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How to Better Understand the Modern World

How to Better Understand the Modern World

J. T. Trevors and M. H. Saier

The modern world is a difficult and complicated entity to understand.  Scholars in all disciplines, politicians, the military, students, the media, general public, religious fanatics, criminals, all approach the world from a different perspective of understanding, to name a few examples.   However, many people fail to understand our modern world because of complex, interconnected knowledge gaps and/or fragmented knowledge.  The best way to under stand or modern world is to have a grasp of  history, geography, engineering, medicine and public health  and religion.  Without an understanding of these interconnected disciplines it is extremely difficult to understand how the world arrived at its present situation.   By the present situation we mean 7 billion humans, increasing at about 75 million new people annually, and the international crisis of global climate change where nations cannot agree upon a plan of action for a sustainable future, basic human needs and rights and preventing hunger, suffering and death for over 1 billion human beings and ending conflicts.

    We will limit the remainder of this example to how to better understand total global pollution by understanding some past interconnected events. The total pollution of our planet is really the sum of all past human and non-human activities. For example, a naturally occurring events such as volcanic disruptions spewing ash in the atmosphere are events that humans have no control over. Other examples include electromagnetic radiation striking the Earth, tectonic shifts, earthquakes, some species extinctions and natural disasters are events we have not caused but have had immense and profound effects on humans and other species on our planet. However with the invention of agriculture, the migration of humans to cities, the industrial revolution, a fossil fuel supported and driven global economy, 7 billion humans, super-consumerism, past and present day military conflicts, a lack of conservation efforts, testing of atomic weapons, to name a few examples has lead to the complete pollution of our planet. To understand how this happened one simply needs to understand uncontrolled and rapid human population growth, religions that promote lack of birth control, massive cities often lacking infrastructure, the massive amounts of consumer products from the petro-chemical industry, the increasing use of agro-chemicals to support 7 billion humans, human greed in the form of consumerism and fraudulent banking activities, the political-industrial-military complex that is addicted to conflicts and wars, corrupted, radical religious beliefs that promote hatred and discrimination, and a human history of conflicts, treaties, alliances, military competition and arms manufacturing that do not promote the best of human behavior. These events and interconnected, the outcomes of decisions are often not understood at the time the initial decisions were made.  Problems  are created at one level but require several levels more of complexity to solve and often require multinational or international cooperation, which is difficult to put in place.

    To better understand how humanity can sustain a common, shared biosphere, humans need to better understand the events that have brought us to the present global situation. A profound and deep understanding of interconnected, unfragmented knowledge is required by our local, national and international leaders. Many of them simply do not have this knowledge base, or if they do, they do demonstrate it in their actions. A starving human is not fed by rhetoric. The best way to end discrimination is to stop discriminating. The best way to serve humanity is to act in a humane manner. And it is recognized that some times, even the best decisions can turn out to be incorrect and unavoidable events occur.

J. T. Trevors
School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1

M. H. Saier
Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA  92093-0116, USA