Warfare Fitness Enhancement or Losing Strategy? A Bioscience Ethics Perspective

- Irina Pollard, Ph.D.
School of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia
Email: ipollard@rna.bio.mq.edu.au
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 50-54.


Abstract

This review describes the principles underpinning bioscience ethics as derived directly from scientific, social and environmental perspectives. It highlights how the scientific community can be more helpful in contemporary ethics. The connections between institutionalized warfare, environmental insecurity and future survival prospects are made. For example, the greenhouse effect, desertification and increasing scarcity of fresh water, are likely to cause violent competition for scarce resources, increasing the existing magnitude of environmental destruction. Biological warfare, the most feared form of global terrorism, is described. The review ends by asking whether we can afford to continue to allow the citizens of today to claim rights over the citizens of tomorrow, and suggests that we must seriously question the nature of our commitment to future generations. In conclusion, possible steps in the transition from an 'ethic of duty' to an 'ethic of care' are described.

Key Words: Bioscience ethics; Bioethics; Environment; Warfare; Ecological violence, Biological weapons; Refugees; Pollution; Terrorism; Conservation; Land reform; Reproduction; Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Introduction

Environmental ethics is a relatively new sub-discipline of bioethics which is concerned with the parallel between human economic development and environmental deterioration. It is increasingly obvious that the way we are multiplying, consuming natural resources, using energy, and producing waste, is fundamentally changing the balance of our global environment. Using an expanded framework governing bioethical thinking, environmental ethics has successfully extended the way conventional philosophers considered ethics from the anthropocentric to the biocentric. A liberating aspect of extending the premise beyond the traditional, strictly delineated guidelines of human and animal bioethics, has been the stimulus it created to contemplate environmental justice which, in turn, has raised questions of responsibility in sustaining the life-supporting structures existing within ecological systems. The acceptance that humankind is not at the center of our shared universe, but stands there as an integral part of Nature's biodiversity consisting of other animals, plants and microorganisms, is of immense value. Acceptance of ecological systems beyond ourselves facilitates maturation and guides us toward questions of responsible development and ecosystem stewardship. Environmental stewardship is a commonly shared characteristic among people's basic belief systems, but the rapid changes in society brought about by science and technology have fundamentally impacted on human relationships and practices. Fundamental life-style change has affected, often in unpredictable ways, the continued maintenance of a healthy human society in harmony with the environment. In many cases previously held traditional/cultural ethical principles are no longer valid or even useful and new survival priorities have to evolve. To quote Darryl Macer who proposes that "A mature society is one which has developed some of the social and behavioral tools to balance bioethical principles, and apply them to new situations raised by technology" (Macer, 1998, p84) seems appropriate in the modern context. Certainly there is an urgent need to develop a heightened ethical discretion in our personal and social use of technology, but to do this adequately we require a good working knowledge of biological systems.

In this paper I wish to use bioscience ethical thinking to further stimulate the environmental debate. Bioscience ethics aims at the democratization of esoteric science by making it understandable to the scientifically untrained but socially concerned individual. It also aims to highlight science's power to redesign our environment biotechnologically to the extent that our survival, and the survival of all complex ecosystems, is now dependent on human behavior and attitude. Thus, survival automatically becomes the business of bioethics and should jolt our consciousness toward mature ethical debate within science-based endeavors. In essence, bioscience ethics demands increased understanding of biological systems and responsible use of technology. To achieve its aims bioscience ethics reverses the prevailing sequence of events in which biological practice is grafted onto existing moral philosophy and not vice versa. Now it becomes possible to incorporate the best of the traditional/cultural ethical principles, reject false beliefs/misinformation and by-pass elaborate, esoteric deliberations. As a consequence, biologically trained scientists are able to contribute to the diversity of bioethical debate by providing another approach. In turn, society should demand that the diversity of bioethical debate incorporates the unique contributions that the scientific community can make. In time, bioscience ethics will achieve meaningful discourse, be helpful in contemporary ethics and be derived directly from scientific, social and environmental perspectives. New priorities may develop because bioscience ethics, by concentrating on long-term social goals made possible by good biological understanding, will reduce urgent, short-term crises - especially in the areas where scientific technology has irreversibly changed our relationship with the natural world, and has rendered many old belief systems inappropriate. The term bioscience ethics was first used by us in the context of expanding options provided by the assisted reproductive technologies in treating infertility, pregnancy and childhood development (Pollard and Gilbert, 1997). Bioscience ethics is also the subject of a text book to be published by the University of Washington Press (Pollard and Gilbert, 1999).

