"Is the end near?Probably not, but we may be wishing it were."
In twenty years, we'll have reached year 2000. Just twenty brief orbits round the sun, five Presidential elections, three total changes in body chemistry. Twenty years fly. Nineteen sixty was but yesterday: President Kennedy elected, U.S. property seized in Cuba, Adolf Eichmann captured, the absurdist end of Albert Camus.
Most of us living today will be alive in year 2000, everything being equal, barring accidents, diseases, nuclear catastrophes, and so much else that can befall man on this planet.
A recent report to President Carter, however, reveals that a great deal will be happening on this globe between now and 2000. And assuredly, all things will not be "equal". In the material universe, the old laws hold: You can't win, break even, or even stop playing. As Lord Krsna assures us, this universe is duhkhalayam, a place of misery, and asasvatam, the place of death.
The State Department and the Council on Environment Quality have assured President Carter the same. In a 766-page report submitted in early August (1980), the President was informed that the earth and life on it are slowly dying. And that's putting it euphemistically. The outlook is bleak. The report, entitled "Global 2000," paints a landscape of a wasteland that makes T. S. Eliot's portrait paradisal.
Due to unwanted population and misuse of natural resources, Mother Earth will hardly be recognizable. Half of the existing forests will be depleted, especially in the tropics, where overpopulated, underdeveloped countries use wood for fires. Burning fuels will raise the carbon dioxide content in the air, triggering climatic changes. We have already witnessed side effects: heat waves, warm winters, snow in June, gigantic hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, and other scenes from Revelations. Is the end near? Probably not, but we may be wishing it were.
The cities of year 2000 will be the size of nations in bygone eras. Population will increase 55 percent to 6.35 billion, and most of this growth will appear in less developed countries, where it can't be accommodated. The poor will get poorer, and the rich will do all they can to break even. Air pollution and loss of natural habitats wilt force two million species of plants, birds, insects, and animals to call it quits and disappear. The big demand, of course, will be for food. Unwanted children mean unwanted mouths to feed. Look for more starving children in the Mideast, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. According to the report, "the quantity of food available to the poorest groups of people will simply be insufficient to permit children to reach normal body weight and intelligence."
Srimad-Bhagavatam's predictions realized! Eventually, the Bhagavatam tells us, people in our present Kali-yuga, "the Age of Kali," will be twelve inches tall. (We've 427,000 years of Kali's age left.) These physical and mental dwarfs will run about frantically, spawning offspring to eat. Shades of Jonathan Swift.
Underlining these prophecies, the report to the President informs us that hundreds of millions of people will go hungry in twenty years. The harvests of arable land will be spreading thinner: although 2.4 acres of land fed 2.6 people in the early 1970s, they will have to support four people by the year 2000. Salt and alkali buildups will also threaten tillable soil with erosion. Sand dunes will replace fertile farms. More hungry, unwanted children crying, diseased, fly-ridden, ignorant, miserable.
Deforestation will cause sufficient catastrophes in the form of floods and droughts. The world's rivers will be destabilized; ground water will be depleted.
There will be lots of money by today's standards, but what will the currency be worth? Mere paper. The per capita gross national product will rise to 11,117 dollars in developed countries and will flounder at 587 dollars in underdeveloped countries. The gap between poor and rich will widen. Prices for food will be astronomical. The report states: "It is not quite clear how a world economy will function when virtually every one of its major sectors needs a price increase that substantially . . . exceeds overall inflation rates." According to Vedic culture, wealth is figured in terms of cows and grains. In Kaliyuga, it's worthless paper. And demonic machines of destruction guns, tanks, bombs.
Avoiding conjecture, the report to the President makes no allowances for war, that great depleter of resources, time, energy, constructive ambition, love.
"'Global 2000' paints an absolutely shocking picture of the world twenty years from now," World Bank president Robert McNamara states. "Unless we act now."
We can recall how well McNamara solved our Vietnam fiasco. And now he talks about managing the world's flow of events, of redirecting the karma of six billion souls.
What a world to live in, to bring children into, to die in. And this prognosis is not science fiction. It is based on the logical outcome of current trends; if we simply continue as we are, all this will come to pass.
It's easy to say that if everyone takes to Krsna consciousness or some form of God consciousness these disasters can be avoided. But we might as well say that if man stopped reproducing, population would drop. It's not in man's nature to turn perfect overnight, or over-yuga.
"There are two classes of beings," Lord Krsna tells us. "The fallible and the infallible. In the material world, every entity is fallible. . . . There is no being existing, either here or among the demigods, [who is] free from the three modes of material nature."(Bhagavad-gita, 15.17, 18.40).
It is man's nature to err, to cheat, to be illusioned, and to be limited. These are our basic defects. If anyone claims not to be so conditioned, he's either illusioned or trying to cheat. This is especially true in Kali-yuga, our present time cycle.
This isn't to say that man is inherently evil. To the contrary, everyone is by nature Krsna conscious. It is the Zeitgeist of Kali-yuga that deludes us into mistaking the illusion for reality.
"What appears to be truth without Me is certainly My illusory energy, ' Lord Krsna says, "for nothing can exist without Me. It is like a reflection of real light in the shadows, for in the light there are neither shadows nor reflections."
All the miseries delineated in' "Global 2000" are there for a purpose-to make us give up trying to find happiness in the shadows, happiness independent of Krsna.
What is misery? Birth is misery. Disease is misery. Old age is misery. Death is misery. No one can claim to be free from these "inconveniences." "From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place." (Bhagavad-gita, 8.16) Guaranteed. By Lord Krsna.
Mercifully, the Lord has given us an exit-the wisdom of Bhagavad-gita, "knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence." (Gita, 9.1) The message of the Gita is frequently reiterated: Render devotional service to Krsna under the guidance of guru. That is the Vedic way out of the labyrinth of misery that's sure to worsen.
The purpose of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is to disseminate this knowledge for the benefit of mankind. Whoever's given time to read this article might give a little more time to acquire Bhagavad-gita As It Is, read it with an open mind, and then think of the direction we're heading in Global 2000.
After reading Bhagavad-gita, come visit us at one of our ISKCON centers to see how we're putting the philosophy of the Gita into daily practice. Our communities may represent a small step, but at least it's in the classical Vedic direction. As Global 2000 approaches, we shall see that our decision to follow Sri Krsna's advice perhaps difficult at first is justified.
"In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear." (Gita, 2.40)