Ralph Nader – Take Your Pick: The Omnicides That Threaten Us All If We Don’t Act

The five omnicides: climate violence; pandemics; nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; uncontrolled AI; and kleptocratic regimes.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate and the author of “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future” (2012). His new book is, “Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lies and Lawbreaking Betray All” (2020, co-authored with Mark Green).

Cross-posted from Common Dreams

Picture by Terry Kearney

The countries that straddle our tormented world are woefully unprepared to counter and prevent five Omnicides already underway or looming menacingly on the horizon. This is increasingly true with the yearly passage of neglected opportunities. The gap between our mounting knowledge and its application to these global threats is widening.

1. The Climate Crisis, better called Climate Violence, producing record storms, wildfires, droughts, sea-level rises, floods and unprecedented heat waves, is omnicidal. The year 2023 was the hottest in recorded history. Millions of lives are already being lost, with even more people suffering from climate-related illnesses and injuries. In addition, property destruction is rampant. The consequential effects of natural disasters are mounting in terms of damaged agriculture, soil erosion, habitat destruction (leading to species extinction) and the regional spread of insect-borne diseases such as Malaria.

Promised investments for mitigation and prevention made at the international “climate change” conventions have not been fulfilled. Renewable solar energy is growing, to be sure. However, the pace of proven responses required by the accelerating global warming is at abysmally low levels.

2. Viral and bacterial pandemics are looming larger by the decade. Faster transport carriers of infections often zoonotically transmitted, poor collaborations such as between China and the U.S., and increasing human-driven mutations from e.g., reckless over-use of antibiotics are exacerbating these problems. The proliferation of laboratories with inadequate safeguards for their “gain of function” and viruses and bacteria breaching containment all are raising alarming scenarios by scientists from many disciplines.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken approximately 15 million lives between 2020 to 2021, according to the World Health Organization. Specialists are saying it is not a question of “if,” but a question of “when” future pandemics will occur.

3. The omnicidal perils of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are not being confronted with the requisite international arms control treaties. Indeed, the existing treaties between the U.S. and Russia are being rescinded or suspended and the remaining ones are in danger of not being renewed and updated. The use of these weapons and their delivery capabilities is becoming decentralized, with fast-innovating drones and smart bombs.

Our Congress has no countervailing forces in motion, no serious hearings, no champions confronting the necessities of applying knowledge to action and compelling an empire-building White House to work to mobilize allies and non-allies alike around the world to negotiate peace treaties which are in everyone’s perceived self-interest. (Remember the treaties between the former Soviet Union and the U.S.)

4. “Artificial Intelligence” or “A.I.” is viewed by leading scientists and technologists as the ultimate tool capable of advancing an out-of-control doomsday future. Machines replicating themselves and turning on their creators is no longer science fiction. A coherent warning came from computer expert Bill Joy in his seminal article published by Wired Magazine on April 1, 2000, titled “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” He included in his triad of plausible horrors, A.I., Biotechnology and Nanotechnology and how they are interwoven with one another.

Without any regulation to speak of, these technologies are being driven by commercial/corporate short-term profit priorities, with heavy government subsidies and contracts. The citizenry’s input is not part of the equation.

In 2014, heavyweights in science and technology, led by Stephen Hawking, released a letter to the world warning of robots that could take control of their operations and replicate their algorithms resulting in direct control of human beings, autonomous weapons and other seizures of decisions from the human species. It was a one or two-day story in the mass media followed by a global shrug and back to business as usual. Congress and the Parliaments are unprepared and have done little to develop the enforceable legislation necessary to thwart this relentless self-inflicted momentum to omnicide.

5. Then comes the foundational omnicide stemming from a wave of elected dictators enabled by an excluded, deteriorating civil society. Political and corporate power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. In most countries, the political economy has converged into an ever-maturing Corporate State which President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned about in a 1938 message to Congress:

“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

Kleptocratic regimes come in various styles, depending on the nation’s stage of development, and operate by stealing from the future to enrich and entrench themselves in the present. Both in so-called developed and developing countries, they are displacing any semblance of modestly functioning democracies able, with the primacy of civil values and the rule of law, to foresee and forestall these approaching omnicides.

Where is the hope? Where it always has been, in societies with deliberative democratic practices and traditions of civic engagement that lean toward governments of, by, and for the people. Just one percent of the people resolving to commit and connect can start reversing these ominous drifts toward the cliffs.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education…”

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