The present review uses bioscience ethical thinking to ask the question whether the evolution of human aggression, as experienced in institutionalized warfare, can still be regarded as a fitness-enhancing behavior or can be classified as a losing strategy. This review presents the case for the latter, and offers arguments against institutionalized violence, in particular the deployment of scientific expertise in advancement of technologies of destruction such as the use of recombinant DNA technology in the development of biological weapons. There are profound differences in the ethical principles held by scientists within the scientific community relating to territorial defense and 'justified' environmental destruction. I am of the opinion that a mature society can no longer tolerate the hideousness of warfare on the following biological grounds. Firstly, since modern large-scale conflict can no longer lead to the monopolizing of coveted scarce resources (unlike the situation in our tribal past) the activity is self-destructing with no biological survival value. Old notions of national security are outmoded, and military spending must be diverted towards sustainable development. Secondly, it is dysfunctional, non-adaptive human behavior and not the power of science and technology, which is threatening our survival. Modern warfare linked to human and environmental pollution is a long-term tragedy affecting the prospects of countless future generations.

The institution of war

As pointed out in the introduction, the greatest challenge for humanity is to balance developmental needs and environmental preservation and the biggest problems facing us - problems which link the environment, health and social issues - are those of population growth and economic activity (Pollard, 1994). The scientific basis of human aggression, including war, has been extensively studied (Geller and Singer, 1998). To recapitulate briefly; when one individual intentionally harms another, we describe this behavior as aggression. Aggression during wartime is a form of collective, institutionalized violence because it is driven by a diversity of carefully planned strategies that maintain the structure of war (Hinde, 1991). To understand individual aggression we have to understand the bases of aggressiveness in specific individuals, while to understand war we must also come to terms with repugnant aspects of group behavior. It is surely curious that the hideousness of military conflict is not legislatively forbidden, as is infanticide, child abuse, torture, murder, rape and other forms of barbaric aggressive behavior. It seems that the most important difference between individual aggression and war is the presence in the latter of pervasive cultural factors influencing the acceptability and aggrandizement of war. War is not seen as an unthinkable abomination because every culture, now and in the past, has been guilty of this sanitized form of bloodletting. All cultures have popularized it in fiction, art, film and now on the Internet; and warriors have always been glorified in secular and religious propaganda. Proof of the profitability of war, which sustains the military mind-set, is everywhere. The 1990s have seen, for example, more than 20% of the world's qualified scientists and engineers engaged in military research, while annual global military expenditure has exceeded world spending on health by 28% (Stix, 1995). Regionally, the economies of many countries have long been operating on a war footing. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, are good examples of war economies, where 85% of all the region's earnings in 1994-95 was directed towards its war effort, at an estimated cost in excess of US$20 billion (Richardson, 1995). This extravagance is not difficult to understand when we think of the cost of rifles, ammunition, hand grenades, land mines, automatic and semi-automatic guns, jeeps, trucks, other military supplies and basic necessities such as food, footwear and clothing. Yet, despite such insights, the global community still accepts as tolerable the tragic consequences on the populations, economies and the territorial structures of the communities in conflict. Rather than condemning this unique form of human behavior, it seems that wars are rewarded in various culturally approved ways. Australians celebrate April 24th with a public holiday to commemorate ANZAC Day - the anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landing which ended in defeat, at Gallipoli in 1915. Other nations generally choose to commemorate their victories. Either way, a majority of people around the world would probably give much to be able to celebrate the end of all wars, and the end of mortgaging future wealth to pay for present violence.

