With the huge power of platforms, virtual money, global financial behemoths, and tax havens, in the absence of any corresponding taxing or regulation, we are going down the drain. A powerful way of understanding how rich world-scale corporations, headed by well-trained executives, continue to build this slow-motion catastrophe is to have a look at the numerous studies of the leaders and their decision-making process. It is not stupid, it is well-oiled, and it is disastrous.
The world has suffered and continues to suffer from many disasters, both natural and man-made. Ongoing crises in Libya, Morocco, Spain, Greece, Turkey, and other regions highlight the urgent need for improved disaster preparedness, response, and rehabilitation efforts. The global debt stands at a staggering 305 trillion USD. That is a number with twelve zeros (305,000,000,000,000).
The United States leads with the highest debt, while Greece holds the bronze with 401.71 billion dollars. An increase to 404,685.60 euros in the second quarter of 2023 pushes Greece towards the silver position. Additionally, Greece claims that Germany owes it 279 billion euros, or $303 billion, from World War II. Russia's external debt has reached 357.9 USD billion.
The FAO estimates that approximately 2.3 billion people face less extreme but still dangerous levels of food insecurity, which accounts for roughly 29% of the global population. Furthermore, there are still 773 million illiterate adults worldwide, with the majority being women.
During World War I, the total number of military and civilian casualties reached about 40 million, while estimates for World War II deaths range from 35,000,000 to 60,000,000. The Spanish Flu, which occurred in 1918, resulted in estimates of deaths ranging from 17 million to 50 million.
On the Greek Aegean Sea island of Skyros, the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 led to 1,000 deaths out of its 3,200 residents in less than 30 days.
Dengue fever has affected 3,000 individuals, while the statistics for coronavirus cases are 6,101,379 confirmed cases with 37,089 deaths and 4,389,584 recoveries.
Agricultural workers are now 35 times more likely to die from heat-related causes than the average citizen. The Arctic ice sheet, weighing about 24,380,000 gigatons, has melted by half over the past 50 years, contributing to global warming. A gigaton is equivalent to 1,000,000,000 tons.
One health disaster model, known as the Utstein Template, has been utilized to analyze disasters. It was introduced in Greece in 2007 following forest fires and is used for the development of health disaster management activities. This model considers risk (R), hazard (H), vulnerability (V), and mitigation as factors in disaster analysis and preparedness.
Eliminating any one of the three risk factors—hazard, vulnerability, or risk—can reduce damage. While we cannot eliminate hazards like earthquakes, we can improve prediction and enhance the resilience of our built environment. Climate change exacerbates devastation, and in the case of wildfires, arson is often a contributing factor. Inefficiencies in the basic functions of society, rising sea levels, land erosion, subsidence, and poorly maintained infrastructure, such as flood protection systems, contribute to death and suffering during catastrophic events.
Finally, an estimate of damage is derived from the Utstein template:
p (damage) = ƒ (Hnat+Hmm) x (RH) x (Vnat+a1+a2+b1+b2)
In the case of a wildfire, the risk is higher in the summer, and arson may be the cause, resulting in trees being burned, animals trapped by the flames, homes razed to the ground, and lives lost. The variables a's and b's relate to actions taken before, during, and after a catastrophic event, and p represents the probability of damage.
In 1984, a gas leak from Union Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal resulted in approximately 560,000 injured, 4,000 severely disabled, and 20,000 dead.
If we have not philosophized about the dreadful plight of humanity and its habitat in the summer of 2023, it may be too late to deploy our knowledge before someone presses a button. We are numbed by events, desensitized by fake news, and overwhelmed by mountains of information and knowledge, digitally available in our living rooms. The bigger the number, somehow it correlates with despair, while numbers relating to inequality, avoidable death, hunger, and poverty dry up hope. The world is much more entrenched in scapegoating and frog-boiling than adding a morsel to philosophy's platform. The frog, with a visual system better than most, is poikilothermic and would make for an ideal scapegoat, even if our world were cooling. To freeze at midnight slowly with no pain would be better than incineration at some unforetold moment. And there will still be as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on the earth.
On September 8, 2023, a devastating 6.8 (Richter) earthquake hit Morocco, mostly in the Atlas region, killing more than 3,000 people, affecting more than 100,000 children, according to UNICEF, and leaving thousands of people still missing within the heaps of seemingly endless rubble. The flooding death toll soars to 11,300 in Libya's coastal city of Derna. A further 10,100 people are reported missing in Libya's Mediterranean city after a storm caused devastating flooding. Unprecedented rainfall engulfed cities in the North African nation last week, rupturing two dams in the country's northeast and sending a deluge of water to Derna, which has seen the worst of the devastation. The kinetic energy in the water's turbulent tsunami flow is probably equivalent to several atomic bombs.
But an unexpected event made an impression on me. Earlier this year, I was on a plantation near a river by the South China Sea when a cute smooth-haired dog barked at us. It had come through a recent flood to bark again, traumatized but no longer approachable, and lying in a banana grove next to a dazzling white porcelain toilet deposited there by the floodwaters, having sailed miles to its final destination.
Three continuing and growing humanitarian concerns, hard for mankind to get its collective mind around, are to provide solutions to horrendous dilemmas: positive and negative aspects inherent in AI, threats and benefits of nuclear science, and advancing disruption and destruction caused by climate change. No one seems interested in a deep examination of the mind-set responsible for these problem fields. Throughout the world, people are in a state of psychological confusion, and their societies are in the throes of social dementia. The writer, being raised in a village straddling agriculture and industry that drove the industrial revolution registered in the Doomsday Book, continues to sound the alarm about how close man is to self-destruction. The frustration of not being heard was expressed by Thomas Jefferson as he penned an enduring vision and the aspirations of a new nation in the Declaration of Independence. He knew how hard it was to get attention. So in a raised voice, he asked, "Is anybody there?"
