet born; that duty is not to give them existence but to give them happiness."

The scope of the subject being vast it is intended to examine it in two parts: beginning with the most pressing global aspects; followed by the ground reality as it exists in vast swathes of the over- populated countries in Asia and Africa, notably the subcontinent. Groupings that contribute in a big way to population over-pressures on the planet. At the end of the paper - and following from the earlier examination - an attempt will be made to highlight areas that would require anticipatory global action by the global community acting in unison. At the very outset it needs to be stated that, by and large, demographic planners worldwide have come around to the view that women's education, emancipation and maternal and child health are the best means of achieving a manageable population growth. The problem in the near term, however, is the widening gap in countries that need to do something about their burgeoning population and the resources available for implementing sensible poverty alleviation schemes. The problem is exacerbated by mismanagement on the part of people responsible for administering the schemes.


The Demographic-Ecological Interface

The effects of the terrific population growth of the second half of the twentieth century have been so thoroughly documented that any further repetition becomes unnecessary. What should interest everybody is the price that the coming generations of not only humans, but many other species as well, will have to pay for the wanton exploitation of natural resources. It stands to reason that one of the foremost global challenges resulting from rampant population growth relates to the demographic-ecological interface. Space and scarcities - land, air, water have become the burning issues of the day. The first strategic threat to human societies and the flora and fauna (which gets largely ignored) comes from the global water scarcities that are being increasingly felt. Recuperation, restoration and redistribution of fresh water are becoming urgent concerns. The second important aspect related to water, in a different way perhaps, is global warming. The rise of sea levels and the loss of low-lying coastal areas around the world could create migrations of populations on a scale seldom conceived of before in human history. Since one - third of humankind lives within sixty kilometers of the coastline, the number of refugees likely to be created will be unprecedented.

Although the sea level has risen and fallen through different geological periods, never has the change been anywhere near as rapid as that now expected as a consequence of global warming. Nations like Bangladesh, India, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Surinam, Thailand and China, not to mention island nations like Maldives and Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides), will be devastated if the projections now being made by scientists turn out to be accurate. Moreover, experts note that every coastal country will suffer adverse effects.

Here it would be pertinent to reproduce excerpts from Mr. Al Gore's book, "The Earth in Balance".

"About 10 million residents of Bangladesh will lose their homes and means of sustenance because of the rising sea level, due to global warming, in the next few decades. Where will they go? Whom will they displace? What political conflicts will result? That is only one example. According to some predictions, not long after Bangladesh feels the impact, up to 60 percent of the present population of Florida may have to be relocated. Where will they go?

Florida has already borne the brunt of one of the largest ecologically induced migrations of this century: some 1 million people emigrated from Haiti to the United States in the last decade - not only because of political oppression but also because the worst deforestation and soil erosion in the world made subsistence farming impossible for them.

Nearly one third of humanity lives within sixty kilometers of a coastline. A rise in mean sea level of only twenty-five centimeters would have substantial effects… A problem of an order of magnitude which no one has ever had to face…. In virtually all countries the growing numbers of refugees would cast a dark and lengthening shadow".

Even the term 'sustainable development' though representing a well thought out strategy when first enunciated several decades ago has lost its meaning in many parts of the subcontinent - and the world at large. Sustainable development, among other attributes, referred largely to the tribal communities living in harmony with nature, exploiting the forest produce on a sustainable basis, giving room and time to nature to regenerate itself. No doubt, an excellent strategy. However, due to poor implementation on the ground, it lost its cutting edge in a few short decades. The premise on which it rested no longer holds good for many areas in the year 2000.

This requires elaboration. Taking the example of any given area where development was sought to be implemented on a sustainable basis, suppose that at the beginning there were x number of tribal people living off y square kilometers of forest area. After fifty years, what is the result on the ground? In most cases, the number of tribals - plus migrants who started encroaching on the same forest area - have become x multiplied by two, three or five; while the forest area, which was to have been exploited in a sustainable manner, has shrunk to half, a third, or at times even more than the original size.

From the foregoing it becomes apparent that here again unless the state intervenes decisively to restore the original forest area by removing encroachments and undertakes massive reforestation, concomitant with reversal of population growth, no planned development, sustainable, or any modification thereto, has any chance of success on the ground.

Although there is still a lot to learn about the symbiosis between forests and rain clouds, it is known that when the forests are destroyed, the rain eventually tapers off and brings less moisture. Ironically, the heavy rains continue to fall for a while where the forest used to be, washing away the topsoil that is no longer protected by the canopy of the trees or held in place by the root system.

It is estimated that should the exploitative trends in resource use continue and the world population grows as projected (8.9 billion by 2030, leveling off at 11.5 billion around 2150), then by the year 2010, per capita availability of range land will drop by 22 per cent and fish catch by 10 percent. The per capita area of irrigated land, which now yields about one third of the global food harvest, will drop by 12 per cent and crop land area and forest land per person will shrink by 21 per cent and 31 per cent respectively. The world's economy by the middle of this century is expected to increase five times from the current level of $ 16 trillion, causing depletion of the world's natural resources on a gigantic scale. Therefore, the crying need of the hour is to replace the existing growth models with newer models that will allow for the re-establishment of harmonious existence with nature - a pattern that had generally sustained humankind and animalkind through the ages.

One tragic example of the loss of forests and then water is found in Ethiopia. The amount of its forested land has decreased from 40 to 1 percent in the last four decades. Concurrently, the amount of rainfall has declined to the point where the country is rapidly becoming a wasteland. The effects of the prolonged drought that has resulted have combined with the incompetence of its government to produce an epic tragedy: famine, civil war, and economic turmoil have wreaked havoc on an ancient and once-proud nation. (Al Gore, Earth in Balance)

Refugees: The Problem Magnified

The migration of people from one settlement to another or from one nation to another is as old as mankind itself. The history of the world is migration. A pattern, that is not likely to change. The question in an era of growing numbers and shrinking resources is its management so that the rights of vulnerable communities are protected. Coming to the subcontinent of India the threat to India is not so much from Pak missiles and nuclear weapons in the new century. The threat to India will be demographic. India has to plan now for the economic threat that could materialise from a human influx that could result from the economic collapse of Pakistan.

