Sunday, July 4, 1976; p. 18L

For Today's Thinkers, 2076 Is a Mix of Optimism, Dread

by Charles Whited
Herald Staff Writer

New epochs emerge with comparative suddenness.
– Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead

Florida in the century ahead: bold new horizons, or the beginning of the end?

Life on planet earth from now until 2076 A.D. will be unlike anything that has gone before.

And the Sunshine State, its population rocketing along at the nation's fastest clip (seven million now, double by the turn of the century) rides in the forefront of change.

"We stand," observed one ecologist-futurist, "at the hinge of history."

At the present pace, however, planners see Florida badly crowded for living space by 2000 A.D., its great natural resources – fresh water, land, clean air – running short.

SO DRAMATIC will be the changes in technology, balance of population and human lifestyle that even the most astute today can draw only the broadest outlines.

Said former County Manager Ray Goode, looking to such long-range developments as Dade County's mass transit facilities and the needs for power, water, housing and public services: "Technology changes so rapidly that it is not reasonable to talk of more than two or three decades ahead."

Even the most optimistic experts also acknowledge that, for good or ill, Florida's future is inextricably
bound to that of the nation and the world.

And that view, in the minds of South Florida futurists, physicists, geologists, food supply researchers, anthropologists, and others, is a mix of optimism and dread.

ON THE BRIGHT side there are those who see unlimited potential as civilization harnesses fresh technology to new human values for creation of a world of peace and plenty.

Such thinking has long preoccupied Jacque Fresco, 60, a goateed self-styled futurist, lecturer, author, artist, sometime industrial designer, founder of a group called Sociocyberneering Inc.

"Man can achieve anything he wishes to achieve," Fresco insists. "The technology is already known."

Cities by Design, And the People Too?

PLANNED CITIES, Genetic selection, Computer control of environment, industry, and lifestyle. Conquering of disease. Energy drawn from the fiery heart of the earth itself, the sun and radiation belts in space. A world without national boundaries, sharing resources in managed balance of population, a world of "creative experience," peace, enlightenment . . .

Are such things possible?

"Anything," Fresco declares, "is possible."

But beyond his Coral Gables home with its imaginative drawings and designs for the 21st Century, South Florida scientists delving into hard-nosed realities are less optimistic.

They reason that even if we somehow escape nuclear holocaust, man will reap a bitter harvest from rampant overpopulation, glutinous waste of natural resources and rape of the environment.

As world population continues to explode, one out of three humans now goes hungry.

THE ENERGY CRISIS is already here. "We will be out of oil," one Miami physicist predicts flatly, "in 50 years."

Geologists fear the onset of a new Little lee Age, accelerated by man's tampering with his environment;
or, equally devastating, a sudden heating of the atmosphere due to pollution and increased burning of fossil fuels, melting the ice caps and causing worldwide flooding.

Result: vast upheavals in the traditional balances of world power.

At the University of Miami, this year's Bicentennial faculty lectures touched on some of the raw nerves of the future. Several lecturers were asked to summarize their views for this article. ·

Dr. Harm de Blij, geography professor and associate dean of arts and sciences, looks to "a period of environmental reversal, including:
• Substantial decline in the earth's capacity to produce food.
• Exhaustion of critical non-renewable resources before alternatives have been developed.
• Breakdown of the "state-based, fragile global political order whose preservation has been a matter of national priority."

"In a manner unprecedented in the two centuries of our national history," Dr. de Blij warns, "the United States will sustain the pressures of a world in ecological crisis."

The planet, he noted, Is issuing warning signals that cannot be ignored.

"While nations struggle among themselves, a greater enemy looms.".

Dr. de Blij believes that recent disastrous harvests in much of the world indicate major reversals of climate. The Sahara is spreading southward in Africa, causing widening starvation. South Asia's lifegiving monsoon rains are beginning a little later each year. "The prospect exists that the monsoon will fail altogether in an upcoming year. The impact of such an event on South Asia's population, and on world order, is simply unimaginable." Satellite weather pictures in recent years suggest that polar caps are widening

Dwindling Harvests – Food Becomes a Weapon

IN THE GLOBAL struggle to survive, Dr. de Blij sees traditional ideological alliances wiped out, treaties
and power blocs no longer relevant, and enormously expanded human · migration "bread-basket" areas of the world, notably North America.

"It is a time," he declares, "for an American mobilization, a national perception of the environmental threat, a reorientation of priorities to cope with the most immediate effects of ·a shrinking habitable world."

From the quiet of a rock-cluttered basement office in the UM science building, Geologist Cesare Emiliani also ponders a future world torn between the haves and the have-nots.

"Food will become a weapon," warns Dr. Emiliarti. "We have all the food and they have bombs. It is a touchy situation."

