Friday, August 29, 2014

The Horseman: A 1976 exploration of global crises and solutions

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1887
Presented to the Club by Robert M. Henderson in 1976

On this final evening of a very enjoyable year of camaraderie and discussions you might wonder what "The Horseman" has to offer to such an illustrious group. Particularly so in this bicentennial year of our nation's history. I'll start by thanking our host, Bill Selke, for a delightful dinner and the opportunity to share with him his lovely home.

Then, let me ramble just a bit and state some seemingly unrelated bits of information, mostly of my early life, as they all do have some bearing on the main point of this evening's presentation.

As a young boy and for many years thereafter, horses were my first love. My only goal as a youngster was to have my own horse to train and to ride. In due course, this came about, and I thoroughly enjoyed riding, pack trailing, and training horses. Even today it is a pleasurable experience for me to ride a good horse. During high school and college days, I broke several horses to ride — and in my senior year in college, I rode in the first intercollegiate rodeo. This sport has now developed into a rather large affair, and some 57 schools have organized rodeo teams today. (Editor's note: As of 2014, there are more than 135 colleges who are members of NIRA, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association). My participation was in the less strenuous roping events and my success was absolutely zero. Nonetheless, I did consider myself quite a horseman and a judge of good horses.

Sometime when I was in the lower grades of Sunday School, the lesson was on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. A picture of the same title still lives etched in my memory. Four beautiful steeds charging dynamically forward  — beautiful animals, but what riders! Conquest, War, Pestilence, and Famine. At that young age, I could only think these were a thing of the past, had not my father and his buddies just won the "War to End All Wars." The family doctor knew how to cure everything from colds and broken legs to pestilence, if there ever was such a thing. And while we had poor families in the area, no one I knew ever came even close to starving. However, my Sunday School teacher did bring me into a little more realistic viewpoint by pointing out that throughout history there had been and still was war and famine and pestilence. No matter, thought I, with wars now a thing of the past, we can soon conquer famine and pestilence. Ah, youth!

A third event that had some major bearing on my philosophical outlook on life was a college debate in which I took the affirmative side of "Resolved: There should be a world government." I was not, and am not, an expert debater — and I cite the almost zero success I have in arguing with my good wife as evidence — but I did not find myself getting more involved with the idea of a world government. I concluded that a world government or reasonable facsimile thereof is an absolute necessity to securing the future of mankind.

More recently, about ten years ago, I headed up the marketing effort for Jones Division, Beloit Corporation [a maker of paper manufacturing equipment], and was looking for ways to build our business. We had, for a number of years, toyed with food processing machinery. However, we had never really looked at the overall global picture and I set about to do so. It was pretty simple arithmetic to view the then 3.5 billion world population and the so-called balanced diet of protein, fat, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins, relate these to the world's ability to produce and distribute and require foodstuff and reach the conclusion that we were facing continued and large problems.

The short-range picture, of course, indicated the most critical shortage was in the supply of protein, and we spent considerable time analyzing potential protein sources. How to utilize these sources and how to distribute the protein. But enough for the short-range picture. What about the long-range viewpoint? Again it did not take any mathematical genius to extrapolate the data to a 10 or 20-year time range. The amount of tillable land is reaching a known limit, the effect of fertilizer and improved seed varieties are quite predictable and with fairly predictable birth rate and mortality rate figures, the global long range food pictured looked anything but good.

Simultaneously, many other factors become involved; some were easily defined, other factors were almost impossible to imagine, let alone define. Such factors as the availability of energy, water and raw material, together with the use rate of each, all have an interrelationship to our ability to produce food. Then add governmental, social, environmental, economic, religious and cultural factors and the total food problem becomes tremendously complex.

Needless to say, I,  as an individual, simply ran out of mental capacity to comprehend the magnitude of the problem — like the pilot experiment so notably illustrated in Scientific American a number of years ago. The experiment used a candid camera arrangement and the pilot was supposed to monitor an increasingly large number of dials, gages and indicating devices. After a certain number of instruments, he finally, mentally — and physically, too, simply closed his eyes as recorded by the hidden camera.

