World Health and the Environment:
Timothy W. Luke
Department of Political Science
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
and State University
Presented at the Third Annual Staff Development
Conference, University of Wisconsin
System Institute of Global Studies,
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin,
October 28-30, 2001
O. A Point of Departure
My charge here is simple: to sketch a broad intellectual context for the globalization issues that later conference sessions will address. More specifically, this sketch must encompass world health and the environment in a fashion that should help faculty begin to conceptualize interdisciplinary courses that would fit into a larger global studies curriculum. In many ways, there are few issues in the world today that are as pressing as those captured here in this cluster of questions. I am quite pleased to outline some thoughts in fulfillment of this charge, but I believe we must work with much greater measures of inter/multi/transdisciplinarity in order to succeed at this task.
To articulate all of the ambiguous interconnections between world health and the environment, one first must come to terms with the environment itself, then globalization and the nature of modern urbanism, the boundaries of the political and the subpolitical, the nature of personal and public health, and the social formations that link health and the environment. To trace these linkages, we need to first consider where we stand in 2001, looking back at how globalization has transformed world population levels, residence patterns, and environmental quality. The recurring motif that emerges from this reconsideration is inequality, so to cope with globalism's ambiguities this discussion speaks in favor of "public ecology," or a critical ecological politics that strives to improve life in both the unbuilt and built environment for human beings and nonhuman life as well.
There are severe inequalities at work today in global affairs--some are very old, and well known; some are quite old, and only now being recognized; some are new, and just now being felt. Most of them however, can be tied back to unequal levels of access, power, status, and wealth, which are becoming so quantitatively unbalanced on a global scale that they are turning into something qualitatively different. I hope to discuss a few implications of this inequality by concentrating upon world health and the environment, but I also want to complicate our ordinary everyday understandings of "the environment." Our analytical tools in both global studies and environmental studies are perhaps not adequate to the tasks of interpreting what is now unfolding. Instead, too many of our existing tools occlude what needs to be analyzed, who needs to be criticized, and what must be done to overcome these trends toward powerlessness and inequality (Onuf, 1989).
All too often, global studies is relegated to the realm of "Society" and its analysis is assigned to only the cultural and social sciences, while environmental studies are shuttled off to the domain of "Nature" and its consideration is given over exclusively to the biological and physical sciences. To really get at what is happening today, however, we need to focus on hybridities of Nature/Society at sites which intermix the natural and the social, like the "built environment," "natural history," or "social ecology." These amalgams of Nature/Society are what sustain and/or degrade overall levels of health and environmental quality for both human and nonhumans, and they materially manifest themselves in patterns of urban settlement, industrial ecology, and natural economy.
As the focus of power and locus of subjectivity in world markets, "the environment" ironically is forming at those settings which always already are being built and already always accessible in the apparently almost accidental anarchy of markets. The "environment" as a conceptual term is drawn originally from the field of strategic action. An environment is the state of being produced by a verb: "to environ." Environing means to encircle, encompass, envelop or enclose. It marks the physical activity of surrounding, circumscribing, or ringing around something. Its semantic derivations even indicate stationing guards around, thronging with hostile intent, or standing watch over some person or place. To environ a place or a person is to beset, beleaguer or besiege it.
Given this derivation of "the environment," an environmental act is already an instrumentally rational maneuver, aiming to construct or delimit some unbuilt site in nature--a locale, a biome, a planet as natural space--or some built site--a city, any region, the global economy --in policing envelopes of conscious control. Suddenly discovering "the environment" amidst a now perhaps long gone Nature during the 1960s lets us recognize how all environments are now increasingly complex logistical systems whose loosely bounded spaces are encircled by fast flows of time, energy, information, matter, and beings. Centering discourse and practice upon the environment, then, endows both Society and Nature with the hybridity to anchor a new historical a priori, or "a series of complex operations that introduce the possibility of a constant order into the totality of representations. It constitutes a whole domain of empiricity as at the same time describable and orderable" (Foucault, 1970: 158).
One vision of the many accidents "that gave birth to those things that continue to exist and value for us" (Foucault, 1977: 146) can be found in contemporary celebrations of the environment-generating forces at work in today‚s world marketplace as it mixes together Nature and Society in its machinations (Kennedy, 1992). William Greider, for example, asks us,
Imagine a wondrous new machine, strong and supple, a machine that reaps as it destroys. It is huge and mobile, something like the machines of modern agriculture but vastly more complicated and powerful. Think of this awesome machine running over open terrain and ignoring familiar boundaries. It plows across fields and fencerows with a fierce momentum that is exhilarating to behold and also frightening. As it goes, the machine throws off enormous mows of wealth and bounty while it leaves behind great furrows of wreckage.
Now imagine that there are skillful hands on board, but no one is at the wheel. In fact, this machine has no wheel nor any internal governor to control the speed and direction. It is sustained by its own forward motion, guided mainly by its own appetites. And it is accelerating.
The machine is the subject of this book: modern capitalism driven by the imperatives of global industrial revolution. The metaphor is imperfect, but it offers a simplified way to visualize what is dauntingly complex and abstract and impossibly diffuse the drama of a free-running economic system that is reordering the world.
The logic of commerce and capital has overpowered the inertia of politics and launched an epoch of great social transformations. Settled facts of material life are being revised for rich and poor nations alike. Social understandings that were formed by the hard political struggles of the twentieth century are put in doubt. Old verities about the rank ordering of nations are revised and a new map of the world is gradually being drawn. These great changes sweep over the affairs of mere governments and destabilize the established political orders in both advanced and primitive societies. Everything seems new and strange. Nothing seems certain (1996: 11).
Going faster and faster, while getting closer and closer to being out of control, this wondrous new machine has been milling out equally wondrous new urban and rural built environments in the proliferating markets of global capitalism. This is our new "empiricity," and public ecology can make it more describable and orderable.
A public ecology should fuse the concerns of public health with the activist engagements of a critical political ecology. By pushing past the exhausted conceptual divisions from the 1980s, which largely divided the more natural science-based "environmental sciences" from the more social science-focused "environmental studies," public ecology should mix the insights of life science, physical science, social science, applied humanities, and public policy into a cohesive conceptual whole. Public ecology should preserve, but also look beyond the "environmental problem" detection/monitoring/regulation regime of the National Environmental Protection Act (1970) in the USA. Instead it would work at the local and global level to develop "pre-pollutant" or "noncontaminant" approaches to environmental problems by using political pressure to work back up the commodity chain to lessen ecological damage by mobilizing solutions drawn from green engineering, industrial ecology or appropriate envirodesign. Public ecology must admit that the built and unbuilt environment are one and of a piece, not two and wholly separable.
To anchor this claim, I take Jameson‚s point about what he calls the postmodern condition as a critical point of departure. That is, it is what you have "when the modernization process is complete and nature is gone for good (1991: ix.). Nature‚s conquest by the economy/society/state over the past three centuries has created a second nature, a processed world, or a postmodern condition in which those who own and control the material and mental means of enforcing asymmetries in the production and consumption of wealth concretize new inequalities on an environmental scale. Far too many people and their things are relegated to second, third, fourth, fifth or other developing worlds, while a few people and their things in a developed, or "first," world benefit from the costs incurred elsewhere by these world-proliferating powers. The effects of this inequality often show up initially in world health and environmental quality.
To understand global affairs, we usually explore the division of humanity into nations, and then explain their conflict and cooperation as humans by looking at national-statal dynamics (Harvey, 1989; Kennedy, 1992). Yet, we also should to explore how nonhumanity is divided into many different environments, and then account for environmental crises and contradictions as nonhuman forces and structures become entangled globally in many extranational dynamics. Inequalities are no longer only global in scope; they are totally environmentalized in their sweep at the local, national, and global level. Given these goals, this overview of world health and the environment probably is imperfect, incomplete, and unfinished, but it offers public ecology as one possible solution.