The tragedy of conflict

Increasingly it seems that we have to come to terms with ecologically-based conflict, conveniently categorized as 'the ecology of violence' (Robins and Pye-Smith, 1997). The ecology of violence can be seen as an inevitable consequence of a multitude of humans forced by poverty, mismanagement, greed and population pressures, into overexploiting their natural resources. The resulting ecological poverty then becomes a primary cause of aggression, which can easily escalate into warfare. Once war is established, the economy becomes predatory by consuming scarce resources to further the conflict, trapping its inhabitants in an increasing cycle of war-related debt and further poverty. The most common consequences of traditional warfare are reduced national income, destruction of former productive territories, and refugees fleeing from conflict areas and adding to the existing large numbers of displaced persons. Within towns and settlements, industry, hospitals, administrative offices and their documentation are damaged or destroyed, along with spiritual, cultural, historical and national monuments; such as churches, museums, libraries and important protected natural areas. Indirect damage caused by the interruption of communication and traffic routes, and the need to care for refugees, displaced persons, war invalids, and orphaned children, is also significant. The one unifying characteristic of all war operations is the lack of respect for human and environmental rights. War violates fundamental human decency when action is taken against non-military targets such as hospitals, schools and civil facilities; and when the civilian population is subjected to atrocities such as rape, assassinations, massacres, torture and "ethnic cleansing". All of the above have been perpetrated under the banner of justice and righteousness. Most of the above can also be seen on our television screens, where we regularly view images of nations being slaughtered by war, increasingly on a scale of unbelievable magnitude. At the same time we invariably see well fed soldiers alongside starving refugees, mostly women and children.

For the unfortunates trapped in war-torn zones, conflict can become a way of life. Millions of children grow up not knowing what peace is. During the past 50 years, sharp increases in the number of 'environmental' refugees fleeing landlessness and poverty in their homelands, should be seen as a global warning. Since 1990, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons has grown from about 30 million to more than 42 million (US Committee for Refugees, 1994) and it has been estimated that half of these are children, that is, over 20 million displaced kids. Many factors have been responsible for this accelerated displacement. In Africa, Europe and Asia, for example, long-simmering ethnic conflicts have turned violent with accompanying civilian casualties and population migration (Toole, 1995). A particular event can quickly trigger massive migrations such as the flight of an estimated 800,000 Rwandan refugees into Zaire in just three days in July, 1994 (Burkholder & Toole, 1995). However, emigration is a viable option only if there is somewhere to emigrate to. Uncontrollable mass human migrations pose severe biological problems (not least in terms of the fertility and psychological dislocation of the ÈmigrÈs) and are a serious destabilizing influence in already overpopulated host countries. Fears about the loss of land or social influence may create ethnically-based conflicts between the new and the old settlers, often resulting in campaigns of terror against the ÈmigrÈs.

Three principal factors causing increased tension over resources can be clearly identified. These are; the degradation and depletion of a key resource, population growth increasing the demand for the key resource, and injustice in its distribution, where one sector of society takes a disproportionate share, leaving insufficient for the others (Fisher and Black, 1995). Water scarcity, for example, has contributed to violence in Gaza (Israel) and lack of land, deforestation and population growth predictably lay behind the 1994 Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico. The connection between environmental security and peace will become even more apparent in the future. The greenhouse effect, desertification and increasing scarcity of fresh water, in particular, are likely to cause violent competition for what remains, increasing the existing magnitude of environmental destruction. Another crucial issue facing us all is acceptance of the fact that there is nothing that conventional military notions of threat and defense can do to give security for the environment. Instead of providing environmental security at times of military conflict, the institution of war places a very low priority on environmental protection; exemplified by the environmental terrorism perpetuated by the retreating Iraqi army which ignited Kuwait's oilfields in the aftermath of the Gulf War of 1991.

War ravages industries, including chemical industries which, in turn, cause immediate and ongoing pollution problems by contaminating soil and water resources. Local environmental contamination then spreads to neighboring and downstream countries which depend on these basic resources. The environmental consequences also have profound effects on wild life. These effects are related to the disturbance and intimidation of animals, especially mammals and birds, and the contamination and destruction of their habitats. This, in turn, can lead to severe consequences such as the extinction of some animal populations (especially the most threatened), reduced populations in species which are vulnerable to disturbance, long-term habitat pollution problems, the permanent loss of fragile and unique habitats, and the consequent transformation of ecosystems in the affected regions. The stress of intimidation and suffering of the animals trapped by war-chaos affects their overall long-term health prospects, including their reproductive capability. Reproductive dysfunction then adversely affects fertility, mating behavior and the raising of young.