In any event, confused as I was, yet no less concerned, I felt that with all our intellectual, creative capability, somehow some meaningful directions and guidelines for the future could be formulated.

In 1968 I noted with interest the discussions of the Club of Rome as they started to focus on the future of Planet Earth. "Aha!" I thought!  This is just what the world needs. A group of highly intelligent people with a wide range of experience and education, from a variety of nations, and with essentially unlimited financial resources. Certainly, this is just the kind of group that we need. Intellect, internationality, money — how could they fail?

Those of you who read the Club's first report issued in 1972 entitled The Limits to Growth undoubtedly shared my disappointment. In my opinion, with the exception of again highlighting the urgency of the total global crisis, with which urgency I readily concur, The Limits to Growth was pretty much another doomsday report.

In the meantime, in my limited ability to quantify the various catastrophes that could happen or are happening, it appeared to me that the food and/or population explosion crisis was by far the most critical of all the factors facing us today. I do not mean to minimize any of the others — energy, environment, health, safety, the ever-present threat of a major war —all are crises in themselves and all are inter-related not only with each other but also through social, economic, cultural and governmental strata.

My analysis of such noble efforts as our church's One Great Hour of Sharing, the Harvest of Hope, together with the total foreign aid budgets and the many other gallant efforts in this crisis is that they have three things in common:
  1. They all help.
  2. They are excellent means of increasing individual awareness of the problems.
  3. In total the efforts are small in comparison with the magnitude of the problem. In essence, in spite of these noble and gallant efforts, we continue to lose ground in the long-range picture. Something has to happen to change the situation. Either we take large positive steps toward a solution or a catastrophic solution of self-generating nature will occur.
So my search over the years had still been in vain. But, I did run into a few new angles that had some interesting aspects. For example, a global study of breast feeding versus bottle feeding indicated that bottle feeding was gaining both in the developed countries and the under-developed countries. One of the few areas where breast feeding is gaining is among the well-to-do, college educated, American mothers. This information would be only of passing interest except the magnitude of the matter is such that world-wide, over $1 billion per year of high-class protein is already being lost by bottle feeding. In addition to the economic loss of valuable protein — and the billion dollar figure is only the milk value alone, not including bottles and nipples — two other measurable side effects occur.
  1. Bottle-fed baby mortality rate is measurably higher than the breast fed rate.
  2. The mothers of bottle-fed babies return to the ovulation cycle 2 1/2 to 25 months sooner than the mothers of breast-fed babies, thereby further contributing to the population explosion.
So my search for meaningful long-range solutions continued. Numerous articles and a number of books failed to yield the clues needed. However, when searching these past few weeks for additional data for this presentation, I came across a concept that comes closer, for me, than any other to a positive approach to our long-range global problems.  The concept and ideas are outlined in the book Mankind at the Turning Point, published in 1974. The book covers the "second report of the Club of Rome." Possibly the reason I had not read it previously was because of the great disappointment I had in their first report.

Mankind at the Turning Point presented to me new, exciting, innovative concepts. Positive concepts that can be implemented within our life times to solve our long-range problems. Time tonight does not permit any more than a brief outline of the report, but I urge each of you to read it.

Why do these particular concepts intrigue me? There are a number of reasons:
  1. As I mentioned previously, I was intrigued with the Club of Rome. Intellectuals from many fields, many nations, well-financed and essentially no government restrictions.
  2. The approach taken by the Club was global.
  3. The time span studied was 50 years, not the usual five to ten years.
  4. Sophisticated computer technology and equipment was utilized. Sophisticated to the degree that judgment factors could be added at any point and further, that time factors could be simulated so that a multitude of "what-if" scenarios could be programmed and evaluated.
  5. The interrelation of the various problems could be programmed to the study was not limited to just the food crisis or the population crisis or any single problem, but the total global problems.
Their goals were to seek positive approaches to solutions of the problems. To me, these were the basic ingredients required for resolution of a highly complex problem. Let me briefly outline the computer programming techniques used as the degree of complexity is significant.

They divided the world into ten regions with similar cultural, environmental, economic and technological conditions. They next factored into each region six stratums starting with the individual — his inner world, his psychological and biological make-up.