I. On Globalization
Globalization can be a powerful framework for analyzing social trends in the year 2001. While this point now seems true enough for many of us living in the twenty-first century, globalization is too ambiguously specified in most accounts of its influence in contemporary economies and societies. As one scans events in the twentieth, nineteenth, eighteenth, seventeenth, sixteenth, and fifteenth centuries it is clear that European capitalist states, enterprises, and cities have been building world markets around first, the Old World, and then the New World in pursuit of their goals of greater global power and profit. As Marx and Engels recognized over a hundred and fifty years ago, something new and different begins with globalization to envelop the world‚s ecologies and economies:
All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature (Marx and Engels, 1978: 476-477).
In keeping with these new wants for products of distant lands, the concretion of goods and services from global markets propounds the material sources for sustaining human being in globalized spaces for an increasingly industrial, technological and urban form of life. Time and value, at this conjuncture, are often unhinged from fixed territorial formations defined by traditional canons of natural tempo, national ideology or local worth. No longer set in delimited geographic locations, or working in accord with a shared, stable, and structured sense of solar time and human somatic energy, one finds these older human times and social values run over by the shared interpretation of global exchange driven by more just-in-time values of performance.
While recognizing the speed at which the networks of globalization work today, one must remain cautious about how powerful, innovative or unprecedented the effects of globalization per se should be judged in 2001. They were equally, if not more, disruptive in the fifteenth or seventeenth centuries, because most human settlements were still fairly unique and largely disconnected locales rather than more uniform modes in fast capitalism's worldwide networks of exchange.
Beck draws distinctions between globalism, globality, and globalization to untangle these snarled influences. "Globalization," Beck suggests, "denotes the processes through which sovereign national actors are criss-crossed and undermined by transnational actors with varying prospects for power, orientations, identities, and networks" (2000: 11), while "globality" marks the existential conditions of a world society. Marx, Engels and Greider only underscore what Beck asserts: We have been living for quite some time in a world society, which is "the totality of social relationships which are not integrated into or determined (or determinable) by national-state politics" (Beck, 2000: 10). Finally, "globalism" seems to be what is most unique about the present moment, and it represents an ascendant professional-technical-intellectual worldview that holds,
the world market eliminates or supplants political action--that is, the ideology of rule by the world market, the ideology of neoliberalism. It proceeds monocausally and economistically, reducing the multidimensionality of globalization to a single, economic dimension that is itself conceived in a linear fashion. If it mentions at all the other dimensions of globalization--ecology, culture, politics, civil society--it does so only by placing them under the sway of the world-market system (Beck, 2000: 9).
Consequently, Beck argues globalism entails a set of beliefs and practices that suggest states, societies, and cultures can be run like a corporate capitalist enterprise, but "this involves a veritable imperialism of economics, where companies demand the basic conditions under which they can optimize their goals" (Beck, 2000: 9). Without a world state to guide the world society, companies have, in turn, the best possible conditions for growth: "a globally disorganized capitalism in continually spreading out. For there is no hegemonic power and no international regime either economic or political" (Beck, 2000: 13).
While there perhaps is no single hegemonic power today, the dilemmas posed by preserving world health and the environment suggest that there is hegemonic form of globality. Moreover, many globalists are more than willing to push certain conditions of consumption to produce it where it does not yet exist, even though there are many resistances. Most countries' rulers as well as most corporate managers are all working quite openly to bring many more global goods and services to consumers as a part of, first, their on-going programs to advance globalization, second, as an implicit sign of their globality, and, third, as a marker, complicitly of their shared submission if only for now, to globalism.
Yet, as Lyotard claims, so much of this continuous capitalist restructuring "continues to take place without leading to the realization of any of these dreams of emancipation" (1984: 39). With little trust in any narratives of truth, enlightenment or progress, Lyotard argues the science and technology behind big business are bringing many publics and markets through globality constructs almost entirely under the sway of "another language game, in which the goal is no longer truth, but performativity--that is, the best possible input/output equation" (1984: 46). On another level, as Jameson asserts, these mediations of performative globality are fabricating "a new social system beyond classical capitalism," as they proliferate across "the world space of multinational capital" (1991: 59,54). More specifically, as Harvey maintains, "flexible accumulation typically exploits a wide range of seemingly contingent geographical circumstances, and reconstitutes them as structured internal elements of its own encompassing logic....the result has been the production of fragmentation, insecurity, and ephemeral uneven development within a highly unified global space economy of capital flows" (1989: 294,296).
On the globalist horizons defined by the operations of globalized flexible accumulation, Lyotard‚s vision of performativity is what anchors the New World Order of the 1990s and 2000s. This efficiency-oriented value rests at the heart of what globalists seek in their theories and practices of globality. At this juncture, globalism is what globality often turns all economies and societies toward: "the State and/or company must abandon the idealist and humanist narratives of legitimation in order to justify the new goal: in the discourse of today‚s financial backers of research, the only credible goal is power. Scientists, technicians, and instruments are purchased not to find truth, but to augment power" (Lyotard, 1984: 46). Accordingly, then, the logistics of globalization respond to globalism as capitalist exchange aims to delocalize, deregionalize, denationalize, and thereby, denaturalize everyone and everything in the commodity cycles of world markets.
Given Beck's distinctions, it also seems clear that globalization is a very long-running series of cultural, economic and social processes, and, for the most part, some of them are leading toward real material improvements in everyday life. Yet, these improvements are not being shared equally, and the contemporary ethos of globalism actually is actively advancing inequality as allegedly inescapable by-product of globalization. Consequently, a major thematic in today's cultures of performative globality is tied to globalism's neoliberal values--increasing competition, winner take all, markets over states, individual initiative against collective collaboration, etc.
While some might be convinced that some economies and societies can be managed like a corporate capitalist enterprise, the track record in the fields of public health or environmental quality around the world is much more questionable when it comes to globalist values. In fact, many companies and most governments find it easy to underfund, defund or never fund programs for health or the environment in their struggle for greater performativity, because these expenditures usually do not contribute obviously to bottomline performance in quarter-by-quarter, or even yearly, assessments of productivity. Of course, ill health and environmental degradation will negatively impinge upon companies and societies at some indefinite point in the future, but until that catastrophic failure occurs this day-by-day neglect of overall health and the environment is accepted as making good business sense.
Unfortunately, what might make good business sense for globalism also leads to the promotion of poor public health and degraded environmental quality on a world-wide scale in many different localities as globalization systematically spreads these new "bads" and "disservices" along with many new "goods" and "services." Consequently, one can be fully in favor of globalization, recognizing that this process can spread new ideas, practices, and technologies which enhance human life and environmental quality, while simultaneously being troubled by the globalism that so aggressively promotes these processes today. To preserve the positive attainments of globality, then, it might be necessary to become antiglobalist in a new globalized defense of basic health and environmental quality for the inhabitants of world society.
The privatization of collective goods celebrated in the quest for greater performativity is not advancing everyone's welfare. On the contrary, these practices are leading down paths that often are producing greater and greater malfare. Not only is the earth's "natural ecology" being degraded, but so too is the "social ecology" being neglected inasmuch as healthy built environments, health care systems, and health centered lifestyles are not being maintained or not being developed at all. A secure political concord between the state and society over the attainment and maintenance of health has never been concluded. Likewise, a provision of potable water, edible food, safe housing, efficient sewerage, reliable hospitals, and effective medical care as mandatory features of many built environments has never been done. Even worse, it has been attained, and then not sustained, as one sees in what was once the U.S.S.R.
