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As we enter the new millennium, the human family confronts numerous challenges. These do not, however, spring out of thin air; they are derived from the stupidity and misdeeds of the 20th century.

The 20th century, due to the application of science and technology to the art of warfare, was the bloodiest century in human history. Approximately 50 million people died during World War II alone. Another world war would mean the end of human civilization as we know it.

The primary challenge of the 21st century is, therefore, the elimination of war, particularly nuclear war. This means creating an effective system of collective security as envisaged by the U.N. Charter, thereby enabling universal disarmament. President Roosevelt's notion of "freedom from fear" would then be transformed from a mere ideal into a tangible reality.

The next major challenge stems from the first. Approximately half the world's population -- 3 billion human beings -- as emphasized by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his recent U.N. Day message, are living in "abject poverty."

This results from the misallocation of the world's resources to warfare instead of ecologically sound development. Eliminating the first challenge, therefore, sets the precondition for eliminating the second.

The next major challenge -- the elimination of pollution -- stems largely from the 20th century's mistakes. The misuse of fossil fuels causing global warming is one of its major manifestations. That is because many developed nations have needed war economics to maintain their prosperity. Most have been gluttonous in their consumption of fossil fuels and thereby set a terrible example for the developing world.

This is not an insurmountable challenge, but will involve the reduction of greenhouse emissions through technological innovation. More research is needed to make this into a viable reality. Those who deny global warming and the gravity of pollution are ignoring the preponderance of scientific evidence.

The human race can be saved from rendering itself extinct, but this will require a level of intelligence and ingenuity hither to unknown in human history.



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