Environmental scientists have been claiming for decades that mismanagement of the environment and the problems that this generates increase a community's vulnerability to conflict. Civil wars can often be a response to severe overcrowding, poverty, insufficient resources or inequality of resource distribution, especially in developing countries where gross social injustices already exist. Unfortunately, the will for reform frequently degenerates into a power struggle among unstable hierarchies professing differing ideologies. The ensuing violence is easily spread to neighboring countries and increases overall aggression in the vicinity, with the regional environment being doubly the loser. Similarly, within the more stable developed nations, social deprivation generates deep tensions which often lead to violence and a desire to destabilize the existing hierarchy. Some of the ethnic riots in the USA and Britain are, in the depth of emotion generated, civil wars kept in check by virtue of their small size and these countries' relative economic stability. There is also the related problem of pursuing a culture of aggression at times of national peace when civilians can easily arm themselves with automatic military-style weapons. Because the manufacture of weapons is so lucrative, both developed and developing nations worldwide are equally guilty in not insisting on adequate nationwide registration of firearms and stringent limitations to firearm ownership. There is good evidence that when access to all guns is reduced by legislation, male suicide rates, especially among younger men, are also reduced (Dudley et al, 1996). Although homicide receives greater publicity, 75-80% of firearm deaths in Australia each year are suicides. For example, in 1994 suicides accounted for 420 of the 522 firearm deaths (Martin and Goldney, 1997).

Biological warfare

When mass human migrations are uncontrolled, the spread of disease, particularly sexually transmitted disease, is an ever present threat. The opportunistic spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS, for instance, is significant at times of war, when large numbers of men move through a countryside where poverty and ignorance forces women, who do not necessarily consider themselves as prostitutes, to sell unprotected sex. Also rape, which has occurred throughout history in all cultures, is at its highest level during wars. As a consequence, the incidence of disease is higher at times of war, although this is usually localized. Conditions inducing chronic ill-health are also elevated at times of war due to stress and the dearth of medical staff, who are monopolized by the war machine. Until recently, however, no-one gave serious consideration to human-caused pandemics, in which nearly 100% of the populace could die.

To those studying modern warfare strategies it is increasingly apparent that the world needs to be better prepared to deal with disease epidemics as a result of terrorist attacks using biological weapons. Unfortunately, the threat of biological warfare has not decreased with the signing of the 1972 worldwide treaty on Biological and Toxic Weapons which in theory prohibits their development and deployment. On the contrary, the danger of institutionalized terrorism has become more real to the ordinary citizen since the Gulf War. Iraq has undertaken basic research programs on biological weapons with the alleged stockpiling of many agents of germ warfare, including anthrax, rotavirus, camel pox virus, aflatoxin, botulism toxins and mycotoxins. The success of the development of biological agents as weapons has been due to recent scientific advances in basic and applied microbiology. The close parallel development of science and its application to war should not be a surprise since humans have always used the latest available technology for destructive as well as for beneficial purposes. History tells us that biological warfare is not new because, since time immemorial, cadavers, animal carcasses and contagious matter have been used as weapons to contaminate enemy water sources, such as wells and reservoirs. History also reveals that biological weapons have not been exclusively used in war but have been deployed against specific ethnic minorities within one nation as, for example, the use of smallpox as a biological weapon against the Native Americans in the 18th century (Christopher et al, 1997).

The deliberate use of microorganisms and toxins is an effective, low-cost, easy to use weapon of mass destruction. These agents also require a minimum of scientific knowledge for their production and deployment. Because the same biological agents are used for legitimate medical purposes, as in the development of antibiotics and vaccines, the procedures of production and handling are generally available. Any interested civilian can find recipes for making biological weapons in the scientific literature, or for that matter on the Internet. Moreover, unlike the needs for advanced systems like nuclear weapons or missile placements, specialized equipment is not required for the delivery of these lethal pathogens.