The clearest example of disturbing health trends is the general demodernization, and its consequent negative social impact, of the former Soviet Union. From 1917 through the early 1970s, public health advances raised human life expectancy to over 70. Yet, the general deterioration in environmental health, diffident approaches toward vaccination, poor nutrition, and increased alcoholism have all devastated the health of the former Soviet Union. By 1995, overall life expectance had fallen to less than 65, and to 58 for men (McNeill, 2000: 209). Basically, the public ecology of an entire nation has imploded due to corruption, disinterest and underfunding
II. Global Population and Urbanization
What does it take to sustain materially satisfying lives in an age of globalization? A critical review from the vantage of public ecology suggests the everyday industrial metabolisms of urban life are denaturalizing the prehistoric equilibria of the Earth‚s ecologies. There is considerable debate about these points (Lomborg, 2001; Pimm, 2001), but one can see innumerable markers of these transformations piling up rapidly as planetary alterations of incredible proportions. CFCs produced mainly as refrigerant, insulating, and packaging materials have measurably degraded the Earth‚s protective ozone layer, causing more animal and human skin cancers, lower crop yields, and massive die-offs of some amphibians (Pimental et al., 1998). Tremendous increases in CO2 levels from fossil fuel and biomass burning are changing atmospheric dynamics and raising surface temperatures on the Earth (Pan, 2001). Nearly 450 million tons of hazardous wastes--ranging from heavy metals, chemical by-products, or nuclear materials to biomedical contaminants, harmful pesticides, or asbestos materials--are infiltrating soils, waters, and food chains.
About a decade after the discovery of the Americas by Spain, and a few decades after sea-borne commerce to Asia was begun by Portugal, the world‚s annual GDP stood in 1500 at about $240 billion (1990 U.S. dollars), which was more than Pakistan but less than Taiwan today (McNeill, 2000: 5). Over three centuries later in 1820, global levels of GDP were at $695 billion--or more than Canada but less than Brazil today (McNeill, 2000: 5). The remarkable revolutionization of production in the nineteenth century boosted world GDP to $1.98 trillion by 1900, but this was less than Japan‚s stagnating economy in the 1990s (McNeill, 2000: 6). War, depression, and more war crippled the growth of many economies, but the world economy reached $5.37 trillion by 1950. This level of world GDP equaled the GDP on the United States in 1991 (McNeill, 2000: 6), and in many ways this was the zenith of the highly statalized national economies created over the past 150 years of industrial development.
Over the next fifty years, the intensification of production through globalization, high technology, and Cold War competition by loosely coupled transnational exchange truly changed the level and scope of world GDP. By the mid-1990s, it was nearly $30 trillion, or about six times greater than 1950 (McNeill, 2000: 6). While there were only 7,000 transnational firms at work in 1970, over 53,000 were in business in 1998 (French, 2000: 5). Over 5 billion tons of goods were shipped worldwide in 1998, which is up from less than 850,000 million tons in 1955 (French, 2000: 34). Two million people cross international borders everyday, and over 2.6 trillion air kilometers were flown in 1998 continuing the nine percent annual growth rate since 1950 (French, 2000: 34). Once again, these apparently innocuous quantitative increases in human traffic between urban and rural areas are contributing to new qualitative transformations in the world's environments.
When the aggregate 1500 levels of world GDP are indexed at 100, the mid-1990s level, expressed again in 1990 U.S. dollars, equals just at 12,000, while the per capita figures of world GDP are $565 in 1500 and over $5,100 in the mid-1990s (McNeill, 2000: 6-7). Ironically, the world‚s economy has increased 120 times from 1500-2000, but the average income has risen only about 9 times (McNeill, 2000: 7). Moreover, one finds nearly a billion people today living on a dollar a day or less, which is less than two-thirds the world‚s average per capita GDP in 1500.
Population, as Foucault (1980) would argue, is undoubtedly the motive force pushing economic growth upward. At 1500, global population stood at 400 or 500 million, but it had increased to that level quite slowly from the year 1 A.D. when it was around 200 or 300 million. By 1820, world population had doubled to about a billion, and then it skyrocketed to 1.6 billion in 1900, 2.5 billion in 1950, and over 5 billion in 1990, and 6 billion in 2000 (McNeill, 2000: 8). These increases in economic output and population growth did not occur without unshackling sources of energy and matter that were largely underutilized or unavailable before the 1820s. Moving to agriculture from hunting and gathering in the Neolithic Revolution created new sites of energy utilization, information application, and material accumulation in cities and towns, but until the Industrial Revolution simple sources of animal, plant and human energy supplied 80 to 85 percent of all power sources (Cipolla, 1978: 53; and, Smil, 1994: 226). The transition to fossil fuels in the nineteenth century created a new environment for energy production and use as well as energy by-products and abuse, because the capacity of human and animal muscle power coupled with primitive wind and waterpower was quite limited.
On the threshold of the Industrial Revolution, after decades of low-pressure steam engine development, world energy use was the equivalent of 400 million metric tons of coal a year. During the next two centuries, it rose to 1,900 million metric tons in 1900, and over 30,000 in 2000 (McNeill, 2000: 15). Of course, the bulk of these fossil fuel growth rates are largely confined to wealthy OECD nations, and billions of people today do not directly buy or burn fossil fuels. The average American uses up to 100 times more energy than the average Bangladeshi, and this comes after 30 years of slowing fossil fuel energy use (McNeill, 2000: 16).
In 1900, only 10 percent of the world‚s 1.6 billion people lived in cities; in 2000, just over 50 percent of the world‚s 6 billion people lived in cities; and, by 2050, 67 percent of a projected population of 10 billion people will live in cities. Today‚s global cities are creating truly contested regions where command and insubordination, control and resistance, communication and confusion, and intelligence and incomprehension must mediated daily as transnational commerce manages an accelerating turnover of goods and services in the global economy. With over 50 percent of humanity now residing in urban areas, the weight of global cities taken together prefigures new urban formations of such quantitative mass that they clearly have become qualitatively more distinct and interesting.
On the one hand, the world‚s human population now exceeds 6 billion people, and over half of them live in cities. On the other hand, it is estimated that there are 10 million different species of life on Earth, only 1.5 million have been named, less than a few hundred thousand are studied in any detail, and two-thirds of those unknown species live in tropical rain forests that have lost much of their area in the last fifty years. And, these two trends are closely connected: the proliferation of human beings living in cities is contributing to the decimation of nonhuman species on a scale that now might equal the five great prehistoric extinctions of life on the planet.
Such ways of living bring with them a cultural economy for both habitat-construction and construct-inhabitation that ties together new built urban and rural environments in thousands of human settlements, creating what Lewis Mumford (1986) decried as "the conurban." Urbanization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries upended old environmental balances that had prevailed since the first small cities were built during the Neolithic Revolution. Until then virulent epidemics, poor sanitation, and undernourishment typically killed off as many people in cities as were drawn to them from the countryside. From the 1820s to the 1920s, however urban populations began to live longer than their rural counterparts; and, by 2000, over 800 cities all over the world surpassed the 500,000 population mark, while just over 40 cities mostly in the North Atlantic nations held 500,000 people in 1900 (McNeill, 2000: 282). The world‚s urban population, in turn, grew from around 225 million in 1900 to right at 3 billion in 2000 (McNeill, 2000: 287). While large cities covered about 0.1 percent of the world‚s land in 1900, this figure grew ten-fold by 2000 to about 1.0 percent (McNeill, 2000: 289).
Such urbanization requires new inputs of foodstuffs, metals, fibers, woods, chemicals, and minerals supplied by the world‚s logistical grids to meet rising mass demand. Cities are where most of these resources are used and then accumulate in built environments, garbage, junk piles or pollution. In 1700, five cities in the world held 500,000 or more people (Beijing, Istanbul, London, Paris, and Edo), and by 1800 only Canton had joined the list. By 1900, however, there were 43 cities with more than 500,000 residents, and over 800 cities reached these population levels by 2000 (McNeill, 2000: 282). Indeed, the world‚s entire population in 2000 was believed to be more "urban" than "rural," or the same sociodemographic saddle point surpassed by Great Britain in 1850, the U.S. in 1920, Japan in 1935, and Russia (USSR) in 1960 (McNeill, 2000: 283).