The tolerance levels for refugees from war, want or persecution will be far less in the twenty-first century. Few advanced countries will accept them, as was the case in the second half of the twentieth century. Therefore, each region of the world will have to find its own methodologies for tackling the human - or possibly sub-human - surplus of the countries that comprise that region. India's northeast illustrates the point.

According to available figures the main reason for insurgency in the Indian State of Tripura has been due to the large influx of refugees and immigrants from East Pakistan (and then Bangladesh), which resulted in a dramatic change in the demography of the state. The tribal population, which was in a majority, became a minority. In 1947, the population of tribals in Tripura was 93 percent of the total population of 600,000, but by 1981 they had been reduced to a minority of 28.5 percent out of a population of 2.06 million".

In the absence of refugee specific legislation, refugees tend to be governed by archaic laws meant to deal with foreigners and other aliens. As a result of this lack of understanding, refugees have often been summarily deported back to their country, endangering their life and liberty.

India had, in fact, maintained since long that this country's own traditions of tolerance and acceptance of refugees over the centuries has made adherence to any international protocol redundant. Its record of welcoming and sheltering refugees from the neighbourhood - be it Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tibet, Sri-Lanka, to name four of the major refugee flows in the past of 40 years - speaks for itself.

The refugee situation elsewhere may not be similar. To quote Jonathan Power,

"Europe, a continent not used to immigration despite various waves throughout history, is not instinctively welcoming. Quite the reverse, its raw impulses are hostile. It is the working class who have to bear the social brunt of immigration, not the intellectuals or economists who explain its supposed benefits, even allure". (Statesman, 5 May 2000)

Climate experts, writing about the trend in the Sahel and the mass famines and immigration that have accompanied it, feel that some national territories may, in the long run, become more or less uninhabitable if the trend persists. This would mean further large-scale migrations. Each year an additional 20 million hectares of agricultural land become too degraded for crop production or is lost to urban sprawl.

What is being referred here is not demographic progression but demographic distortion on a scale with which neither human beings nor the planet can cope. The UN reported that as many as one million people fled incursions by Ethiopian troops deep into the south western region of Eritrea. Another 50,000 crossed into Sudan with thousands more expected to arrive. (Time, May 29, 2000).

Types of Migrations and Their Long-term Effects

Within the lifetime of one generation the world has witnessed the decline, or the near extinction of a way of life of nomadic societies. The tribal lore of pastoral societies who roamed across thousands of kilometers with their great herds already belongs to history. In many areas whole communities have been forced to give up a way of life practiced for generations. Adjusting to newer ways of life has not been easy for them. Psychological and emotional scars from the rapidity of change will require more than a generation to heal.

Whereas the great migrations of the colonial era were essentially large-scale exodus from Europe to new colonies being established in conquered territories or to vacant spaces around the world leading to a demographic transition in Europe no such luxuries are available to migrating populations in the present day. The migrations of the last fifty years or so - mainly in developing countries - have generally taken place for any of the following reasons: Drought; Labour movements; Scarcities - water, fodder, food, jobs etc.; Religious persecutions; Forced evictions; Eco compulsions; Habitat deterioration; War and so on. These migrations can further be grouped under two broad categories: Permanent and semi-permanent.

Demographic Swamping

The reference here is to demographic swamping as a deliberate state policy to effect changes in the population ratio in a given area. It is distinct from the demographic shifts that take place from time to time due to other factors (dealt with elsewhere in the paper). A prime example of demographic swamping in the second half of the twentieth century - i.e. since the setting up of the United Nations Organisation, after the Second World War - is China.

In the case of China, the swamping of local populations in Tibet and Xinjiang by state-sponsored Han settlers are arguably the most glaring examples in recent times of the use of the demographic tool to further state policy or to quell any prospective urge on the part of the indigenous population to demand greater freedom.

An altogether different type of demographic swamping is taking place in other parts of the world. In some countries, especially in Europe, it results from an aging and declining population. Fast growing populations from across the Mediterranean have been long attracted to the magnet of western Europe's economic prosperity. There is a possibility of 21st century Europe being again engulfed by successive waves from the south, a case of history repeating after more than a millennium. Such fears in the minds of several European demographers are hardly imaginary. Demographic swamping of Europe will inevitably result from declining numbers. It is unavoidable. The population of Italy is expected to fall from 127 million to 105 million by 2050. In France the number of migrants needed to sustain the ratio of working age people to retirees would need to be augmented to 20 to 40 times the annual numbers for the last ten years. In post-war 1950s, Germany's fertility rates were among the lowest at 2.2 births per woman. The rate is expected to decline to 1.64 in 2050.

Further to the East, in the case of the European part of Russia, regardless of the new geo-strategic configurations resulting from the end of the cold war, the underlying fears in the minds of European Russians of being swamped by Asiatic hordes are never far below the surface. The extract reproduced from a famous book written at the beginning of the twentieth century does not leave room for doubt:

"In those (coming) days all the people of the earth will rush forth from their dwelling places. Great will be the strife, strife the like of which has never been seen in this world. The yellow hordes of Asians will set forth from their age-old abodes and will encrimson the fields of Europe in oceans of blood. There will be, oh yes, there will-Tsushima! There will be-a new Kalka!
Kulikovo Field, I await you!

And on that day the final sun will rise in radiance over my native land. Oh Sun, if you do not rise, then, oh Sun, the shores of Europe will sink beneath the heavy Mongol heel, and the foam will curl over those shores. Earthborn creatures once more will sink to the depths of the oceans, into chaos, primordial and long - forgotten.
Arise, oh Sun! " -(Andrei Bely, Petersburg p.65)

It is estimated that over a million Chinese settlers could already have pushed across the border with Russia in Siberia and the erstwhile Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. The exodus commenced after the break up of the Soviet Union to meet the requirement of cheap labour to develop the Russian steppes. What the population profile would be in that part of Russia in thirty, fifty or seventy years from now could be anybody's guess. The present Russian population of 147 million, however, is expected to decrease to 121 million in 2050.

Similar population shifts have taken place and are still taking place in the United States of America, where due to the economic disparities with Mexico, and further south, the original European descent settlers could easily be outnumbered in less than five or six decades by the Hispanics. The U.S. estimate of 'documented' migrants from 1990-1996 is 1.1 million per year - more than needed to prevent a decline in the population or in the working-age population.

