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g l o b a l t o p i a 
The Top 10 Challenges Facing Humanity

1. Misinformation, Denial and Inertia

Probably the greatest challenge of all is educating people, groups and governments to acknowledge these challenges and then energizing them to take action. Only then can we build the passion, dedication (and get the funding) to take the required measures to solve our problems. There is an abundance of misinformation circulating (global warming denial, for example), which has the effect of confusing people or giving them a false sense of security. Much of the misinformation is put out by astroturf organizations or corporations who have much to gain by keeping people from the facts.  People cannot move forward if they don't have information they can trust. There seems to be a natural human tendency to choose comfort over truth (wishful thinking) when the truth challenges our previously-held worldviews, especially if it is one that is disturbing or alarming. Unrealistic optimism is the way many of us deal with troubling issues, so denial is widespread and extremely counterproductive. After all, it is easier and much more pleasant to live in a cocoon and believe that everything's all right. Conversely, inertia will also be a problem if people are completely overwhelmed with the challenges they see around them. People need to be reminded of humanity's proven ability to solve massive problems; to realize that we are not powerless and that we have the ability to work together to control the situation if we have the will and resources available to us. We must also acknowledge our natural tendency toward us versus them (in group - out group) thinking, which is also counterproductive. If we can overcome this tendency, we can imagine a global, democratic citizen's revolution, which will put pressure on our corporations and governments to aggressively address the challenges we face together.

2. Energy

Dealing with the problem of peak oil and gas will be one of the biggest challenges that humans have ever faced. Lessening our dependence on fossil fuels by transitioning into the use of clean, sustainable, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidecellulosic ethanol (from miscanthus, sugar cane, etc), hydroelectric and micro-hydro is necessary. Massive research, development and infrastructure are required and are already well underway. Continuing to develop technologies to increase energy efficiency in our buildings and in our modes of transportation are necessary. The second part of this equation is energy conservation; discontinuing or minimizing inefficient practices and general energy conservation by ordinary citizens (turning down the thermosat to 62 F in winter, minimizing or discontinuing air conditioning use in summer, plugging appliances into surge-protecting power strips and car-pooling, for example). North Americans and Europeans will have to work harder to conserve energy, as these groups use much more energy per person than those living in developing countries. A new paradime must also emerge: the realization of the fact that materialism cannot provide human happiness. With this realized, energy can be diverted from materialist, nonessential consumer goods to more essential, useful items. This will be a gradual process, as much of our commerce is based on materialism, and there is likely to be a strong resistance to this sort of change, especially by those who profit from the staus quo.

3. Environment

Combatting global warming through research and development of low-carbon energy technologies. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are higher now than they have been in the past 650,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores. Protecting biodiversity and ending environmental degradation through the setting aside of protected areas, and responsible harvesting of timber, wildlife and other natural resources. Slowing or eliminating the current Holocene Extiction Event (the worst extinction event since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) by conserving and restoring habitat and mapping DNA of threatened species. Minimizing air and water pollution. Instituting strict, global, enforceable regulations for polluting industries. Improved stove intervention, inspection and maintenance of diesel vehicles and improved diesel vehicle particulate control technology. Decreasing water pollution through agricultural runoff. Phasing out nuclear generating plants and nuclear arms. Phasing out all electrical power generating plants running on non-renewable resoures.

4. Food and Water

Meeting the challenges of malnutrition and hunger. Vitamin A , Zinc, iron and salt iodization microsupplements for children. Deworming in developing countries. Community based nutrition promotion. Increasing energy transfer efficiency by transitioning to a more vegetarian diet. Ethical issues aside, it takes fourteen to sixteen pounds of plant protein to produce one pound of animal protein. According to the USDA, growing the crops necessary to feed farmed animals requires nearly half of the United States' water supply and 80 percent of its agricultural land. Additionally, animals raised for food in the U.S. consume 90 percent of the soy crop, 80 percent of the corn crop, and a total of 70 percent of its grain. The animals eat the feed, it is converted into meat, and humans eat the meat. By directly eating the plants and grains, we could feed many, many more people. Despite the fact that 36 million people starve to death every year, 66.5% of Americans are either obese or overweight. We also need to work toward a much more humane treatment of animals.

Availability of clean drinking water: bio-sand filters for household water treatment, rural water supply, total sanitation campaign, large multipurpose dams in Africa and other locations. Worldwide, 70% of water usage goes toward agricultural irrigation, with almost 60% being wasted. Drip irrigation is much more efficient, and should be utilized wherever appropriate and feasible. Aquifiers are depleting, so water conservation is essential.