Such urbanization is significant inasmuch as all cities and towns now occupy only two percent of the Earth‚s land mass, but they house 50 percent of its population, consume 75 percent of all resources, and create 75 percent of its waste (Smith, 2001: A16). In 2000, Tokyo holds over 26 million people, New York over 16 million, and Buenos Aires over 12 million, but by 2020 the ten largest cities will be in less developed countries--except for Tokyo--and over half of the urban population there will be in poverty (Smith, 2001: A16). Cities are very costly to sustain. In 1870, Great Britain had over 100,000 coal-fired steam engines supplying its largely urban population‚s power needs, nearly 2.5 percent of America‚s farmland in 1920 was planted in oats to feed horses who moved people and things within and between cities and towns, and in 2000 over 500 million automobiles are in operation around the world to provide transport (McNeill, 2000: 57, 310). In 2000, there were as many cars on the Earth as there were people in 1500, and this level of automotive production adds up to one car for every 12 people (in 1900, for example, there was one horse for every 10 people) (McNeill, 2000: 310). In the 1990s, making one car created as much pollution as driving it for a decade, each ton of automobile produced also created 29 tons of industrial waste, almost two percent of the earth‚s surface is devoted to automobile use, and 10 to 30 percent of major metal consumption--steel, iron and aluminum--went into car production (McNeill, 2000: 311).
The material costs of the built environment in the natural environment is the major cause behind its degradation, but the sheer dysfunction of built environments is a root source of ill health in contemporary‚s societies' ways of life. Humans and many nonhumans now live in entirely new built environments rooted in several complex layers of technological systems whose logistical layers are knit into other networks for the production, consumption, circulation, and accumulation of commodities (Mumford, 1963; Tierney, 1993; Pool, 1997). In addition to sewer, water, and street systems, cities are embedded in electricity, coal, natural gas, petroleum, and metals markets in addition to timber, livestock, fish, crop, and land markets. All of this is needed simply to supply food, water, energy, products, and services to their residents. Health declines without these services. Global forms of urbanized life have vast environmental footprints as the inhabitants of cities and towns reach out into markets around the world for material inputs to survive in decent health, but these transactions are the root causes of global ecological decline.
III. A Second Creation
To sustain human health, the health of nonhuman beings also must be assured. And, the most certain path to this goal is safeguarding the natural environments in which most nonhuman beings exist. Yet, this assumes that one can get past hard and fast notions of divisions between Society and Nature (Pool, 1997; Worster, 1997). With the rise of global capitalism since 1500, and its tremendous expansion after 1900, the "Economy" and "Society" remake "Nature." Entirely new kinds of plant and animal populations are becoming globally distributed in new artificially modified clusters of life, which challenge how we understand the "wholeness" of world health and the environment. The UN‚s Food and Agriculture Organization believes that 75 percent of all genetic crop diversity has been lost during the twentieth century. University-designed and/or corporate-controlled seed stocks now dominate most types of agriculture in the interest of cultivating what the global markets regard as the most productive, most survivable or most appealing food item. In India, 75 percent of all rice fields are planted in less than 10 varieties of rice, but over 30,000 varieties were under cultivation in 1950 (French, 2000: 61). In the U.S., 70 percent of all cornfields rely upon only six types of corn, and in Mexico--the key ancestral home of modern corn crops--only 20 percent of the varieties known in the 1930s are still in planting today (French, 2000: 61).
More disturbing today are new transgenic animals and plants, which are created to enhance corporate control and profit with bioengineered genes from other plant or animal species. The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s mostly focused upon developing higher yield seeds, and most of this work was done with government support at public universities and agricultural extension facilities. Seeds were given or sold to farmers, and they were allowed, in turn, to save seed for replanting. New bioengineered transgenics are seen as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), whose modifications are patented by firms as corporate intellectual property. The owners typically do not allow seeds to be saved, or they engineer out seeding all together. In addition, firms are engineering receptivities to specific pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers into these GMOs, locking their buyers into a single integrated chain of agricultural inputs. More than 80 percent of all agricultural crops in less developed countries are grown from seed saved by farmers, so these transgenic GMOs are a real threat to their autonomy (French, 2000: 63). In developed countries, transgenics are more established with the U.S. in the lead at 72 percent of all acreage in transgenic crops worldwide--or 40 million hectares in 1999 (French, 2000: 62).
The centrality of a pure, objective, unmediated Nature in the attainment of modern scientific knowledge, however, is an idea that is dying very hard in environmental and social analysis (Jameson, 1991). From the vanguard of Newtonian physics in the seventeenth century to the rearguard of sociobiology in the twentieth century, many schools of modern science have assumed that their methodologies provide a privileged foundation for knowledge of what is "real" in Nature as a definitive methodologically rigorous mapping of a God-given creation that is truly "out there." These unsullied observations, in turn, are believed to create a true knowledge of objective reality for Creation known now as "Nature." This knowledge often is idealized in the mathematical proofs of physics, and its applications in everyday life are widely believed to be the foundations of modernity‚s technological proficiency. When all is said and done, humanity is believed to know how the many systemic layers of Nature work because of its disciplined application of these scientific methods for observation, experiment, and verification.
Yet, there also is a great deal of disquiet about these epistemological, ontological, and technological articles of faith in modernity. Their celebrants continue to praise this system of science, and its derivative technologies, for their demonstrated ability to raise industrial output, overcome deadly diseases, speed methods of travel, and enhance a longer, richer human lifespan. Few of them, however, discuss how these same modes of scientific knowledge and technical action also generate noxious by-products, cause new afflictions, create frustrations from mobility or perhaps detract from the qualities of life. Whole movements of people--scientists and laypersons alike--have arisen increasingly in doubt, or to openly protest, these modernist formulas for legitimating scientific authority and technical power from some putatively pure rational knowledge of unmediated natural reality. Of course, these movements are not universally welcomed, because the cultural place, political power, and economic property of many are deeply embedded in such modes of scientific production. Nonetheless, more resistances develop and spread with each successive new, modern generation.
Plainly, many different streams in the environmental movement have proven to be among the most ardent opponents of these fundamentalist views of science and technology. Feminists, minority peoples, and working class groups, who rarely benefit from having scientific authority or technical power, also have joined environmentalists in questioning the allegedly neutral knowledge that science provides about Nature. In its emergent days, science put forth its foundational epistemologies for dividing facts and values, theory and observation, experiments and explanations, or truth and opinion in order to challenge religious-feudal authority, whose place, power, and property in early modern society rested upon other grounds. Once those traditional enemies were overcome, science and technology increasingly shifted their legitimating discourses toward operational achievement, or technical-economic performance, and away from epistemological incorrigibility, or real knowledge of Nature‚s inherent rationality. Consequently, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw bourgeois science and industry using the technical command over the objective forms of "Nature" as the great "out there" to create greater wealth and knowledge for the smaller "in here" of "Economies" and "Societies."
After the twentieth century, however, everyone must deal with the postmodern condition, which essentially, as Jameson suggests, "has become a more fully human world than the older one, but one in which "culture" has become a veritable "second nature""(1991: ix). Here technical-economic performances, like Auschwitz, Bhopal or Chernobyl, shake scientific technology‚s legitimacy, and a reflexive realization that anthropogenic changes in the Earth‚s climate, soils, atmosphere, waters, and biomass make incorrigible epistemic certainty about the planet‚s autogenic activities very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.
This new Second Creation is not as predictable as First Creation. On one level, the ecological opposition to modern science and technology is heartened by these recognitions, because their reservations finally have been registered in the theory and practice of contemporary scientists and technologists. Accordingly, these new resistance movements reason that a more self-reflexive science will be less destructive of Nature as well as more respectful of the human and nonhuman lives that dwell in the Earth‚s many habitats. Yet, on another level, there are no guarantees about this positive outcome, because these individuals, along with everyone else who either openly support or do not doubt modern science, find that whatever improved cultural place, political power, and economic property that millions have attained in the twentieth century do depend in some part, perhaps quite large or comparatively small, on letting science continue to build upon its technological proficiencies in this anthrogenic Second Creation. Moreover, they continue to need the goods and services made possible by the global economy‚s on-going technical-economic performance. And, these performative outcomes are becoming more difficult to attain because of either reflexive resistance to many industries‚ by-products or actual physical scarcities caused by resource depletion.