The probability of having a successful outcome to our concerns hinges on just a single number. The likelihood of being read is remote. Achieving a noticeable difference is an unlikely event, and the prospect of being acted upon asymptotically approaches zero, getting as close to zero as possible without quite reaching it until it verges on infinity. Infinity is where parallel lines converge. It is the realm where international agreements like the Kellogg-Briand Pact to outlaw war and Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Agenda for Peace might be embraced by the global community, or where Greece might choose to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It's the point where peace, democracy, and universalism can be harmonized. However, in the world of practicality, we are far from that station. War profiteers oppose peace, dictators abandon democracy, and nationalists reject universalism.
Between 1885 and 1908, in the Belgian Congo, exploited for profit through ivory and rubber production, 10 million people perished. Between 1939 and 1945, 6 million Jews were exterminated in an incomprehensible tragedy, which, if we do not halt the course of war and step back from the precipice, may soon appear as a small number in comparison. Wladimir Koppen, the father of meteorology, conducted a survey of the Earth's climatic past while maintaining a deep commitment to the cause of peace. He advocated the use of Esperanto to foster international understanding and actively engaged in issues related to school reform, efficient land use, and nutrition for the impoverished. He believed that an international scientific language could help transcend nationalism and enhance scientific cooperation.
An estimated statistical probability or best guess of your personal story being read by "Just a Number" stands at 1 in 24,677 if you remain anonymous and lack identity. Are there complications? Indeed, a presidential decision could alter the odds by reducing them to a 50-50 chance of being read (a favorable twist), while if its significance grows, the likelihood of being acted upon becomes entangled with infinity and is stifled (an unfavorable twist). Thanks to optimism, which has not yet abandoned me, I recall the words of an old Indian woman, "Oh, that I should die, I who know so much," and a poem: "I have seen flowers come in stony places, and kind things done by men with ugly faces, and the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races, so I trust too. But I ask, "For how long?"
In my dilemma, I appealed to a higher authority, namely the gods on Mount Olympus. Without me looking directly at them, they directed me to the High Priestess of Delphi. As Pythia surveyed the wildfire ashes covering Greece and mud everywhere, she angrily muttered, "Confusion, chaos, what are you doing to this piece of our world selected by the gods?" As I muttered "déjà vu," a thunderbolt ignited the sky, and colossal cosmic cliffs, waterlogged from rain, began a slow slide towards the sea. Wanting to be heard, I recited a friend's poem:
As tears well up and overflow, I must cry out again.
Against multinational groups and daughter corporations,
Against dark profiteers of death and hate,
Citizens of this globe, I have cried out. Pleaded for a united mother earth.
For all our children,
And shall not cease to lift my voice in shame and condemnation.
Her voice drowned out my faltering words with her revelation that someone, she said, will get your communiqué through to "Just a Number." She then gave me a view of a blurred-smoky, no-comment image coming up on the gods' Google; the screen was the big, wide sky, showing people wrapped in gloom, groggy, almost punch-drunk, muddy, and two gigantic placards, each with a number written on them. Flashbacks intermittently flooded the sky—Volos 1960, Karditsa 1994, Mandra, Mati. Fires peppered the horizon and flickered around legs, some stuck in mud. The rocks were a leery blood red, and men clung to them for dear life. I think I screamed, and Pythia hushed me to silence, saying with drama and conviction that the world was being lost or won. I was angry with the priestess for not giving me a clear message.
Then a startling image unfolded—two actually intermingled in one: two startlingly beautiful women coalesced, Delacroix, Greece rising, and Penelope, Fin Grèce. As the wide sky became Attic blue, Pythia was waving goodbye.
Suddenly, two numbers on two slowly burning placards filled the sky: 24,677 and 3.14159265358979323... articulated words and indistinct mutterings reverberated across it... a mathematical expression whose approximate value is 3.14159365... The given value of π is expressed in recurrent decimals, non-terminating, and non-repeating. Gloomy ramparts rose, and Hamlet spoke, "If it be not now, 'tis yet to come; if 'tis yet to come, it be not now, yet it will come." Ophelia, in her state of Denmark address, neither mentioned youth nor philosophy, steeped in melancholy, her hands in water.
My light and sound experiences with insight were brought to a close with what seemed to be an announcement in the background of a heavenly choir singing "lands of hope" and with a new story in a world that is just and still free. Momentarily, Jerusalem in England appeared, and I was a boy once again, belting out, "I will not cease from mortal toil, nor will my sword sleep in my hand, until..." Peitho's words were numberless and convincing. She sang, "Citizens of the world, it's up to you," her voice enchanted as she continued, "While you live, shine, have no grief at all, for life exists a short while, and time demands its due." Suddenly, there came an encore, and hemlock crept higher. Now in the sky, "War is the father of all," shouts Heraclitus, then a chorus responds, "Don't worry, all things change, be happy, all things change." With Socrates filling it fully in a final act of defiance, thunderous applause reverberated across the heavens.
Widespread social dementia has weakened altruism's correlate in the human brain. Decision centers have descended lower below the upper cortex of the brain, the civilized-refined part. As long as universal efforts to stop climate change are disrupted, the Earth will get warmer, resulting in far worse catastrophes. Delay is a boon to power centers that do not give a hoot for philosophy—time to gain more clout and control. Next year, catastrophes of flood and fire will return, and the unknown number of our numbered years will be one less. Who cares?