5. Poverty, Fair Trade, Reduction of Debt, Employment and Economic Disparity

Microfinance for developing small business startups. Fair redistribution of wealth. (Currently, the richest 1% of the population controls nearly half the wealth, while the richest 10% controls 90% of the wealth.) Contrary to much opinion, "middle class" people are nowhere near the top 10%. The average middle class American is in the bottom 65%. In America, the bottom 65%, combined, own only 1% of the wealth of the country. Doha Development Agenda. Global minimum/living wage standards for all employees. Collective bargaining to empower workers to address grievances. Creation of a sustainable green economy which will create jobs for workers affected by globalization. Remove personhood as a legal right of corporations. Corporations must be used to work for man, not against him if they are to continue. Collect tax and fines from owners of illegal offshore bank accounts. Paying down of national debts.

6. Building Human Relationships and Communication / Decreasing Conflict

Respect for cultures other than our own. Respect for international law. Peace-keeping in post-conflict situations. Improving diplomacy through non-violent communication. Recognition of English as a global language. Prevention of wars and terrorism. Drastic decrease in worldwide military spending. In 2008, the US spent over $1 Trillion on its military and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. To put it into context, that figure is more than twice the amount spent by all other countries on Earth combined. Working to create a new paradime of a global community of humans. To come to the realization that there is no "them", there is only "us". Any violence we do to "another" group is not done to them, it is done to us. We do it to ourselves. We must begin to think in terms of cooperation, not competition.

7. Disease and Human Suffering

Immunization for children. Cures for TuberculosisCancer and Heart DiseaseMalaria prevention and treatment. AIDS and HIV prevention and treatment. Prevention of other pandemics. Tobacco tax. Nutrition, diet and exercise education. Nationalized, inexpensive health care for all. Tort limits for malpractice suits. Improving response to natural and man-made disasters.

8. Education

Lower the price of schooling. More hands-on education that will give students the life skills they need to function in society. Educational systems designed to tailor the lesson plan to the student, based on the way each student is best able to learn. Conditional cash transfers. Increase and improve schooling for girls in developing countries. 

9. Democracy and Human Rights

democracy is a political government, either carried out directly by the people (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (Representative Democracy). Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of 'democracy', there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes, equality and freedom. These principles are reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to power, and freedom is secured by legitimized rights and liberties, which are generally protected by a constitution. Examples of rights and freedoms which have come to be commonly thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and economic, social and cultural laws, including the right to participate in culture, the right to be treated with respect and dignity, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education and health care.

10. Population

Current worldwide population is just under 7 billion.

Some problems associated with or exacerbated by human overpopulation:

  • Inadequate fresh water for drinking water use as well as sewage treatment and effluent discharge. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, use energy-expensive desalination to solve the problem of water shortages.
  • Depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels.
  • Increased levels of air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination and noise pollution. Once a country has industrialized and become wealthy, a combination of government regulation and technological innovation causes pollution to decline substantially, even as the population continues to grow.
  • Deforestation and loss of ecosystems that sustain global atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide balance; about eight million hectares of forest are lost each year.
  • Changes in atmospheric composition and consequent global warming
  • Irreversible loss of arable land and increases in desertification. Deforestation and desertification can be reversed by adopting property rights, and this policy is successful even while the human population continues to grow.
  • Mass species extinctions from reduced habitat in tropical forests due to slash-and-burn techniques that sometimes are practiced by shifting cultivators, especially in countries with rapidly expanding rural populations; present extinction rates may be as high as 140,000 species lost per year. As of 2008, the IUCN Red List lists a total of 717 animal species having gone extinct during recorded human history.
  • High infant and child mortality. High rates of infant mortality are caused by poverty. Rich countries with high population densities have low rates of infant mortality.
  • Intensive factory farming to support large populations. It results in human threats including the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria diseases, excessive air and water pollution, and new viruses that infect humans.
  • Increased chance of the emergence of new epidemics and pandemics. For many environmental and social reasons, including overcrowded living conditions, malnutrition and inadequate, inaccessible, or non-existent health care, the poor are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases.
  • Starvation, malnutrition or poor diet with ill health and diet-deficiency diseases (e.g. rickets). However, rich countries with high population densities do not have famine.
  • Poverty coupled with inflation in some regions and a resulting low level of capital formation. Poverty and inflation are aggravated by bad government and bad economic policies. Many countries with high population densities have eliminated absolute poverty and keep their inflation rates very low.
  • Low life expectancy in countries with fastest growing populations.
  • Unhygienic living conditions for many based upon water resource depletion, discharge of raw sewage and solid waste disposal. However, this problem can be reduced with the adoption of sewers. For example, after Karachi, Pakistan installed sewers, its infant mortality rate fell substantially.
  • Elevated crime rate due to drug cartels and increased theft by people stealing resources to survive.
  • Conflict over scarce resources and crowding, leading to increased levels of warfare.
  • Less Personal Freedom / More Restrictive Laws. Laws regulate interactions between humans. Law "serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people." The higher the population density, the more frequent such interactions become, and thus there develops a need for more laws to regulate these interactions.

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