Conditions of demographic swamping obtain as well within the Indian Union. An appraisal of the insurgency in Tripura brings into focus the fact that insurgency and the demand to secede from India was not born out of any ideological conviction, but was more an expression of the tribals' discontent with the changing demographic profile in favour of non-tribals. At the root of the discontent was the alienation of tribal land. The population of Tripura increased more than twenty-fold in the last century.

There is no authentic figure of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Inderjit Gupta, the union home minister of the time, stated in Parliament on 6 May 1997 that there were 10 million illegal migrants in India out of which nearly four million were in Assam.

Producing Human Surplus for Economic Exploitation

The business community is not the only class that looks at the burgeoning population as a resource base for cheap labour, oblivious of the environmental degradation caused by this increase in the last century. Many among the economically deprived segments are shrewdly creating human surplus. In cynical disregard of the need to exercise restraint, in the light of their experience that the state, global donors as well as non governmental organisations have joined hands to prevent the children in the slum clusters from perishing, through well-funded programmes.

The lack of firmness on the part of governments in the face of protest demonstrations orchestrated by vested interests, leads to sale of young girls to septuagenarians and even octogenarians and paedophile rings operating globally. Locally, any number of young children get kidnapped and maimed by organised beggar gangs. In some areas girls are routinely sold into prostitution for pecuniary benefits. In the case of India's neighbours where so-called jehadis run religious institutions to mass produce fanatics for their own political ambitions it is only parents who have large number of children, i.e. those who have created a surplus, part with their fifth, sixth and seventh child to the religious seminaries. There have been very few cases, if any, from the economically depressed classes where parents with two or three children have offered their boys for jehad.

In the face of such exploitation of children - with the tacit consent of parents - the state becomes a partner in crime and inhumanity if it fails to limit proliferation of population for such anti-social ends.

There is another aspect of proliferating hordes that needs to be taken into account. It devalues human dignity. The quality of life required to maintain a modicum of human dignity becomes almost impossible to sustain when numbers begin to surpass the carrying capacity of the land. Since surpluses automatically connote assets larger than required they tend to be traded off as mere numbers like any other commodity. The purely commercial ideation then gives rise to possibilities of cynical military exploitation at the hands of demagogues.

Chairman Mao, was reported to have often mused that China would be able to sustain a full-scale nuclear exchange because even after losing a few hundred million Chinese people there would be sufficient numbers left over. His successors today may be more circumspect, or more fully cognisant of the fragile state of the planet to entertain such notions. Nevertheless, there remain a few military diehards among them, who to this day have gone on record - maybe only sabre rattling - to the effect that China could afford to lose ten million people in order to secure Taiwan for future generations of the Peoples Republic of China.

In sharp contrast, countries that have stabilised their populations at manageable levels, or face declining numbers, would be loath to remotely consider such sacrifices of even small numbers for purely military ends, - other than for meeting direct military threats to their own societies.

Consequences of Population Displacements in the Colonial Era

Large-scale population displacements took place in the wake of the industrial revolution leading to the European expansions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Not only did the European population fan out to settle down in thinly populated areas around the world, they were instrumental in eradicating and displacing sizeable numbers of natives from one area to another for economic exploitation of the conquered territories. The moment the colonial masters left these conquered territories after the Second World War the newly independent states found it difficult to harmonise with the imported populations of the colonial era. Any number of instances can be given. While Fiji and Sri Lanka can be cited as prime examples there are many more in other parts of the world.

The problem extends, in a modified form, to the population displacements carried out in the Central Asian Republics during the Stalin era in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The legacy of those displacements, effected several decades ago, continues to trouble the region after the melting away of the central authority exercised from Moscow. What the outcome of those policies will be in the decades ahead is difficult to predict. What does emerge, however, is that latent tensions can come to the boil to engender cycles of violence when external agencies attempt to stoke the fires.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia provides a classic example (in the colonial mould) of unforeseen results of state-mandated population displacements. There is sufficient empirical evidence from all around the world to show that the transplanted populations have a different approach to the exploitation of land and the natural resources in the new locations. Their attachment, or reverence, for the natural environment around the new settlements is seldom, if ever as deep as that of the original inhabitants. They generally exploit the land with a ruthlessness that ends up by degrading the environment, to the dismay of the locals. This builds up resentments that keep simmering for years till one day there is a settling of scores, again when the central authority that orchestrated the displacements loses its grip on the outlying areas. The internecine killings that erupt manifestly have a religious or ethnic bias. But a deeper examination would show that it is the basic violation by the settlers of the land use patterns being followed earlier by the indigenes whom they have displaced which often becomes the root cause for disharmony.

Ethnic Cleansing as a Weapon of War

Ethnic cleansing has been taking place since times immemorial. In the middle ages, and especially following the industrial revolution, the great European expansion into other continents of the world was achieved, to quite an extent, through the extermination of local populations. The most notable examples that come to mind are the near-extermination of the indigenous populations in the Americas and Australia. Since the scope of the paper is to discern recent demographic trends in order to study the demographic dynamic evolving in the twenty first century, there is a need to concentrate more on present day trends.

Ethnic cleansing is now being increasingly resorted to in several parts of the world where totalitarian regimes hold sway and more so where the judiciary has been subordinated to the governing hierarchy. In the Continent of Africa, ethnic cleansing is a legacy of the artificially created state boundaries of nation states consolidated during the colonial era. That is not to say that if European dominion over these lands had not taken place the same populations would have lived in harmony. They might well have exterminated each other in the same manner that is being practiced today.

The matter of the greatest concern to the global community, however, is the religion-inspired ethnic cleansing gaining ground in many parts of the world. The horrors of the Nazi era in Germany can be revisited far more efficiently by even small bands of fanatics due to the increasing lethality and area coverage of modern weapons which have proliferated across the globe. Their easy availability and ease of manufacture compounds the problem.


Recently, a well-known global publication (TIME, April-May 2000) came out with a series of first rate articles by leading experts on "How to Save the Earth". On every page the stark reality of human depredations leading to ecological decline was clearly brought out. There has been an explosion of such reportage for several decades and yet in countries like India and its subcontinental neighbours the governing hierarchies follow an ostrich-like policy. Their lack of well-managed population policies has seen the numbers multiplying year in and year out.