At this juncture in the postmodern condition, then, new dangers emerge, and some of most fascinating, and virulently dangerous, are those which embrace these self-reflexive observations about how science and technology actually work in impure, subjective, and mediated ways to degrade, displace, or destroy Nature as such. Since Second Creation allows many to presume there is no pure, objective, unmediated Nature, then why not coevolve with a "Nature" whose impure subjective mediations always are driven by market forces? After making this admission, they move directly into self-interested efforts to reconstruct Nature informatically such that the moments of degradation, displacement, and destruction caused by a quest for power and profit will benefit their producers. Such new departures may not be easy to imagine, but they are happening. Moreover, their proponents ultimately seek nothing less than the rewriting of place, power, and property by rewrighting the material registers in which place is fixed, power defined, and property accumulated. Here is where public ecology must intervene as a critical corrective force.
One of the crassest efforts to reposition all of these relations by reimaging Nature‚s environments are those of digital materialism which asserts what we are "becoming digital" after "being atomic"(Negroponte, 1995). Ultimately, these transformations follow from the restructuring of the world economy. If Nature is gone for good, then Second Creation can be digitally remastered as a postnature at the genetic, organic, and systemic level. Specializing in primary agricultural or forestry products is no longer necessarily a path to economic growth, or even stability for those already occupying those niches. Consequently, new means of exploiting, or creating, comparative advantage in the global economy need to be discovered, and informatics are often one sure-fire method for making such discoveries. Whether it is bioengineering new transgenic animals, genetically modifying plant stocks, nanoengineering new industrial materials or reimagining agroindustrial inputs on new logistical timelines and spatial flows with GIS (geographic information systems) spatial data, informatics are now seen as an essential means for this rerationalization of transnational commerce at a national, regional, and local level. Here is how being digital burrows into the molecular registers of organic and inorganic materiality.
Informatics might enable agricultural and industrial activity to fracture along three degrees of resolution--the biogenetic, biorganismic, and biosystemic--in bitspaces. The inherently difficult qualities of primary product production, whether the industry is farming, forestry or fisheries, have been difficult to surmount, because Nature itself has imposed so many constraints on production. Of course, industrialized fishing, scientific forestry, and high-tech agriculture all have made some inroads toward controlling more material qualities of agricultural and industrial production, but "Nature" continues to be seen in these economic pursuits as a recalcitrant barrier against greater production. Of course, Nature also is always already an enablement for production, but this characteristic is usually ignored in the quest for greater technological proficiency. Whether it is variations in land topography, random differences in soil chemistry, water quality or weather, larger ecological pressures, land use pressures, basic fishery overuse, general forest stress, or unpredictable atmospheric changes, Nature has not been a readily surveyed or easily controlled object of analysis. A reconstructed Nature of built environments as Second Creation, however, offers prospects for making considerable progress in that direction. Enveloping the Earth in different layers of bitspace for informatic surveillance, and then material manipulation, promises to revolutionize the many practices of agricultural and industrial production.
At a biosystemic level, sophisticated GIS monitoring will allow better fishery, forest, and farming management by surveying changes in marine and terrestrial environments. GPS (global positioning satellites) technologies will permit more precision-guided, and, of course misguided, use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers as well as decision-making about planting and harvesting. These spatial data inventories will, in turn, allow comprehensive global accounts to be kept of the planet‚s biomass, and humanity‚s apparent overdraft, sustainable use or undershoot of these resources.
At the biorganismic level, the traditional systems of collecting germplasm, capturing new cultivars, and cultivating new commodities, which began with the expansion European imperialism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, can be tremendously rationalized as big transnational firms and universities continue their bioprospecting in Third World rainforests and other exotic biomes. The on-going scavenger hunts of bioinformatic researchers require huge pools of biological and botanical data about all of the world‚s known species, which will then be mined for potential scientific or economic uses. This information, in turn, can be linked up to biosystemic data or down to biogenetic mechanisms.
And, at a biogenetic level, new informatic and operational technologies now provide many options for reconstructing Nature through genetic engineering. At this juncture, the organisms created are still simple, and perhaps not at all survivable, but they are the transgenic vanguard of species that are being engineered to respond to artificial environmental conditions, like a corporation‚s desire to create sterile seeds, resistance to its competitors‚ pesticides, or propensity to grow in substandard soils. Here bits reach out into the genome and alter life‚s chemistry just as they reach out into the pooled data sets of bioinformatics or the spatial data surveillance of GIS to alter or administer the atoms of organisms.
This ceaseless search for performance and profit is the essence of today‚s postmodern condition. By reimagining the entire world, or what once was "Nature," as a vast buildable environment for what still is named "Society," the command and control centers of transnational business as well as the environmental communications ginned up by the planet‚s domesticated green resistance end up zoning this Second Creation into regions for the built, the yet-to-be-built, the once-built, and the never-to-be-built environments.
IV. 2001: An Anarchy Already Here
During the past few decades, the environment has degraded as much of the international system has cracked, crumbled, and even entirely collapsed in many places, like West Africa, the Andean interior, former Soviet Central Asia, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asian hinterlands where war lords, drug lords, and crime lords control the quality of too many people‚s everyday life. One does not need to fear "a coming anarchy" (Kaplan, 1996), because anarchical relations of authority already prevail in too many places outside of the privileged dominions directly ruled by OECD states. Even there in the realm occupied by Group of 8 states, an odd strain of neoliberal ideology--running from Margaret Thatcher in 1979 to George W. Bush in 2001--distorts the efforts to make governance in powerful states allegedly more powerful and prosperous by deregulating their economies, commercializing their societies, and abolishing their bureaucratic agencies to give free rein the anarchy of markets.
Beyond the OECD nations, the comparatively neat boundaries and strict protocols of the international system constructed from 1914--when World War I began--to 1975--when the last European empire imploded--are almost entirely eroded away. Recurrent rashes of antinational, antistatal, and antigovernmental change keep coming from CNN, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM to the Taliban, UNITA, Al Qaeda, and FARC or from narcocapitalism, e-commerce, and ecobusiness to bioinformatics, cyberwar, and global warming. New responses, like NAFTA, NATO, APEC, and the EC, are being created to buy time, but the international system of 1648/1815/1918/1945/1949 no longer is seated as firmly into its formerly secure sockets of territorialized power (Poggi, 1978).
The implosion of state socialism in the former Soviet Union, the persistence of peripheral authoritarian rule in Africa, and the unending instability of capitalist democracy in Latin America are all maintaining some disturbing trends of demodernization that no nation-state, or bloc of nation-states, working from within or without has been able to halt. The two most rapid and widely dispersed periods of world economic growth took place now three (1945-1973) and six (1870-1913) generations ago. While some areas of the planet have prospered since 1993, or 1981, many more have boomed and then crashed, as global commodity, monetary or stock markets whipsawed entire societies up and down in the course of a few years, months, or weeks. Moreover, the only qualitatively different modern alternative to the prevailing capitalist world system, or revolutionary state socialism, was proven to be not all that different, not qualitatively better, and not much of an alternative by the time of Khrushchev‚s ouster in 1964, even though its neo-Stalinist institutions coasted along on their own momentum until 1991.
Sensing trouble, or at least, turbulence ahead, Rosenau (1990) sees us amidst a "post-international politics" in which traditional state actors and new non-state actors face off against each other. Similarly, Nye‚s (1990) "soft power" ruminations identity contemporary world politics as being marked by the "diffusion of power" from state to nonstate actors. Soft power allegedly is soft, because it is informational, cultural and/or technological in quality. Yet, these narratives of global change and characterizations of world power are tied more to how they are not exactly like the Cold War‚s comparatively stable political order and hard power regime rather than how things might actually be working on the ground today in 2001.
The geopolitical underpinnings of 2001, then, are not new: they are ragged contours cut across the unipolar correlation of forces by many resistances that have emerged after the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The New World Order of 1991, however, soon devolved into carpet bagging, fiscal skullduggery or benign neglect as many individuals and firms in the U.S. looked inward to seek El Dorado on the World Wide Web instead dealing with the disintegration of the communist bloc. As a result, large swaths of the old "Second" and "Third world" decayed, disconnected or devolved into demodernized chaos on a scale not seen since the 17th century as the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Russian market crash of 1998, and the global slump of 1999-2001 deflated even the once robust economies of the Pacific Rim countries. While the American economy boomed throughout the 1990s, the Arab economies in the Middle East, for example, grew only 0.7 percent annually and the Islamic states in one-time Soviet Central Asia actually contracted without big subsidies from Moscow.
