Letter to the editor

Is Man a Vandal?

Irving W. Knobloch, Ph.D.
(scientist, conservationist, and author of the
forthcoming book The Vandalization of the Earth)
438 Tulip Tree
East Lansing, MI  48823

From: PSCF 42 (June 1990): 136.

Only in this generation has it become abundantly clear that mankind has over-abused the earth to such an extent and with such ferocity that nature is "striking back" in many deadly ways.

Pollution problems in many small countries and in a score of larger cities are actually unbearable. In the demand for more goods and services, scores of belching smokestacks arise each year, not only causing acid rain and the greenhouse effect but also respiratory problems which are difficult to deal with.

Myriads of unknown and possibly valuable plants are cut down, not only in the tropics but in temperate regions, such as is going on in the Pacific Northwest. Renewable resources like trees can furnish man with income forever if properly managed, not to forget the valuable oxygen that they give off and the carbon dioxide that they absorb during their cycles.

Beautiful and piteously naive creatures are being exterminated at an alarming rate, or driven from their natural habitats in which they have evolved for millions of years in some cases.

The careless use of freon, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers have created enormous problems, some of which will be costly and difficult to correct.

One reason for the near-catastrophic state of the world is that mankind has forgotten or ignored the fact that the habitable part of the globe is less than one-fourth of its surface area; man continues to trespass into the deserts and into the wetlands. He also largely ignores the fact that there is a term "carrying capacity" and that just so many people can crowd into a given space. More than this number creates deep problems.

More importantly, when will we learn that the world is basically a NATURAL world-a world consisting of soil, water, air and living organisms-and is governed by many well-known laws or principles? If we thwart the principles, we must be prepared to pay a heavy price. There are other worlds such as the business world, the art world, the world of sports and other entertainment but these other worlds, important though they be, must be managed in such a way so as not to counteract the principles which hold the natural world together. It is the opinion of such great minds as those of Drs. Borlaug, Raven, Hardin, Ehrlich, Borgstrom and many others that any further increase in the human population would create an intolerable demand for more goods and services, and this demand would certainly cause an increased degradation of our environment. Birth rates and death rates must be balanced. Indeed, if the earth is to be habitable forever it would be better if family size was limited to one child per family in view of the large number of young people now pronouncing their marriage vows