And what can the government in India say for the future of all the children it happily represented with such fanfare with the advent of Aastha, the billionth baby? Is it prepared for the increasing number of potential mothers with the population of the females in the reproductive ages of 15-49 years expected to go up to 24 per cent by the end of the year 2000? It would be worth recalling a piece from a paper published in 1985, a good fifteen years before the birth of Aastha:

"We have perhaps entered the last decade when we still have the semblance of an option for a reasoned approach to the interrelated problem of over-population and environmental conservation. And should we not succeed, there can be no doubt that by the year 1990 any government, irrespective of its hue, will have to legislate draconian measures to ensure even a mean level of subsistence".

"The problem looks insurmountable only because we cannot muster our will to overcome it. We are wrong to believe that (all) people want large families. In many cases it is the male child syndrome and in most others the children merely keep coming along. Sex is no joy for most women in the slums. In fact, many of them, weary of the daily grind, and barely recovering from the last pregnancy, dread the inevitable onslaught of the drunken male. In a male dominated society that semi-starved woman, battered both by fortune and her spouse, would welcome a deliverance from constant childbearing. We have failed to reach her".

The extract was specifically recalled to make the point that as early as the 1980s indications were available that although the desire to have large families may not have significantly abated the fact remained that a large number of pregnancies, especially in the slum clusters of metropolitan cities, were unwanted pregnancies. At that time the writer had estimated such unwanted pregnancies to be of the order of thirty percent or so. Today, it can be stated with greater certitude that unwanted pregnancies, at any given time, could be as high as fifty percent. With better management of the programme it should be possible to stabilise the population by the year 2020.

56. This brings one to the second important statement made in the 1985 paper: " The family planning programme in India at the end of 1984 suffers not so much from a resistance on the part of the populace to adopt a small family norm but from organisational infirmity".

57. India now has one billion people, 16 percent of the world's population on only 2.4 percent of the globe's land area, according to the Planning Commission's technical group on population projection. "India's current annual increase in population of 15.5 million is large enough to neutralise any efforts to conserve the resource endowment and environment and may soon make it the most populous country of the world, overtaking China by 2045," says the national population policy, (NPP)- 2000 report.

58. Percentage of Infants with Low Birth-weights
South Asia South East Asia
Bangladesh 50 Indonesia 14
India 33 Laos 18
Nepal 26 Malaysia 10
Pakistan 25 Philippines 15
Sri Lanka 25 Thailand 13
Fiji 18
Vietnam 17

Source: Dr S Gopalan, NFI Bulletin, July 1998

India's population grew in the forty years between 1901 and 1941, the last census before Independence, by approximately 134 percent. Leaving out the decade 1941 to 1951, in which year the first post-Independence census took place, in the forty years from 1951 to 1991 the population grew by over 233 percent. However India's land area, rivers, mountains, cultivable land have all remained constant because land is not an elastic resource. No doubt its productivity can be increased by scientific use, but when there is inexorable pressure of human and cattle population, the speed of exploitation exceeds the speed of recuperation and scientific methods prove insufficient. That is precisely what happened in India. The forest cover shrank not because the people were bent upon destroying the forests, but because there were many more people who had become dependent on the same forest area. Naturally exerted biotic pressures can lead to more intensive use of forests, with a reduced growing cycle and, therefore, an inadequate opportunity for plant life to regenerate itself. With increased cattle population and a vastly increased human population, this cycle has been truncated and so heavily disturbed that the trees never grow beyond scrappy scrub.

Against a sustainable level of 31 million cow units per annum that might graze in forests, the livestock that grazes in the forest is about 100 million cow units. Shrinkage of grazing land and high grazing pressure per unit land have led to scarcity of feed and fodder for the animals. India's land capacity to support grazing is for approximately 50 million heads of livestock, while the population is 450 million.

"all of (the) world's people must come fully to terms with the fact that a person's biological right to have children must be mediated by his or her social responsibility not to have too many".
J.Kenneth Smail (Political and the Life Sciences, September 1977)


The last paragraph from the writer's 1985 paper, referred to earlier, is reproduced below:

"I would like to end this talk on the population problem in India by placing before you the proposition that I have no doubt that with renewed vigour and professional approach India will yet stabilise it population at manageable levels. However our neighbours, especially Bangladesh and Pakistan may not be able to do so. For instance, in 1973 these two countries had a crude birth rate of nearly 47, i.e. the same that obtained for undivided India at the end of the last century. To put it mildly the governments of these countries do not appear to be unduly alarmed. I foresee a time when the hungry populations of those countries spill over national frontiers under relentless pressure of unchecked growth and faltering economies. The groundwork for strife in the years ahead is being laid now. We must avert disaster while it can still be averted." -('The Population Problem in India'
Talk delivered by Vinod Saighal at the National Defence College, 16 January, 1985).


At the start of the new century there is a distinct need to look at the population dynamic globally, in a holistic manner, freed from the infirmities of the North-South, East-West, rich-poor divides that plagued most global protocols of the last century. It calls for the establishment of a global commission set up at the behest of the UN Secretary General, Director General UNESCO, or the Director-General WHO, currently a distinguished personage who chaired the commission that brought out the highly respected study, "Our Common Future". The major items on the agenda of the Global Population Commission (GPC) would include: Convention on the Displacement of Populations, updating of the 1950 Refugees Convention, Protocol on Global Waste Management, Demographic Extinction and Future Ecological Hazards. The GPC would be required to consider: legislation, regulation, committee action, institutional practice, legal decisions and the like in the form of binding global protocols and model national legislations.

Global Convention on Displacement of Populations in the 21st Century

To concerned people around the world the realisation had long dawned that either the world of the 21st century lives in harmony as a global community or faces the threat of extinction. In the latter case, if not the physical destruction of humankind, but at least a descent into a form of existence that would be minus the ennobling environment that sustained humans up to the present century. Should that be the case there would be an urgent need to not only stabilise the population of the globe at levels as close to the present as possible, but to reverse it in areas where it had crossed the ecologically sustainable thresholds. In the latter category, the stabilisation - and reversal - would prevent the demographic swamping of the pitiably small remaining virgin tracts around the globe as well as neighbouring states, leading to the types of problems discussed earlier in the paper.