On one level, the new international terrorist networks behind the increasing levels of violence during the 1990s, which culminated in the attacks of September 11, 2001, may represent a failure of modernity--a possibility that rarely has been acknowledged in the triumphalism of the past decade. In 1991, the U.S. oversaw the successful recapture of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein; and, then a few months later, it watched in awe as the Soviet Union totally unraveled. During the intervening years, the U.S. quickly washed its hands of many Cold War alliances and policies, which often had been connected to authoritarian allies relying upon using violent means. What had seemed necessary to resist the U.S.S.R. was no longer required. At the same time, the U.S. slowly turned away from many larger internationalist responsibilities that befell it as the world's sole remaining superpower. Instead of continuing to stand resolutely for unshakeable modern ideals, like democracy, equality, and freedom, the U.S. left tyrants like Saddam Hussein in place after Kuwait's oil was once again secure, permitted gangster capitalism to establish itself securely in places as varied as Russia, Columbia, Romania, Congo, and Ukraine, and temporized as horrendous civil strife racked East Timor, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq, and most of former Soviet Central Asia as well as Afghanistan.
The difficult detail that most overlook in the putative triumph of "the West" over "the Rest" in the 1990s, then, is how fully a modernity of failure can coexist beneath, behind or beside the modernizing successes brought on by globalization through transnational corporate commerce. For every Hong Kong, Singapore, Frankfurt, or San Jose in the 1990s, there were five Groznys, Kabuls, Sarajevos, or Kinshashas. As the 21st century dawned in many places, some others slipped back into 16th or 17th century conditions of demodernizing disintegration. Large parts of the world now do not have effective territorial governance by modern nation-state institutions. Many regions of the world have slipped back into early modern relations of trade in which black markets for gems, oil, weapons, drugs, timber or even people clearly eclipse the open exchange for legitimate goods and services.
The Cold War and its immediate aftermath were a time of immense failure for modernity in many regions of the world. From Colombia, Peru or Bolivia to Angola, the Congos, or Mozambique, to North Korea, Laos or Myanmar to Afghanistan, Somalia or Angola, neither liberal capitalist democracy nor state socialist people's democracy brought many modernizing benefits to millions of people. Instead the Cold War years tallied up as decades of destructive civil war, starvation, and governmental collapse. For countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia or Sudan, in which terrorists, like Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, now operate, as well as recruit many of their followers, these grim geopolitical realities are inescapable. Modernity in these places has largely added up to little more than on-going civil war, arrested economic development, totally ravaged cities, intermittent border wars, deep agricultural stagnation, and persistent ragged famines. In Afghanistan, nearly 70 percent of the economy is still agricultural, life expectancy for men is 46 and 45 for women, and a major public health threat, beyond all the usual infectious diseases of poor countries, is millions of unexploded landmines. Local elites, European bankers, Soviet advisors, and U.S. AID experts all had a hand in these disasters, but most importantly, modernity has failed miserably for decades to improve many people's lives in the world's underdeveloped countries. And, in this chaotic flux of change, the modernity of failure suffered by many in these countries is easily blamed upon a modernity of success enjoyed by the few with the U.S. at the top of that small pile of highly modernized nation-states.
The "coming anarchy" foretold by Robert Kaplan (1996) in the 1990s cannot be easily disentangled from the triumphalism of the U.S. under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush was elected in 2000 hoping to continue riding on those same waves of exceptionalist neglect, but 9.11.01 has brought him, his administration, and the nation back to earth. The "world" of the WTC with thousands of people working from scores of countries under America's aegis has been shattered by scores of people from "another world" shut off from world trade centers by thousands of grievances rooted in ethnic, ideological or religious complaints about perceived American arrogance. Today's nascent world society carries the workings of both "worlds" within globality's civilized practices. This cannot be reduced to a "clash of civilizations."
The new world struggle in 2001 between radical Islam and routinized Western globalization is instead one more outcome of expression of an odd anti-imperialist fringe that condemns what it regards as a failed modernity, resting upon a commercial civilization rooted in cultural, economic and technological clashes with everyone it seeks to vend its goods and services to anytime anywhere. Osama bin Laden, his followers in al Qaeda, or "the base," and a few other fundamentalist groups in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Pakistan, for example, cast their fight as an anti-imperialist struggle against the United States and its allies, who are allegedly warring against Islam. Western analysts may well dismiss the claims that the U.S. looks like an empire to these people, but al Qaeda's cadres apparently believe they are victims of such imperial adventures. Today, postimperialist myths of exceptionalism, Edenic isolation, and a ceaseless quest for growth in the U.S. are colliding with the global quiddities of material limits in the global village in which some see an invidious empire threatening their faith. These new geopolitical realities need to be faced, and then responded to, rather than evaded in self-centered excess.
For the most part, however, an extraordinary moment for a new world order during the 1980s has been squandered. Rather than accepting the immense responsibilities of world superpower, the U.S. shrank from them under both GOP President George H.W. Bush and Democratic President Bill Clinton. For all the talk about human rights, this empty political project has been pursued either weakly, as South Africa, Bosnia and Kuwait suggest, or not at all, as Rwanda, Chechnya, and East Timor illustrate. While touting the merits of a modern civil society, Washington often looked the other way as Serbs butchered non-Serbs in racial pogroms, the Congo erupted in murderous tribal warfare, the Taliban "Islamicized" most of Afghanistan, and autocratic gangsters reasserted themselves in Byelorussia, Romania, and Ukraine. Even though the U.S. believes itself to be the world's preeminent power, it has shown little leadership over the past decade on global warming, the AIDS pandemic, world poverty, nuclear proliferation, and economic instability beyond its propensities for fighting antiseptic air wars from B-2 bombers or fomenting technological upheaval with "dot com" capitalism. So discursive democracy in the 1990s essentially has meant either the empty chatter of talk show gripe artists airing multicultural grievances at home or the feckless evasion of global challenges with nationalistic excuses abroad.
V. World Health Now
Ironically, the year 2001 has been the symbol for many of a high-tech future made real. Living in the twenty-first century will be, we are told, a time of medical miracles as genetic engineering, bioinformatics, bionic technology, and immunology all promise to extend life, lessen disability, and eliminate disease on a scale never seen before. In fact, many believe the twenty-first century shall be an "Age of Biology" in which science and technology will master the genome just as the twentieth century was an "Age of Physics" that came to control matter through the atom.
While all of this might be true, the year 2001 also must be marked as a time in which the low-tech past has yet to be made real for far too many. It is exciting to dream about proteinomic therapies extending human life expectancies to ninety, hundred or a hundred plus years, but it is more important to plan how to get a warm bed, a glass of clean drinking water, a full pantry, and working sewers to every human being who now lacks these simple necessities for a materially satisfying modern life. This is the best avenue for getting to greater health around the world.
Yet, much of the world still awaits these changes. Improvements in overall health measures for most of humanity will not come from 21st century medicine, but rather from 19th century public health practices. For all of the advances realized from 20th century medical breakthroughs, particularly during the era of high technology innovation from 1970-2000, less that 4 percent of the total improvement in life expectancy for Americans can be chalked up to advances in medical care (Garrett, 2000: 10). In fact, much of the progress in enhancing life expectancy in Western Europe and North America was realized before 1900, because of a decline in infectious diseases, but nearly 70 to 80 percent of this improvement came before antibiotic drugs (Garrett, 2000: 10).