Next the group stratum, representing the system of institutional and societal responses and on throught the economic, technological, ecological and geophysical stratums.

When all these factors and their interrelationships to such things as diet requirements, land availability, land production capability, water requirements, energy demands, etc., etc., are programmed the need for highly sophisticated computer techniques and equipment is obvious.

A basic five-point thesis was established for this effort consisting of the following:
  1. The world can be viewed only in reference to the prevailing differences in culture, tradition, and economic development, as a system of interacting regions: a homogenous view of such a system is misleading.
  2. Rather than collapse of the world system as such, catastrophes or collapses on a regional level could occur, although in different regions, for different reasons, and a different times. Since the world is a system, such catastrophes will be felt profoundly throughout the entire world
  3. The solution to such catastrophes in the world system is possible only in the global context and by appropriate global actions. If the framework for such join action is not developed, none of th regions would be able to avoid the consequences. For each region, its turn would come in due time.
  4. Such a global solution could be implemented only through balanced, differentiated growth which is analogous to organic growth rather than undifferentiated growth. It is irrefutable that the second type of growth is cancerous and would ultimately by fatal.
  5. The delays in devising such global strategies are not only detrimental or costly, but deadly. It is in this sense that we truly need a strategy for survival. 
The thesis sounded logical and workable to me. So, the program was developed, and thousands of scenarios have been fed to the computer, and what are the readouts?

Basically, a viable plan is presented to resolve our long-range problems. Again, time does not permit anything other than a brief resume of a very complex and sophisticated action program. And again I would recommend reading the report as it, more clearly than I can, outlines the solutions. But for tonight, here are the optimum read-outs for the food and energy crises. 

A feasible solution to the world food crisis requires five things:
  1. A global approach to the problem
  2. Massive investment aid rather than commodity aid, except for food
  3. A balanced economic development for all regions
  4. An effective population policy
  5. World-wide diversification of industry leading to a truly global economic system
Only a proper combination of these measures will lead to a solution. Omission of any one will surely lead to disaster.

In regard to the energy crisis, the computer read-out shows the way to maximize the wealth of not only the OPEC countries but also the developed countries is to increase the price of oil approximately three percent per year until a price increase of 50 percent over today's price is reached. From then on, oil prices should level off. In the intervening years, new energy sources — nuclear, goal gasification, geothermal and solar — must be developed to fill the gap between demand and supply. And it appears that solar should have the most emphasis. 

The foregoing results in both the food and the energy crises are achievable only through global cooperation and any war or major conflict would seriously interfere with the attainment of the goals. 

What does all this mean to the Monday Evening Club? Frankly, many things. First, if the premises present are of interest but subject to debate, let us do so, but do it in the spirit that has prevailed in the past toward seeking a better world.

Second, let us do so soon, as delays will cause great losses monetarily and in human lives.

Third, if the premises presented do, after suitable discussion and debate, prove viable, let us start to do our part toward implementing them.

We can start by self-education followed by educating our children, contemporaries and the rest of the world.

We can work toward global cooperation, and let's be realistic, such cooperation is going to require the sacrifice of some of our so-called freedoms and rights.

We can, once headway is made toward global cooperation, urge for major reductions in the armaments race.

We can urge now for increased foreign investment aid and can increase our gifts of food to the underdeveloped countries.

We can practice all kinds of conservation — food: eat less, and particularly less beef; energy: reduce pleasure driving, less hot water, lower room temperatures, etc.

And there are many more things we can do, but let us each earnestly seek them out and implement them accordingly. We can indeed conquer the four horsemen of the apocalypse. 

In closing, I would like to read one short paragraph from the report:
The analysis of the report, as stated, extend over a period of fifty years. If, during this coming half century, a viable world systems emerges, an organic growth pattern will have been established for mankind to follow thereafter. If a viable system does not emerge, projections thereafter will be academic.
Winston Churchill stated in his farewell speech to the House of Commons that "man is facing the ominous choice between supreme disaster or immeasurable reward." (Editor's note: Although other sources attribute similar words to Churchill, his farewell speech contains no such language, not does any other speech or work by Churchill.)

Gentlemen, the choice is ours to make.

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