There may remain a moral aspect that could militate against a more vigorous policy towards stabilisation and then reversal of the population growth in overburdened landmasses like the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia and several countries in Africa. Such professions of moral outrage -actual or merely professed - need to be weighed against the de-humanisation that results from the mass deprivation obtaining in the poverty-stricken regions of the world where existence becomes less than sub human, where the ambient environment is one of starvation, squalor and lack of privacy.

There is much more that can be written about the abysmal poverty, human degradation and hopelessness that prevails in areas where the so-called dregs of society live out their life. The vigorous action recommended does not envisage the draconian policies pursued by the Chinese governments to achieve population stabilisation. Although, in the case of China as well, the firmness demonstrated towards the people of the earlier generation to ensure stabilisation has to be weighed against the horrific devastation that has been avoided due to the population of China not touching two billion. Additionally, it has to be weighed against the improved quality of life that has resulted for the present generation in China and for the generations to come. The past sacrifice has led to future benefits of an order of magnitude compared to what the condition would have been if the policy had not been vigorously pursued.

In the case of the subcontinent it is hardly a question of coercive action, especially in India. The 'organisational infirmity' talked about earlier not only remains but has been institutionalised to a greater degree in the most populous BIMARU states. Even if half the unwanted pregnancies were to be avoided India's population would fast reach the stabilisation point. But that is not to be. Ill-conceived, mal-administered plans seldom benefit the populations who are supposed to benefit from them. They often end up by exacerbating the situation. That is not to belittle of course, the phenomenal benefits in the fields of childcare and maternal health that have resulted wherever the programmes were ably administered.

Coming to the declining populations in the mainly affluent societies of the world, a thought needs to be given to managing the transition in a more rational manner to prevent the suppression of diversity and ethnicity a hundred years hence as has happened in the case of the Indian state of Tripura and other such areas in the world where small indigenous populations have been demographically swamped from waves of migrants from other areas. In this regard the European Union could adopt a 'fifty years demographic stabilisation policy' by methods that do not leave legacies of racial conflicts for coming generations. The first method relates to state creches where infants are adopted from around the world to be brought up in the culture of host nations ab initio. After a given age they would be made available for re-adoption to childless couples, or any other suitable variation. Alternatively, or concomitantly, the concerned states, in anticipation of their shortages in the coming years could decide to increase the annual intake from those regions wherefrom the incoming influx represents populations that would be the most likely to harmonise with the existing cultures. This aspect of harmonisation requires to be carefully analysed. There is a beautiful story dating back to the arrival of Parsis in India over twelve centuries ago. One of the groups of the Zoroastrian diaspora from Persia landed on the western coast of India. Their leader met the local king and asked that his small band be allowed to settle down there. The king had a bowl of milk, which was full to the brim brought to him. He handed it to the leader of the group that sought refuge in his kingdom, to indicate that there was virtually no space left for others to settle down. The leader of the Zoroastrians took some sugar from a pouch and carefully stirred the bowl, taking care not to spill even a drop. The sweetened bowl of milk was respectfully handed back to the king. The enterprising band settled down in the new land. They kept their customs. They have added immensely to the richness of India. Even to this day the most respected names in the fields of industry, philanthropy and scientific research are those of the Parsis.

A thought needs to be given to rising sea levels and the quantum of people likely to be displaced; as also the areas where such displacement would take place. It may not be always feasible, or desirable, for the neighbouring countries to bear the entire burden. In many societies where democracy has not stabilised and especially where local empowerment has not taken place sudden influx of large numbers can lead to large-scale ecological devastation of the remaining virgin tracts. Hence the need for global action, because the planetary interest of the 21st century demands that the remaining virgin tracts the world over be looked at as a global heritage which has to be preserved at any cost. Allied to this would be the fact that the global warming that could be taking place was the result of global profligacy for which no individual set of people should be expected to bear the cost on the basis of their geographical location. Therefore, besides setting up a revolving fund towards future costs of population displacements coming in this category the GPC could recommend anticipatory global planning to obviate the global tensions that would surely arise if such planning were not to be undertaken.

Anticipatory global action will go a long way to ameliorate the misery that could afflict humankind and most species of the animal kingdom on a scale not yet experienced in the twentieth century. In the absence of such action displaced populations of tomorrow might be made second class citizens, almost slaves, on account of the inability of many nations to support larger human populations. It would leave the host nations no choice but to locate the rush of immigrants in World War II type of internment camps to be exploited as cheap labour and fed, sheltered and clothed at minimal subsistence levels - as is already happening in some areas of the world. This would be made easier with modern technology with the issuance of identity cards.

India becomes an interesting case study for the increased population influx from the north, south, east and west in the coming years. Either it regards the anticipated increase as human waste and treats the new arrivals accordingly or plans to take on the anticipated burden in a humane manner. Had India not been partitioned when the British left, the problem would still have had to be addressed by India as the sole subcontinental entity. However, until the time that the nations of the subcontinent continue to act irresponsibly by planning to swamp India with their unwanted human surplus - so much for humanity - India would be fully justified in taking certain measures that do not push this country itself to the brink of disaster.

Such measures could include temporary re-location in designated camps and obliging the refugees to conform to the overall population stabilisation goals of the host country, i.e. to forego the luxury of more than one or two children. Failing which, they would continue to be quarantined, not given employment and deported at the first available opportunity. Not only in the case of inter country demographic swamping, steps of this type may have to be taken by city councils of urban conglomerates already bursting at the seams and yet facing continuous onslaught of new arrivals by the tens of thousands. (For example, in spite of having reached a population of 14 million, Delhi is still being swamped with an annual influx of half a million). Universal guidelines of this nature, for regions of the world where stabilising the population was an acknowledged priority, may have to be agreed to, in principle, at global conventions. While the principle of human rights as the overarching principle for the regulation of global societies would retain its primacy, local modifications necessitated by the inability of host societies to physically accommodate the influx has to be appreciated. The broad agreements could bring in an element of reasonableness into these discussions between societies that have to actually bear the brunt and people who merely remain professional campaigners, at one remove. The guidelines would be applicable for fifty years or till a modicum of population stabilisation were to be achieved.