From a study of ooze, dredged from the sea bottom off Florida, the Italian-born geologist and several colleagues have actually measured the onset of a new cold weather cycle for the globe.

The ooze contains tiny fossil shell organisms. By combining carbon-14 datings with chemical analysis revealing the temperature at which the shells were formed, the team has discovered that these cold cycles are much more frequent than previously thought. "We know that in the 12th Century Greenland
was green. That's how it got its name. In the 17th and 18th centuries, we had a Little Ice Age. The first half of the 20th Century was warm. Mankind with his technology, better medicine and abundant food supply was able to flourish.

"BUT THERE has been a decrease in global temperature between 1948 and today. As a result the
wheat belt is moving south, compressed southward by this reduction in temperature."

Despite the current trend, the actual future climate is impossible to predict because of man's activities.

"We are perched right on top of an unstable period," said Cesare Emiliani. "God knows what will happen. Whatever man does could precipitate the next glacial age or, due to rapid burning of fossil fuels, lead to a melting of the polar regions."

Gains In Population Increase the Problems

Among those concerned with world food production is Dr. John Davies, professor of medicine at UM, who cites the mindboggling arithmetic of world population as we enter the nation's Third Century.

"In the 200 years since 1776," he said, "the population grew from 800 million on earth to 3.96 . billion. At this rate there will be 6.13 billion people by the year 2000. With figures such as these, the essential problem on earth today is lack of food."

DR. DAVIES, an epidemiologist, is engaged in a federally funded study of food production problems and pest control as related to public health. America, he believes, must take the lead in finding ways to increase food production and balancing the technology to make this possible.

Part of the complexity is found In the use of chemicals to control pests.

In order to preserve the environment, chemicals have been introduced which are less harmful to basic
organisms, fish arid wildlife but more toxic to man. Result: an estimated 500,000 human poisonings annually, about one per cent of them fatal, and the added problem of poison residues built up in human tissues which contribute to such diseases as cancer.

Researchers also are seeing mutational resistance to certain chemicals in the pests they are supposed to kill, just as bacteria is able to overcome the killing power of antibiotics.

IN PARTS OF Central America the number of human malaria cases has doubled as a result of parathion spraying of cotton. Reason: the malaria-bearing mosquito has built up resistance to less powerful mosquito-control chemicals. "So we are going back to biological techniques and other non-chemical means to manage situations such as this," Dr. Davis said.

But with the great prairies of North America producing some 94 per cent of the world's grain exports, he sees the nation's role as world food-producer growing more and more critical as we advance toward the 21st Century.

"I am terribly proud of what America is doing. It's an unsung achievement, and we are the only people who CAN do it."

Despite dire predictions, Dr. Davies feels that It is technically possible to feed the world. "The adaptability of man to such challenge is reassuring."

Energy, however, is another matter.

Energy a Component In Balance of Power

DR. GEORGE ALEXANDRAKIS, chairman of the UM Department of Physics, talks about energy: "This is going to be a matter of survival. It will be a major component for the balance of international power.

"During approximately the first half of the century, shortages not only will affect development of the nation but also the lifestyle and standard of living of the people.

"At present or slightly higher rates of consumption, we will be out of oil in 50 years, out of natural gas in perhaps 20 years. Our coal reserves, however, could extend to 300 years."

Despite concerns over pollution and environmental threat, the physicist predicts that the world in this
next half century will depend more and more on coal and nuclear energy to produce electric power.

BY THE END of this century about 10 per cent of our electricity may be generated by geothermal energy-tapping the fiery core of the earth to produce steam.

The squeeze on growing shortages of oil, however, will force sharp cutbacks In Its use long before supplies are exhausted. Petroleum, after all, is more than a fuel to burn; It is the raw material for producing plastics, synthetic fibers and foods.

"Suppose toward the end of this century we get a couple of bad crop years, or we louse up the climate and the food supply becomes critical. If you have enough carbon left lying around, in the form of oil reserves or coal, it's conceivable that nourishing – if not particularly tasty – food could be synthesized."

While such potential energy sources as geothermal power, tapping the heat from the Inner earth, ocean tides and temperature variations and hydrogen could be tapped to make up for intermediate shortages, Dr. Alexandrakis sees two keys to the ultimate future: Solar energy and nuclear fusion.

In today's technology, neither is likely to be feasible for another 50 years.

"To build a solar power plant adequate to power a major electrical generating system, you need to cover about 50 square miles of earth with solar collectors.

"AS FOR THERMONUCLEAR fusion, which is the process that powers the sun and on which the hydrogen bomb operates, It has not been successfully controlled."

The two combined, however, could provide unlimited power for man's civilization in the 21st Century: Solar energy because it is abundant and would not in crease thermal pollution of the atmosphere; thermonuclear fusion because it is clean and, utilizing heavy hydrogen, "adequate to run the earth for several million years."