Most fatalities and injuries from conventional bombing attack occur immediately; however, the effects of a biological attack can be delayed and depend on the incubation period of the virus or bacterium involved. In addition, modern concentrated forms of biological agents are invisible, odorless and tasteless, making it difficult to know when, or if, a terrorist attack has taken place or is under way. Biological warfare is becoming the most feared form of global terrorism because any one of hundreds of cultured agents can stealthily be introduced and quickly claim millions of casualties. Civilians who are not generally immunized or possess protective equipment are especially vulnerable. A millionth of a gram of anthrax, for example, constitutes a lethal dose, while a kilogram of it has the potential of killing hundreds of thousands of people in a metropolitan area (Danzig and Berkowsky, 1997). Ever more sophisticated genetically engineered forms of viruses are being manufactured by scientists. For example at a now defunct USSR virology center, it is claimed that Russian researchers were experimenting with 'chimera' viruses made from genes of two different species of virus. A particular chimera mentioned was a genetically engineered form of smallpox virus which contained material from the Venezuelan equine encephalitis - a brain virus that causes near-coma but need not be fatal (Wertz, 1998). The surreptitious release of a biological agent can easily be facilitated via crop dusters, trucks equipped with spray tanks, timing devices in subways, airports, or released through the air conditioning systems in buildings and other crowded places.

Future generations of biological weapons may become so powerful as to push them up onto the top of the list of all weapons, including nuclear, in terms of potential lethality. This scenario may result from the mis-application of sophisticated technologies made possible through the knowledge gained from the human genome and the human genome diversity projects. In theory at least, the successful manufacture of population-specific targeted genetic weaponry for use in the deployment in what is loosely termed "ethnic cleansing", may become a horrifying reality. The possibility arises because the above mentioned projects are not just gene mapping endeavors but, in addition, also reveal genetic differences between groups of people living within one population. The aim of the Human Genome Diversity Project is the identification of sets of genetic markers that distinguish between specific population sub-groups. It is easy to see, therefore, that the findings could be diverted from an presently ethically neutral identification of genetic difference in, for example, populations of African, European and Hispanic Americans, to specifically targeting genetic differences found in, for example, ethnic sub-groups living in countries such as Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia. The intent of the genome projects is for ultimate benefit, such as in the medical applications and gene therapy; but, evidently, the same technology can be subsequently misused in the development of genetically modified lethal microbes which selectively infect people belonging to one specific human population variety. The attraction from the aggressors' point of view is that genetic-specific biological weapons make them more controllable because the aggressors themselves are (in theory at least, as it is a wise person indeed who knows his genetic origins) protected from catching the disease. Scientists working for good must now be more aware than ever before and find ways of involving themselves and the community in preventing the misuse of their considerable and valuable contributions.

Since there is now a real possibility that the wars of the future may not be fought on traditional battlefields, new contingency plans have to be made. Biological weapons are not respectful of traditional boundaries or geography - or any other conceptual compartmentalization - so the challenge involved in providing protective measures is enormous. The first goal has to be to counteract the terrorists' goal of creating unprecedented fear and chaos, so that remedial action can be swift. Since valuable resources will have to be expended in order to enhance the capabilities to withstand this new form of aggression, it will be the wealthy nations who will make these contingency plans. These privileged nations will soon have in place capabilities and response measures. For example physicians will have to become familiar with the organisms that are most often used, and have access to antidotes and effective drugs to treat the diseases these organisms cause. Additional personnel will have to be trained to recognize the early symptoms of disease caused by biological warfare agents. Stress debriefing teams will have to be trained to help cope with the psychological/emotional aspects of treating exposed survivors and their families. Development will have to be directed towards the refinement of biodetectors and medical units with expertise in prophylactics, hazard mitigation and decontamination will have to be established. Vaccine and antibiotic research will have to be accelerated in the event of terrorist use of new genetically engineered organisms intended for biological warfare. For example, the technology to manipulate the genes of harmless bacteria so that they produce potent toxins, such as ricin (Beal, 1995), has already been in existence for some time. Simple things like protective clothing and masks with improved air filtration systems will have to be mass manufactured. Personnel will have to be trained in specific biological weaponry intelligence collection, analysis and preemptive response to terrorist attack. It is sobering to reflect that the US government is taking the threat of biological warfare so seriously that in 1996 it passed a Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act. Major cities are designated, under the provisions of this legislation, as centers for specialist biological weapons training within the fire, police, rescue and hospital emergency services. Let us hope that this new expertise will never have to be used in a serious terrorist or war situation.