Demographic Extinction(s)

Along with the need to attempt a balance between the carrying capacity of the planet is the need to retain the diversity and ethnicity of populations threatened with extinction, mainly due to the destruction of habitats or due to ethnic cleansing or demographic swamping. For example, the Chinese government should voluntarily agree to a moratorium on further Han-isation of the Tibetan plateau. The Chinese recourse to the measures taken would be tantamount to India attempting to solve the Sri Lankan problem, once and for all, by allowing a few million Tamils to be pushed across the Palk Straits to demographically swamp the Sinhala population, over a period of time.

Another type of danger of extinction stems from the chemical pollution of the planet and from unregulated, little understood long-term effects of genetic modification of species. Hormone disrupting chemicals are reported to be reducing the sperm count of Japanese males. Over a period of time it could have serious effects on the future of Japanese society. There would likely be other such effects taking place in areas where research facilities do not exist or exist in an elementary form or do not constitute a priority in the face of more pressing problems of day to day survival. Future demographic hazards arising from testing of more lethal weapons by the militaries of the world - depleted uranium weapons being an example - need to be brought into the purview of global protocols to control, limit or ban such research. Rising toxicity levels will lead to malformation in children and so many other species. Sadly, the other species are hardly ever given a thought to.

Waste Management

Many countries are increasingly discovering that their rivers have become polluted, in some cases almost beyond redemption. Again taking the case of India, there was an almost 840 percent increase in urban population between 1901 and 1991. Cities are now eight- and- a- half times more crowded then they were in 1901. With such unplanned, unmanageable, constantly increasing concentrations of populations, services in the matter of water supply and sewerage and both off-take of water and discharge of effluents and garbage reach such proportions that the waterways run empty, and sewage and garbage pollute both the land and water. One of the more poignant cases relates to the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. What a contrast between the description of the Mahatma's abode redolent with fragrant breezes wafting from the river's bank when he dwelt there and the stench emanating from the sewer that now trickles past the Ashram walls. The increasing demand for land for various urban activities results in green field areas being brought under contraction, thus permanently devastating land which in the past was under cyclical use as per the dictates of nature. Every third river system or stream is now turning into a sewer, permanently destroying the ecology of the land. Worse is the case of the beautiful hill stations of yore, now wilting under unsupportable population pressures.

Waste management problems are afflicting societies both rich and poor across the world, each municipality, multinational and region managing as best as they can without a care for the effects of such wastefully destructive profusion on the global landscape. Here too there is a need for a global convention on waste management. One of the best remedies still available being the reduction of human population pressures.


The population explosion is now adding nearly the equivalent of China's population every ten years or so to the planet, changing the very nature of planetary land use, to the detriment of almost every beautiful thing worth preserving on the planet. The subcontinent remains one of the biggest offenders in this regard. The people of this wasting landmass should realise that not even a major nuclear exchange between the two subcontinental adversaries will reverse the relentless growth of the human mass. A few tens of millions perishing no longer represent a significant percentage at this belated stage. Actually that many people will not die. Instead there would be a few hundred million sub human, genetically deformed, malnourished people hobbling around on the landscape between Kabul, Karachi and Calcutta. People make decisions about family size based on present needs and do not realise that growth rate of 3 percent per year, if continued for a century, would lead to a nineteen fold multiplication of the population. The leaders of the subcontinent must pose themselves the question:

"Are they (by their inaction) well on the way to spawning a race of mentally retarded and under-developed people in this ancient land which once boasted of exceptional mental faculties; faculties that provided mankind with the most illuminating insights on the very nature of existence"?

The destruction of planetary diversity in the twentieth century has taken on an added frenzy in the twenty-first. The future of the coming generations of humans and animalkind - whichever species that might still be around - is being destroyed by the cancerous growth of the prolific procreators, the beastly humans. Unwilling, for even a brief span of time, to consider putting a slight curb on their exponentially multiplying (selfish) needs. They have ceased caring that pesticides applied to agricultural fields may show up in ground water 10 years later and cause cancer 30 years later - the profits being 'here and now'. (The more the overproduction of children the more intensive the use of fertilisers and pesticides in the developing world).

The world must look dispassionately at the global dimension of the problem which, if it remains unchecked for just a few more decades, will herald an end to most of the natural beauty of the planet that can still be perceived in parts by the present generation of humans. A debate has been raging in many parts of the world on human needs versus animal needs. The human species is proliferating exponentially. A few more or less of this particular species will not impoverish the planet. The disappearance of a unique habitat or an endangered species will.

(Keynote talk at the Millennium Symposium, August 24-26, 2000 at Regina, Canada)

The Millennium Symposium comes at a time when realisation is growing all over that should the affairs of the planet continue to be managed as in the past the coming generations will have to live in a world which although technologically advanced would be spiritually and environmentally impoverished beyond recognition. The next generation would perhaps experience the change at the margins of the transition. The generation after that would not know the difference. Not knowing the difference they would not care. A robotically- hedonised society taking its extravagant pleasures around the clock on press-button demand is not a projection from some distant future. It is already upon us.

This morning, however, I shall confine myself to the demographic dynamic of the century that we have entered and more particularly the role of the scientific community in addressing this problem. To date the scientific community has not actively got involved in the matter. Individual scientists might have interacted with governments or as part of non governmental organisations in their capacity as leading edge researchers in various disciplines connected with health and family planning services. Personally I am not aware of any major initiative by the scientific body addressing as a collectivity what I believe is one of the most pressing global concerns. Note has to be taken of the decimation of global diversity due to the runaway population growth in developing societies, linked to the abysmal poverty that obtains in those regions. In developed societies the deleterious effects on the global environment have come about due to causes that are entirely different.

