Published on
The Portland Press Herald (Maine)

Our knowledge Has Surpassed Our Wisdom, Which Puts Us in Grave Danger

We fall short in knowing facts, and yet we achieve much. What will we do with it?

Charu Saxena

We are a blip in time, yet when we go, we will have wrought eons' worth of destruction.

Look at the general knowledge facts people probably remembered only a couple of hundred years ago: When was the battle of this or the battle of that? Who were the generals? What were the weapons in use? How many died?

When did the Greek civilization begin? The Harappa and the Mohenjodaro? Upon what rivers did these civilizations arise?

Who was the first president of United States? What lands did Alexander conquer? When did he retreat? Why?

Who painted the Sistine Chapel? The Mona Lisa? Who built the Pyramids, the Coliseum, the Taj Mahal? Who was the first pope?

When did the East India Company first set foot in India? How many people died of the bubonic plague? Who first navigated the route to India? To America?

What languages are spoken in India? In China? Do birds migrate? Do butterflies? How fast can a bullock cart go? Where did cloves first come from? Where did potatoes? What kind of soil is best for growing onions?

Look at the possible general knowledge questions of today: Who invented the telephone, television, cars, computers, the Internet, planes, spy planes, spaceships, missiles, nuclear warheads, cell towers? Who discovered vaccinations for smallpox and malaria? Why do plagues occur?

When did pesticides first get used? Why are cancers increasing? What are the possible cures?

Who discovered oil and gas? Why did the Bhopal tragedy occur? What about Hiroshima? When was the First World War? The Second? The independence and partition of India? Korea? Vietnam? Rwanda? Kosovo? 9/11? Iraq? Afghanistan? Darfur? How many people died? How many are dying today?

Why do whales lose their way? Why do bees? How many animals have become extinct, endangered or threatened in the past 50 years? Why? When did the Arctic thaw begin? Why?


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Who first landed on the moon? What countries have their research bases on Antarctica? How much of oil and coal is left in the world compared to 200 years ago? Who discovered the technology to grow potatoes in the desert? To grow babies in test tubes? Who? Why? Where? What? How many?

On and on, the questions and the facts of our existence increasing exponentially to our days on the planet and our impact: in eons per day.

The questions landing and scouring the land-air-water-mass of the only habitable planet in the universe (so far as we know), shaking its blue-green balance, slashing the vegetation, exterminating its creatures and netting its marine ecosystem out of sync; it's baldness increasing in accelerating proportion to our insatiable greed and desires.

And yet, there are many good things we have done. Look at the state of our medicine -- tooth extraction without pain, cures for smallpox and malaria, and some types of cancers. Look at our engineering -- tall bridges spanning our rivers and airplanes that whizz us around the globe, making it one interconnected world.

Look at windmills and solar cells and other enterprising technologies that show possible promise against depletion of nature's resources, though much more concerted research and backing is needed from visionary leaders.

Look at our libraries that preserve the thoughts, philosophies and knowledge of our times and of our ancestors.

Look at our institutions of learning- some of which surely are sparking questioning and curiosity and imaginations. Look at America, where different tribes and ethnicities and races from around the world are co-habiting and working together in peace.

But, are we working for peace? We are just one creature out of millions -- yet the only one capable of making ourselves and the entire creation extinct. What power that is. What possibility of megalomania in the hands of mad humans.

Perhaps, the single important question is: Are we mad, and is there something we are doing to affect a cure?

If not, I wonder if the Earth has one molten question churning in its depths: When will we become extinct?

Charu Saxena, a native of India, is a writer living in Portland. Married with two children, she also teaches basic Hindi conversation and Indian culture classes at a local college.

Copyright © 2007 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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