The legacy of war on future generations

When discussing the environmental hazards of war, we must also take into consideration the long-term consequences and, in particular, its effects on future generations of children. When we ask the question of whether we can afford to continue to allow the citizens of today to claim rights over the citizens of tomorrow, we must seriously question the nature of our commitment to future generations (de-Shalit, 1995). Environmental issues are a matter of relations between generations. For instance, radioactive waste, once produced, is there and cannot be destroyed. The gases known as the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs released into the atmosphere now will damage the ozone layer in thirty to eighty years. Although the use of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) ceased in western countries in the late 1970s, they are still being used in central and eastern Europe, south-east Asia, and other less developed countries, where they are extensively utilized in electrical transformers, condensers and in vehicular hydraulic fluids. In addition, some of these locally manufactured PCBs have been shown to contain higher quantities of chlorinated dioxins and furans than those PCBs formerly synthesized in western Europe or the United States (Richardson, 1995). Within war-torn countries like Croatia, widespread release of PCBs originating from shelled and burnt electrical transformers and condensers, and from abandoned and severely damaged military vehicles, is evident. In addition to the PCBs and the products of their incomplete combustion, during war heavy metals, fuel oils, petroleum products and other toxic chemicals are all heavily spread into the environment. These toxic mixtures leach into the soil and ultimately find their way into water sources. The widespread environmental contamination with pollutants of all sorts surrounding any conflict zone is inevitable. Pollutants enter international waters via ground, surface and marine water transport, so the contamination of portable water resources, rivers, fish, cattle, dairy products, and crops in neighboring nations also becomes a delayed environmental tragedy. A considerable number of synthetic man-made chemicals, including the PCBs and the organochlorine insecticides, are serious hormone disrupters. Reproductive hormone mimics, for example, are a hazard to normal sexual development, fertility and pregnancy(Fein et al, 1984) and so are instrumental in setting up a transgenerational legacy of war-related environmental pollution. This toxic legacy is passed on to the next generation preconceptually, prenatally, and in early infancy via contaminated breast milk (Colborn et al, 1996).

Post-war reconstruction of industry and remediation of contaminated soil and water requires a mammoth effort and the provision of large amounts of international aid, which is then not available for competing projects in other areas of need. Attempts to estimate the costs of recent war remediation work are futile because of the sheer size of the sums involved. It is also futile to attempt to calculate the human costs when formerly able and productive individuals are forced to suffer the indignity of accepting charity. It is imperative, therefore, for the mediators and politicians not to neglect or underestimate the indirect consequences of wars on the human and natural environment. A new preventative approach to problem solving by pre-empting population and poverty crises, is essential if we are to overcome the futility of waging wars and suffering the consequent environmental degradation and need of remediation. It is sobering to reflect that biological evolution over more than three billion years has resulted in the millions of species of organisms living to-day and the many millions more that lived in the past but are now extinct. Will we continue to heedlessly destroy the fruits of this evolution because we are too closely bound to our primitive fighting heritage instead of attempting peaceful conflict resolution? If we do not quickly protect areas essential for maintaining life on earth, futile wars will continue to be fought as a consequence of environmental insecurity. Since traditional notions of national security are outmoded, military spending should be diverted away from the acquisition of weaponry and towards environmentally sustainable development. Since environmental stress is a major cause of civil unrest, it follows that in the interests of peace, governments must invest in such things as sustainable fishing, forestry, soil and water conservation, and land reform. We have to finally face the fact that our evolutionary animal heritage which provided us with two different survival strategies when threatened - to fight and obtain high social rank in spite of upheaval or to flee to pastures new - are, in the modern context, both losing strategies.