Here, I must allude to a seeming paradox. Conventional wisdom has it that development takes care of most of the problems that face the developing world. In a manner of speaking, looked at only in the short term, that would be correct. It might have held true up till a few decades ago, for areas where the numbers had not exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. It is no longer applicable in a similar sense today, if the definition of development to be applied is the same that operates in developed societies. In fact, in the longer term it portends unmitigated disaster for the planet. Because the very fact of development - at the current state of ecological precariousness in many parts of the world - carries in its train an increase in absolute consumption, not restricted only to calories intake by humans. That consumption pattern is styled - for better or for worse - on the model of the developed world. In terms of the demographic dynamic it means that many tens or hundreds of millions more automobiles, television sets, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, fast foods wrapped in disposable, or non-biodegradable waste and the like. The energy cost as well as the environmental-degradation cost involved in achieving this level of development is higher by a factor of ten, twenty, fifty or even hundred depending upon where the developing society concerned stands in the development ladder. Just ten underdeveloped inhabitants, who come into the developed stage, consume on an absolute scale possibly a hundred times more than their brethren in the state left behind. The absolute tonnage of the waste produced, which is often dumped into water systems (especially in hilly areas) and landfills becomes larger and larger, choking waterways and polluting groundwater. So what the situation demands is an altered region-specific development model which would comprise basic poverty alleviation, education and health care programmes. Many NGOs are, in fact, successfully following this approach.

To cite an example, when the 'development' of Thailand increased by a factor of four the environmental degradation increased by a factor of sixteen. So where does all this end. How many more niches remain in the world for human beings to fill at the cost of the remaining species. Should the burgeoning populations of the Indian subcontinent and China create the wherewithal to reach just thirty percent of the development levels of the West as per the existing development models in vogue, linked to the type of consumption currently in vogue, the planet would be virtually incinerated before the century is out.

All this leads one to believe that the most urgent need for the planet is to reverse the human population growth. The laissez faire manner of addressing this problem must undergo major modification. Taboos and dogmas that define the context of birth control and abortions in advanced societies in the West cannot be applied across the board in developing countries who are already groaning under the weight of religious dogmas. Every age and society hereafter will have to apply their corrections to consumption and growth patterns, including population growth, for ensuring sustainability and ecological viability of their respective habitats, in the first instance.

I believe that one of the most important tasks before the scientific community concerning the demographic-ecological interface is to redefine that interface for the 21st century. Past models must be scientifically re-analyzed and re-defined in the light of two of the greatest human growth anomalies of the turn of the century - uncontrolled human population growth and the turning of an inordinately large percentage of global wealth into engines of mass destruction on a planetary scale. Were I to explain these anomalies on a graph, the growth line for population proliferation could be shown to have become nearly vertical. Military spending as a percentage of global wealth might indicate something similar if the hidden costs and subsidies were to be taken into account. Hence in both cases, these anomalies indicate, in purely scientific terms, out of control runaway processes, or rogue processes. I might add here that a hypothetical nuclear exchange in the part of the world where I hail from while resulting in further crippling of the global environment would not make a very significant dent in the population growth rate. For the coming generations in the region it would mean a few additional tens of millions deformed and crippled human beings hobbling around on crutches between Kabul and Calcutta, possibly Shanghai as well.

In my paper, circulated earlier, I have touched upon several issues of global concern, giving examples from the subcontinent that can be extrapolated for many developing and developed societies. Here I will refer, en passant, to aspects that need reiteration. The first of these relates to sustainable development.

Even the term 'sustainable development' though representing a well thought out strategy when first enunciated several decades ago has lost its meaning in many parts of the subcontinent - and the world at large. Sustainable development, among other attributes, referred largely to the tribal communities living in harmony with nature, exploiting the forest produce on a sustainable basis, giving room and time to nature to regenerate itself. No doubt, an excellent strategy. However, due to poor implementation on the ground, it lost its cutting edge in a few short decades. The earlier premise on which it rested no longer holds good for many areas in the year 2000. The reason again being that unchecked population growth put paid to a laudable development model.

This requires elaboration. Taking the example of any given area where development was sought to be implemented on a sustainable basis, where at the beginning there were x number of tribal people living off y square kilometers of forest area, after fifty years, what is the result on the ground? In most cases, the number of tribal people - plus migrants who had encroached on the same forest area - became x multiplied by two, three or five; while the forest area, which was to have been exploited in a sustainable manner, shrank to half, or a third the original size.

It becomes apparent that here again unless the state intervenes decisively to restore the original forest area by removing encroachments and undertakes massive reforestation, concomitant with reversal of population growth, no planned development, sustainable, or any modification thereto, has much chance of success on the ground. In fact, the limits to growth have been reached. Put in another way the age of open-ended growth, as we knew it in the centuries up to the present is over.

At the start of the new century there is a distinct need to look at the population dynamic globally, in a holistic manner, freed from the infirmities of the North-South, East-West, rich-poor divides that plagued most global protocols of the last century. In my paper I have recommended the setting up of a Global Population Commission under the aegis of UNESCO, WHO or the UN Secretary General. The GPC would de novo look at the aspect of population proliferation, displacements, declining populations, maintaining ethnic diversity and the like. Its charter would include, inter alia: Convention on the Displacement of Populations, updating of the 1950 Refugees Convention, Protocol on Global Waste Management, Demographic Extinction and Future Ecological Hazards. The GPC would be required to consider: legislation, regulation, committee action, institutional practice, legal decisions and the like in the form of binding global protocols and model national legislation.

'Demographic Swamping' merits a special place in my paper on account of the fact that many countries - far removed from democratic governance, democratic jurisprudence and democratic accountability have taken recourse to it to destroy or swamp indigenous populations. It has taken place in a very major way in India's neighbourhood. It could overtake Europe and Russia well before the end of the century if the problem is not addressed jointly by the European community and Russia. Europe is being short sighted by not including the Russian Federation in its security envelope - largely because it is difficult to change the mindset of the cold war. Should Russia not be able to shake off its present infirmity, in not more than fifty to eighty years from now, the Asian demographic expansion would have crossed the Urals. Russia effectively guards Europe's demographic flank from the East.

Meanwhile Europe itself would be facing similar pressures from the South. At that belated stage reaching out to the Russians would not be of much help. The scientific community does not have - or should not have in the new century - any inhibitions in extending its hand warmly across national boundaries. The scientific community should be able to better appreciate the necessity of maintaining the ethnic diversity of the human race. It is important for the gene pool of future generations, it is important from a social and cultural viewpoint, and it is important in itself for several other reasons. The McCarthy era, or its equally vicious, though lesser-known equivalents in other countries, must never again be allowed to bedevil scientific interaction and bonhomie on this planet.

