Watching the World
“The Unknown Planet”
Three previously unknown species of monkeys were found in the Amazon rain forest in just two years. Worldwide, an average of three new species of birds are discovered each year. Some 1,200 species of beetles turned up in a study of 19 trees in Panama, and 80 percent of them were not known before. Notes the magazine UNESCO Sources: “Vast numbers of life forms remain unknown to us.” For instance, “an estimated 40 percent of South America’s fresh water fish remain to be classified. . . . And what will we find in the largely unexplored ocean depths?” The problem intensifies when you consider the vast numbers of smaller life forms: the bacteria, fungi, nematodes, arachnids, insects, and plants that have yet to be discovered. Just “one gram of tropical soil, for example, can contain up to 90 million bacteria and microbes.” Some estimate that the number of species on earth may be “as high as 200 million,” says UNESCO Sources. Despite extensive exploration, earth still remains “the unknown planet.”
Canada’s Rapid Change of Values
“In less than a generation, Canadians—both English and French—have rejected the authority of the church, the state and the monopolies and oligopolies that used to provide comfort and order in the marketplace and in society,” reports The Toronto Star. Why? They want immediate material gratification. There is an attempt to “have it all” now. “The Judeo-Christian moral code has been replaced by secular humanism, Catholic orthodoxy by material hedonism. Few are willing to defer gratification to the next life, let alone one’s old age,” adds the Star. God is no longer viewed as a supernatural being. Thus, there is no fear, no guilt. Spiritual interests suffer as all efforts are directed toward maximizing the rewards of the material world.
Could anyone living in the last century have imagined such modern-day developments as automobiles, mass transportation, electronic music, and fax machines? In 1863, French novelist Jules Verne, well-known for such works as Around the World in 80 Days and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, predicted those developments and more in a previously unpublished novel entitled Paris in the 20th Century. Although Verne’s publisher rejected it as being too farfetched and unbelievable, the recently discovered work paints an amazingly accurate picture of life in our 20th century, including advanced weaponry, the electric chair, pollution, and traffic jams. Verne foresaw a harried population that had lost interest in past classical achievements and culture, a society enslaved by commercialism and addicted to technology. The Paris International Herald Tribune noted: “Not only did Verne predict many feats of modern technology, but he also discerned some of the most frightening consequences.”
Japan’s Crime Surge
Japan, until recently considered relatively crime free, is experiencing a surge in crime that police blame on the recession, increased gun smuggling, and the dwindling power of organized crime. According to police official Takaji Kunimatsu, gun-related crimes have reached record levels and, if unchecked, will “shake the foundation of public order” in Japan. According to the Mainichi Daily News, crimes committed by “ordinary people” are also on the rise, caused in part by “the unrelieved stress from congested urban living.” To help city dwellers survive, sociology professor Susumu Oda made the following suggestions: Maintain minimal courtesies, such as acknowledging greetings, saying “excuse me” when appropriate, and smiling “to diffuse any perceptions of enmity.” Learn the art of polite refusal. Make a habit of using the security chains on doors. Regard the police as allies. And “do not regard martial arts training as being a means of protecting yourself from crime—it is more likely to get someone badly injured.”
Blood Transfusion Risks
“Canada’s blood supply could be scrutinized a millennium from now and blood transfusion risks would still exist,” reported The Toronto Star. Testifying before a commission investigating the safety of Canada’s blood supply, Dr. William Noble of St. Michael’s Hospital said: “They (the risks) exist and they will always exist.” The blood transfusion risks include “everything from allergic reaction to contracting AIDS from donated blood,” says the Star. Experts in administering blood transfusions claim that more and more patients today are worried about contracting AIDS from blood. Says Dr. Noble: “There never is a day that goes by that we don’t have a conversation concerning ‘Should I give a transfusion or should I not?’”
“Illegal trafficking in black bear parts from Canada can be more lucrative than participating in the international drug trade,” claims The Toronto Star. There is an unusual demand for the gallbladder and paws of the black bear by practitioners of traditional medicine in the wealthier countries of Asia, such as China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. “A California enforcement official has estimated the ‘street value’ (the cost to the end user) of a kilogram of bear bladder in Asia escalated to more than $1 million (U.S.) by the time the bile was ‘stepped on’ (diluted) with bile from cows or pigs,” adds the Star. “By comparison, the street value of cocaine in Metro Toronto has been estimated at $100,000 per kilogram.” Endangered species specialist Carole Saint-Laurent, of the World Wildlife Fund/Canada, says: “It is an enormously big business.” There is fear that the demand for bear parts will continue to escalate. The bear population has already been largely wiped out in Asia.
Brazil’s Endangered Species
“Brazil has three times more tropical forests than any other country, is the world’s leader in biological diversity, and still has the most varied fauna of mammals, 460 species, in its territory,” says the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. “But Brazil is also the leader of endangered species, 310, of which 58 are mammals.” Although no mammal so far has become extinct, “12 percent of the Brazilian mammals are in danger,” such as “the lion tamarin, which exists only in Brazil.” Some endangered species “live in such restricted areas that any interference in their habitat can lead to their extinction.” According to the newspaper, a species is considered extinct if 50 years pass without any specimen being found in the wild.
People on the Planet
According to statistics by UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), the number of people on the planet reached 5.66 billion in mid-1994. Projections estimate that figure to increase to 6 billion by 1998, 8.5 billion by the year 2025, and 10 billion by 2050, with nearly all the growth occurring in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Africa, with an annual population growth rate of 2.9 percent, is the fastest growing region in the world. Europe is lowest—0.3 percent. UNFPA also states that by the turn of the century, just five years from now, half of the world’s people will live in urban areas. By then, 300 cities in developing countries will contain over one million people, compared with 125 cities today.
Quality Relationships the Key
“It’s the kind of relationship adolescents have—and not the type of family—that predicts whether adolescents will use drugs or have behavior problems,” states The Toronto Star. A study by the Addiction Research Foundation of 2,057 youths in Ontario revealed that “the nature of family relationships has a stronger influence than the structure of the family itself,” said scientist Ed Adlaf. Adolescents in good family relationships, even though with adoptive or stepparents or single mothers, fared better than those in intact families where poor relationships existed. “Those who regularly talk about their problems with parents had the lowest rates of delinquency,” said the Star. “Those who never talk with either parent about problems had the highest rates of heavy drinking, drug use and delinquency.” How much time adolescents spend with their families, the quality of the relationships, and whether or not parents keep track of their children’s whereabouts and activities are primary factors in reducing problems. Said Adlaf: “It is important to spend time and make some time with children.”