Health and the environment cannot be divided in the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, the modernization of human economies and societies has unequally affected overall human health and environmental quality from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. For a few, both their general health and environmental quality saw tremendous improvements; for some, hard-won health advances and environmental quality actually have declined after having once risen; and, for most, basic health and environmental conditions are quite poor, and actually worsening (World Health Organization, 1997). Over six billion people now live on the planet Earth, buy only about a billion or so enjoy what many would consider a materially satisfying modern life. Close to five billion of them endure lives that are at best not unlike the rural poverty of dispossessed tenant farmers or the crowded squalor of teeming tenements in 1890s America.
The built environment provides entirely new ecological niches for innumerable biota to do things very differently in ways that have been unanticipated and which are unwanted (Pimental et al., 1998). It is quite clearly the case that human population growth and, with this raw increase in overall numbers, the rise of greater urbanization are creating huge new opportunities for viral and bacterial pathogens to proliferate as species. Diseases have always coevolved with humans and their domesticated plants and animals, but the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have witnessed the most concentrated disruptions in human history of traditional settlement patterns. With high technology, many economies and societies have fabricated new built environments, but these environmental achievements also now constitute their own special ecologies with various niches and flows that need to be understood anew. Whether one talks about vastly overprescribed antibiotics and the emergence of new multi-drug resistant (MDR) diseases or the disturbance of hitherto untouched tropical ecologies that open the world's temperate zones to AIDS, Ebola, Lassa fever or hemorrhagic dengue fever, anthrogenic action is reshaping the natural environment as something far more social, artificial, or engineered. Urban environments are not entirely wastelands, and human beings now coexist with more diverse and numerous synanthrope animals, or those that live with us but not as domesticated creatures, than at any other time in history. Whether one talks about rats, mice, and voles; or coyotes, cockroaches, and chipmunks; or seagulls, starlings and sparrows, human beings are living with more contact, and with more different types of animal species, in modern cities than humanity did when most people were still on the farm. Networks of roads in the Amazon, Central Africa or Southeast Asia also are providing the highways and by-ways needed by infectious diseases to jump from nonhuman hosts into human populations (Garrett, 1994).
What were once comparatively small and self-contained environmental settings become relays within relatively much larger and uncontaminated world ecologies with globalization. Containerized shipping and jet aircraft radically alter the biological range of microbiota, insects, and rodents. The standardized built environments of highway, waterway, and airway infrastructure allow new synanthropic populations of animals to infest many human cities in every hemisphere, because certain neighborhoods in them now all have essentially the same kinds of skyscrapers, suburban housing, supermarkets, and sewer systems.
Many, if not most, human diseases first arise from diseases common among animals. The exponential increase in chicken, duck, and pig populations in China alongside of burgeoning human populations guarantees fresh strains of influenza will continue showing up as new "Asian flus." Human homes are not good environments for elk or bear, but rats, mice, flies and roaches have adapted well to these new niches. Rodents now eat about twenty percent of the world's grain production, rats and mice are bringing new diseases like hantavirus, Argentine hemorrhagic fever, and Liberian Lassa fever to people, malaria is spreading again in urban areas, and Lyme disease is growing along with the suburbs (McNeill, 2000: 209).
The same care and attention devoted to environmental protection of natural ecologies must be expanded to envelop social ecologies as well --this must be the bottomline for public ecology. The requirements for good human life are not unlike those needed to maintain quality nonhuman life; yet, their provision and protection are not widely regarded as environmental goods. Instead they are typically seen as public health concerns, industrial safety issues, or social welfare questions. This effort to deflect environmental analyses, however, is quite shortsighted. The built environment is humanity's primary environment, and the requisites for its environmental suitability are simple to spell out, but they are a big struggle to provide with true reliability. On the one hand, a sound social ecology must have "clear water; plentiful, nutritious, uncontaminated food; decent housing; appropriate water and waste disposal; correct social and medical control of epidemics; widespread--or universal--access to material and child health care; clean air; knowledge of personal health needs administered to a population sufficiently educated to be able to comprehend and use the information in their daily lives; and, finally, a health care system that follows the primary maxim of medicine--"do no harm" (Garrett, 2000: 13). Yet, on the other hand, these requirements no longer can be possible provisions that will be articulated on a local, temporary unenduring level. Public ecology must work toward making them global, permanent and enduring social benefits.
VI. Conclusion: The Workings of Inequality
2001 could be better understood as the year in which ambiguities are overcome, and it is recognized how different collectives of human and nonhuman beings must now coevolve within global markets, common climate changes, or world trade, while coexisting with many different built environments. What surrounds one in Dallas is not what surrounds one in Delhi, but those different surroundings have high economic, political, and social costs inside and outside of both environments. As Smith suggests, a persistent feature of all global societies today are toxic wastes, which arrive as "a by-product of energy development, agriculture, and most industrial activity," and now "are found throughout the environment, in our air, water, and soil" (1995: 170). Like weather, water, and wildlife, such waste is to be found everywhere in the planetary environment, making this by-product a new fixed characteristic of the Earth's ecology as it is being transformed by modern agricultural, industrial, and technological development (National Academy of Engineering, 1989). Nonetheless, many mechanisms in the world‚s political economy permit Dallas more than Delhi to dump more toxic wastes outside specific locales, boost their concentrations beyond permissible thresholds, raise exposures so intensively as to threaten health, and disperse effects indiscriminately across space and time. These irrationalities come from human artifice in a subpolitical realm, but they now are negatively affecting every political system on a global scale as transnational environmental problems.
In the realm of the subpolitical, ordinary processes of democratic legitimation fail, because modern industrial revolutions with all of their profitable products and toxic by-products are highly technified economic actions. Each always "remains shielded from the demands of democratic legitimation by its own character" inasmuch as "it is neither politics nor non-politics, but a third entity: economically guided action in pursuit of interests" (Beck, 1992: 222). Because of property rights and expert prerogatives, most occupants of this planetary subpolis have yet to realize fully how "the structuring of the future takes place indirectly and unrecognizably in research laboratories and executive suites, not in parliament or in political parties. Everyone else--even the most responsible and best informed people in politics and science--more or less lives off the crumbs of information that fall from the tables of technological sub-politics" (Beck, 1992: 223). This elaborate subpolis evolves in the reified dictates of industrial ecologies, whose machinic metabolism, in turn, entails the planned and unintended destruction of nonhuman and human lives in many different environments.
Beck worries about today's modernity as he recognizes how fully "the possibilities for social change from the collaboration of research, technology, and science accumulate" in new loci of social order and disorder when real power and knowledge "migrates from the domain of politics to that of subpolitics" (1992: 223). In the subpolis, what may begin at an individual level as a rational plan combines at a collective level into the irrational, unintended, and unanticipated. Still, it is difficult to resist these outcomes inasmuch as the workings of modern technics and markets are "institutionalized as 'progress,' but remain subject to the dictates of "business, science, and technology, for whom democratic procedures are invalid" (Beck, 1992: 14).
Within the world‚s built environments, industrial production and by-production continuously revolutionize the construction of a transnational subpolis tied to globalized technical acts and artifacts set beneath, within, and above each territorial polis still being understood only in terms out of political acts (Luke, 1999). More specifically, narratives of industrial revolution simply underscore how thoroughly,
now the potential for structuring society migrates from the political system into the sub-political system of scientific, technological and economic modernization. A precarious reversal occurs. The political becomes non-political and the non-political political....The promotion and protection of 'scientific progress' and of 'the freedom of science' become the greasy pole on which the primary responsibility for political arrangements slips from the democratic system into the context of economic and techno-scientific non-politics, which is not democratically legitimated. A revolution under the cloak of normality occurs, which escapes from possibilities of intervention, but must all the same be justified and enforced against a public that is becoming critical (1992: 186).
Democratic institutions in the territorial polis ordinarily accept these changes without much contestation, because they are believed to bring the good life, albeit at times with a few risks, through continuous technological innovation. In fact, however, the subpolis of technoscientific artifacts usually undercuts the profligate workings of conventional political life in all locales (Luke, 1997) by degrading once natural environments with its new processed worlds. Furthermore, inequalities in technical expertise and capital ownership sustain the subpolitical (Luke, 1999).