Increasing human activity is destroying the environment - at times gradually, quite often climactically. Growth of the human population multiplies human activity. It has already crossed the threshold levels of tolerance of the planet. More importantly, the threshold levels of tolerance of fellow humans become strained when the population increase crosses the optimum density beyond which civilised behaviour becomes more and more difficult to sustain on account of absolute poverty, lack of privacy and deprivation. This again calls for a sustained attempt to reverse the population growth in demographically congested landmasses. Not by spilling across frontiers to swamp other populations but by limiting the growth within national boundaries where the point of sustainability has already been crossed. Scientific fraternities, at least for the next two or three decades, should consider diverting greater resources to population stabilisation and reversal of population growth in areas where it is crowding out the natural habitats of other species.

In this regard, my paper has sought to highlight the callousness that now motivates poverty-stricken, but shrewdly calculating, communities that deliberately over produce for commercial exploitation of their offspring, or the production of surplus children to serve the designs of religious fundamentalists who indoctrinate these children from an early age for global violence.

The scientific community must appreciate that in South Asia the demographic situation has gone way beyond Malthusian self-corrections. Taking the example of AIDS, even if this scourge were to spread faster in South Asia than is the case in many parts of Africa it would make scarce difference to the current population growth on the subcontinent. Were it to become technologically feasible to project ten thousand people per day to a colony on the Moon the population would still not decrease. Here I would like to quote two short statements from a talk that I delivered in January 1985 on the "Population Problem of India". I quote: "The family planning programme in India at the end of 1984 suffers not so much from a resistance on the part of the population to adopt the small family norm but from an organisational infirmity". (Unquote). And then again, (quote), "Sex is no joy to most women in the slums. In fact, many of them weary of the daily grind and barely recovering from the last pregnancy dread the inevitable onslaught of the drunken male. In a male dominated society that semi-starved woman, battered both by fortune and her spouse, would welcome a deliverance from constant child bearing. We have failed to reach her". (Unquote).

While the political class dithers the horrors of sub optimal growth for hundreds of millions below the poverty line stare us in the face. I believe that in developing societies over forty or fifty percent of the pregnancies today could be unwanted pregnancies. At the very least, it should be possible to achieve almost zero population growth in as little as ten to fifteen years in the urban conglomerates where large populations are concentrated in slum clusters.

If the pitiful remaining virgin tracts of the world are to be saved a fundamental decision has to be taken to put humankind on the backburner for one or two decades; because every time some eco-restoration action is planned there is a hue and cry about job losses, income losses, profit decline and so on. It is a cruel dilemma.

Herein lies the crux of the problem. Unless we confront this paradox squarely, while it is still possible to do so, the battle to ecologically revive the planet would be lost before it is joined. The statement has nothing to do with pessimism or optimism. It is our collective failure to grasp this nettle that is at the root of the global decline.

Just thirty years ago when I first became aware of the harm that we were doing to our surroundings the number of NGOs working in the field in most developing countries were few and far between. At the global level their number could have been a few hundred or, at best, a few thousand. Today as one looks around one would not be surprised if the number of NGOs in only one of the metropolitan cities were to exceed the national total of that time. Worldwide the number of NGOs, big and small, could well run into several hundred thousand. Multiply this figure with the number of people in an average-sized NGO and one arrives at an impressive figure indeed. Thus, in spite of an exponential increase in the number of people doing good work, the rate of global environmental decline is steeper (in some cases) than at the time of which I speak.

I believe I have made the point. Unless this anomaly is addressed, and the strategies to meet the global challenges of today radically altered, there is little likelihood of achieving results commensurate to the effort put in. There is no dearth of shining examples of the remarkable work being done by dedicated bands all over the world. They remain beacons of hope. They cannot, however, by themselves, turn the tide.

Our aim in this conference will be to re-focus that strength; to give it the type of cutting edge that will bring decisive results in a battle that has already been lost in various parts of the world. Rhetorical though it may sound we must, nevertheless, ask ourselves the question, "when will we act decisively? When the meat from the last minke whale is offered at fifty thousand dollars a plate at one of the glittering restaurants in Tokyo or Taipei"?

The question of human rights and sensitivity to reproductive rights of individuals crops up at several places in my paper. While the principle of human rights as the overarching principle for the regulation of global societies would retain its primacy, local modifications necessitated by the inability of host societies to physically accommodate the influx has to be appreciated. The broad agreements could bring in an element of reasonableness into these discussions between societies that have to actually bear the brunt and people who merely remain professional campaigners, at one remove. The guidelines would be applicable for fifty years or till a modicum of population stabilisation were to be achieved. The problems of governance of developed societies are very different from those obtaining in developing societies. Unless these are appreciated at the global level an element of unreality tends to creep in while making formulations based on the experience gathered in the former.

At the end of the day the global scientific community must itself resolve the divergence of views that crops up at global fora between technology-driven inputs and human-emotion-driven inputs. The former provides exact data that can be scientifically studied, the latter - an equally vital input - which cannot be evaluated precisely by the same scientific parameters. Closing the gap between this hiatus will go a long way in finding resolution modes that would be acceptable to most segments of the global society emerging in the 21st century. The scientific body has to suo motu chart the pathways that will raise 'planetary consciousness' at the cost of outdated notions of national sovereignty.

At the end of my presentation I cannot help re-iterating that unless sane people around the globe put the military dimension on the back-burner the world may be overtaken by existential stresses over which mankind may lose control. This is not a pessimistic note being sounded at the end of my talk but a realistic appraisal derived from an host of factors - both military and non-military - that are likely to exert much greater influence on human societies than has been the case in the past. To date, it has been mostly individuals and hierarchies wishing to hold on to power who have tried their hands at shaping events: sometimes with success and more often with disaster. Global society could be hurtling in the latter direction. The challenges before human societies are no longer merely the concern of the governing hierarchies of the world. They are global concerns which scientific fraternities around the world can join hands to address together or watch while the world sinks into an existential slime the likes of which have not been witnessed before by man - or nature.
I, for one, believe that the challenge can be met.

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