If mankind Is indeed to survive the coming epoch and come to terms with nature, there are those who feel that first he must come to terms with himself. Scott Herrick, a 50-year-old pacifist, writer, peaceworker and self-styled "Citizen of the World" long active in Quaker causes, puts it this way:

"THE DINOSAUR lasted 140 million years. We've lasted four million and are burning out already. We have got to understand that we are not outside of nature; human beings are part of nature and must integrate with it.

"There is no reason to think, we will get away with the abuse of reality. We can be recycled. There are days when I feel like a human aluminum can."

Running like a constant thread through every serious study of the future is the warning that traditional nationalism – the source of so many traditional conflicts – can no longer be afforded. ·

"Kissinger talked about this, the third world, the rights of the third world," Herrick said. "He said interdependence is no longer a matter of choice. It is simply a fact. You pick a daisy, you shake a tree.

"It is the same with nature. Everything is in critical balance. Even our oceans are threatened with death from pollution. Look, what's endangered here is our life support system on earth. ·

"MAN IS NOW on the list of most endangered species.

"The question Is, 'Is there Intelligent life on earth?' There is no evidence of it at the moment. And yet the potential is there; the potential is enormous."


At Florida International University, Dr. George Kovacs, chairman of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, sees the potential for man to be freed as never before: from toil, from fear, even from death itself.

"Life will become much more qualitative," Dr: Kovacs said. "Not a matter of living or not living, but living to do what? To accomplish what? And there be different alternatives."

Ultimately, he believes, the time could come when life of human beings could be extended indefinitely, and such a condition "would alter our basic understanding of what we are."

EVEN THE CONCEPT of God would change in a deathless society. "Today it is easy to use the nature of God as a crutch. Our present religion is based on the finiteness of man. But by reshaping our being, our conception of the divine would become more ethereal and more

Dr. Kovacs compares this idyllic future to a rediscovery of the Lost Paradise, with enormous potential for enjoyment of the free life.

"In the Garden of Eden, man did not have to work; and so it could be in the future. You don't have to become a slave in order to be alive. This is coming. It is a realistic projection of ourselves." In the process, education would have a rediscovery of its true meaning.

"The very name 'school' means a place for self development, for leisure; not just a factory to turn out people to work in other factories."

And yet he wondered aloud if the potential is truly within reach, considering the nature of the creature.

Matter of Survival By No Means Assured

"THE ELIMINATION of war and violence is not assured. Our destiny remains fragile. The greatest threat to all our hopes and dreams is rugged individualism.

"Look at the great violence in Miami. It is unbelievable that we are living in 1976, with all its talk of brotherhood . . ."

FIU's Dr. Randy Frances Kandel is a 30-year-old mother of two, who, as assistant professor of anthropology, teaches a course titled "Anthropology of the Year 2000."

Socially, she believes, humans can meet whatever challenges beset them; indeed, are doing so all the time. Within the memories of living people, technology and jet travel have shrunk the globe to the point where what affects one nation can affect many.

She tells her students: "Some kind of world governing system probably should and would come into existence. What kind of system would you like for this to be? How could you as an individual help to bring it about?"

IN AMERICA, as elsewhere, customs have already changed drastically, and will change more drastically still.

"We are seeing higher divorce rates," Dr. Kandel noted. "People are moving around, changing careers
more often, having intimate relationships with more people in a lifetime, having children spaced out at different times in their lives."

She does not see food production as an insoluble problem, citing not only developments of new and more abundant strains of grains and rice but also the tremendous potential of sea farming and super-protein production now in the experimental stage.

"The major problems that exist now in feeding the world are political and economic. We still have a situation where, while millions starve in the world, one of the biggest; problems in this country is obesity.''

But in society itself, Dr. Kandel sees the rise of deep and soul-searching questions.

ITEM: If transplant of artificial organs becomes commonplace, "where do we draw the line between man and machine?"

ITEM: Suppose the time comes when you could go baby shopping at a "sperm bank" or an "egg bank" and could pick a baby as you would a pedigree animal. What kind of characteristics would you select?

ITEM: In the remote possibility that humans could, indeed, live forever, what would a world be like without children?

ITEM: If future survival is to depend in large measure on some sort of population control, how are the
limits to be set on births, and by whom?

But first, can we survive at all?

Futurist Jacque Fresco talks with passion about his world of benign central control, use of all waste materials, three dimensional spacial TV images that you can also be programmed to touch, heat-absorbing sidewalks ("You could get enough hot water for the whole state of Florida."), use of polar regions as vast cold storage areas for surplus grains, and travelers hurtling across the country aboard 1,000 mile-an-hour trains which ride, in endless tunnels, cushions of electromagnetic energy…

Will man, given his greedy, combative nature, survive to see such a world?

Fresco frowned. "The probability is low."