The acts and artifacts produced by Fukuyama‚s "accumulation without end" in globalization constitute the things that government must rightly dispose of, and arrange so as the serve convenient ends (Foucault, 1991), in the globalized civil society of the global economy. The subpolis shapes, and then is itself shaped, in the global market‚s imbrication of the polis for humans and the subpolis of things. Modernity becomes an inegalitarian mechanism whereby the few who know-how and own-how maintain domination over the many who do not know-how or own-how. The illusion of progress through greater education and broader opportunity, in fact, always belies grittier realities of exploitative avarice fostered by growing disinformation and greater dispossession. Consequently, the subpolitically-structured inequalities in global affairs need to be more closely policed in global policy, theory and practice to correct the inequalities of overall health and environmental quality behind today‚s economic crises and political contradictions.
Global studies has not yet addressed the ambiguities of globalization, but many tie back to the contradictions that expertise and capital ownership bring into our public life. This occurs because those who "know-how," as well as those who "own-how," in the subpolis are permitted to prejudge everyone‚s actions in the polis. Expert knowledge and private ownership give them a capability to decide for all. Democracy, in turn, finds dictatorial administrative rationalities turned into collective ends in themselves without much, if any, ethical debate or political discussion. Environmentalism and public health are among the last remaining discourses available for us to provide some ethical consideration or political reflection about the effects of unequally shared technique and property on the overall civic life of society as privileged millions still benefit from the international misery of billions. We cannot continue on this track if the Earth's ecologies are ever to be mended (Luke, 1999).
Unfortunately, most thinking about global studies does not fully reexamine how the uneven globalization of big technical systems has implanted this all-pervasive subpolitical domain beneath, beyond, and beside the tense sphere of politics. To manage the operational challenges of living with both the political and subpolitical, we need a public ecology that can work equally well in built and unbuilt environments, industrial and natural ecologies, social and biotic communities. The ethical imperatives of coping with inequality in such a public ecology should give a better perspective on safeguarding world health and the environment than remaining bogged down in outmoded devotions to a civic activism that is trapped in the parochial loyalties of the national political sphere.
A selection of useful websites that relate to world health and the environment:
Climate change news and information:
Drought and Climate monitoring:
Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research: http://www.met-office.gov.uk/research/
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: http://www.noaa.gov/
Online Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change: http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/trends/trends.htm
US Global Change Research Information Office: http://gcrio.org/
Economics and Market Institutions:
World Bank data and maps: http://www.worldbank.org/data/
The World Bank Group: http://www.worldbank.org/
The World Economic Outlook Database: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/
Energy and the Environment:
American Wind Energy Association website. Contains Global Wind Energy report, as well as detailed state-by-state analysis of wind energy programs, projects, and incentives: www.awea.org
Daily and weekly news service with environmental and renewable energy-related news: www.solaraccess.com
Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration: www.eia.doe.gov
General Environmental Sites:
Agriculture and Soils Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org
The Audubon Living Oceans Guide to Seafood: http://www.audubon.org/campaign/lo/index.html
The Aquaculture Network Information Center: http://aquanic.org/
Biodiversity Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: http://www.cites.org/
Earth Day Network: http://www.earthday.net/
Earth Policy Institute: http://www.earth-policy.org/
Environmental Defense: http://www.edf.org/
FAO Forestry page: http://www.fao.org/forestry/
Institute for Social Ecology - Popular Education For a Free Society: http://www.social-ecology.org/
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucn.org/redlist/2000/index.html
Marine Stewardship Council: http://www.msc.org/
National Agricultural Library: http://www.nalusda.gov/
Oeko City: http://www.oekocity.de/
Food and Agriculture Organization on-line database of international statistics, including agricultural production, trade, food balance,
fertilizer and pesticides, land use and irrigation, population, forest and fishery products: http://apps.fao.org/FAO
Sea Web Oceans Information: http://www.seaweb.org/home.shtml
UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre Forests page: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/forest/homepage.htm
United Nations: http://www.un.org/
United Nations Secretariat of the Convention to Combat Desertification: http://www.unccd.int/main.php
United States Department of Agriculture home page: http://www.usda.gov
UN Wire: An independent news briefing about the United Nations: http://www.unfoundation.org./unwire/unwire.cfm
World Resources Institute: http://www.wri.org/
Worldwatch Institute: http://www.worldwatch.org/
WWW Resources for Earth System Science Education: http://www.usra.edu/esse/ford/ESS205/g300www/g300wwwenv.html
Health and Disease:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS: http://www.unaids.org/
National Invasive Species Council: http://www.invasivespecies.gov/council/main.shtml
Regularly updated HIV/AIDS news and information: http://www.aegis.com/
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/
Population Research Institute: http://www.pop.psu.edu/Demography/demography.html
Population Reference Bureau: http://www.prb.org/
UN Population Information Network: http://www.undp.org/popin/
UN Population Fund: http://www.unfpa.org/
US Census Bureau International Data Base: http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbacc.html
Water and the Environment:
Information on the world‚s freshwater resources: http://www.worldwater.org/
International Water Management Institute: http://www.cgiar.org/iwmi/
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: http://www.worldwater.org/
The World Commission on Dams: http://www.dams.org
Public Ecology Resources
This new site is an open bibliographical resource on the environment as a concern for local and global public affairs:
Beck, Ulrich. 2000. What is Globalization? Oxford: Blackwell.
Beck, Ulrich. 1992. The Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.
Cipolla, Carlo. 1978. The Economic History of World Population. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Foucault, Michel. 1991. The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Foucault, Michel. 1980. The History of Sexuality, Vol. I: An Introduction. New York: Vintage.
Foucault, Michel. 1977. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Foucault, Michel. 1970. The Order of Things. New York: Vintage.
French, Hilary F. 2000. Vanishing Borders: Protecting the Planet in the Age of Globalization. New York: Norton.
Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.
Garrett, Laurie. 2000. Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health. New York: Hyperion.
Garrett, Laurie. 1994. The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance. New York: Penguin.
Greider, William. 1996. One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Harvey, David. 1989. The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell.
Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press.
Kaplan, Robert D. 1996. The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the 21st Century. New York: Random House.
Kennedy, Paul. 1992. Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House.
Lomborg, Bjorn. 2001. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Luke, Timothy W. 1999. Capitalism, Democracy, and Ecology: Departing from Marx. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Luke, Timothy W. 1997. Ecocritique: Contesting the Politics of Nature, Economy, and Culture. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. 1984. The Postmodern Condition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. 1978. "The Communist Manifesto," The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker. New York: Norton.
McNeill, J. R. 2000. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World. New York: Norton.
Mumford, Lewis. 1986. The Lewis Mumford Reader, ed. Donald Miller. New York: Pantheon.
Mumford, Lewis. 1963. Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Technology and Environment. Washington, DC: National Research Council.
Negroponte, Nicholas. 1995. Being Digital. New York: Knopf.
Nye, Joseph. 1990. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. New York: Basic Books.
Onuf, Nicholas. 1989. World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
Pan, Philip P. 2001. "Scientists Issue Dire Prediction on Warming." Washington Post. (January 23), A1, 14.
Pimental, David, et al. 1998. "Ecology of Increasing Disease," BioScience, (October).
Pimm, Stuart L. 2001. The World According to Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth. New York: McGraw-Hill
Poggi, Giovanni. 1978. The Development of the Modern State: A Sociological Introduction. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Pool, Robert. 1997. Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rosenau, James. 1990. Turbulence in World Politics: A Theory of Change and Continuity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Smil, Vaclav. 1994. Energy in World History. Boulder: Westview.
Smith, Dita. 2001. "What on Earth? Draw of Cities." Washington Post (February 3), A16.
Smith, Zachary A. 1995. The Environmental Policy Paradox, second edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Tierney, Thomas F. 1993. The Value of Convenience: A Genealogy of Technical Culture. Albany: SUNY Press.
World Health Organization. 1997. Health and Environment in Sustainable Development: Five Years After the Earth Summit. Geneva: World Health Organization.
Worster, Donald. 1979. Nature's Economy: The Roots of Ecology. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.