Living within Nature's bounty

The thesis that we, as human selves, stand in a holistic relationship with Nature herself should provide us with a meaning of life. The life sciences have provided us with many ecosystems-based insights and adaptive strategies which increase the chance of survival in the long-term. Therefore, if we equipped ourselves with a greater ecological consciousness, we may be able to develop adaptive cultural rules by which we could live. Rules based on Nature's scheme of reciprocity should be simpler to understand and to follow compared to abiding by a theoretical list of ethical prescriptions. We can learn, for instance, from the rainforests, where although their soils are poor with few nutrients, they are among the most diverse biomes on Earth, thanks to their 'deep' ecological design. Natural symbiotic relationships between microorganisms, plants and animals have co-evolved in tune so that the whole has become almost perfect in its efficiency and creativity. The fundamental design principles of Nature are based on cooperation, biological feedback, adaptation to changing conditions and promoting ecological diversity. Common human survival themes should, therefore, also echo this pattern and include more cooperation and less conflict, living within our ecological means, and living in harmony with ourselves and the environment. Humans have long had sufficient brain power, and now, armed with deep scientific understandings have now a good chance of increasing survival fitness. All that is really required is for us to grow up emotionally in order to catch-up to our brain's vast potential, and to ethically manage our own fitness as a species. When it comes to killing thousands, even millions, of our own and other species in futile ideological competition, fueled by such horrors as biological warfare, we can no longer accept this as being a necessary and inevitable part of our way of life. Our innate behavioral flexibility, however, can still rescue us because within our biological nature exist strong basic survival instincts such as justice, empathy, love and respect for the freedom and lives of others. It is the further development of these positive instincts we have for each other which can additionally provide us with the necessary assets in the environmental context.

Our relationship with the Biosphere is complex and unique but, after all is said and done, it is also the primal relationship encoded in our genes. There are several basic instinctive human responses to the natural world; responses such as pleasure, love, awe and reverence, for instance, are universally aroused by the beauty and mystery of the non-human. The reactivation of such responses, dormant in times of acute stress, underpin more recent kinds of ecological thinking, which suggest that we should think more in terms of living in harmony with Nature rather than on the basis of conquest and exploitation. A philosophical change based on identification with Nature could have powerful effects because such a shift may herald a move from an 'ethic of duty' to a more mature 'ethic of care'. The transition would also alleviate human alienation due to living outside Nature, to one of being 'at home'. In other words the transition back to 'love of life' as recently identified (Macer, 1998). The superb Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira and the stunning Dreamtime depictions in Aboriginal rock art are testaments to our great knowledge of and sympathy for the Biosphere. Our ancestors studied the animals they hunted and knew a tremendous amount about the environment they lived in; they also respected nature and its creature's (many of whom were also their deities) ethical right to exist alongside humankind. Animism probably served as an adaptive ecological mechanism by impressing a bioethical restraint upon overexploitation and abuse. Tribal folk had to honor and respect the attributes of the animals they believed in; for example, the gentleness of the kangaroo, the courage of the lion, the majesty of the eagle and the humor of the kookaburra. Such reminiscences help us to retain optimism and belief that we humans can triumph over our greatest challenge - that of cleaning up our environment. Caring for the environment has to become an instinctive characteristic of good citizenship because we need to insure ourselves against unforeseen developments by applying our creative energies from our collective pool of creative intelligence and sense of responsibility. We would be wise to remember that just as diversity of species provides biological stability, so diversity of ideas provides cultural security.


References
Beal, C. (1995) How to spot a killer. New Scientist, 146, 24-25.
Burkholder, B. and Toole, M. (1995) Evolution of complex disasters. Lancet, 346, 1012-1015.
Christopher, G. Cieslak, T. Pavlin, J. and Eitzen Jr, E. (1997) Biological warfare: A historical perspective. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 412-417.
Colborn, T. Dumanoski, D. and Peterson Myers, J. (1996) Our stolen Future: Are we Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival. Hamondsworth, Middlesex, Dutton Penguin.
Danzig, R. and Berkowsky, P. (1997) Why should we be concerned about biological warfare? The Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 431-432.
De-Shalit, A. (1995). Why Posterity Matters: Environmental Policies and Future Generations. London/New York, Routledge.
Dudley, M. Cantor, C. and de Moore G. (1996) Jumping the gun: Firearms and the mental health of Australians. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 30, 370-381.
Fein, G. Jacobson, J. Jacobson, S. Schwartz, P. and Dowler, K. (1984) Prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls: Effects on birth size and gestational age. The Journal of Pediatrics 105, 315-320.
Fisher, F. and Black, M. (eds) (1995) Greening Environmental Policy: The Politics of a Sustainable Future. London, Paul Chapman.
Gorezynski, D. (1992) Insider's Guide to Environmental Negotiation. Boca Raton, CRC Press.
Geller, S. and Singer, D. (1998) Nations at War: A Scientific Study of International Conflict. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Hinde, R. (ed) (1991) The Institution of War. London, Macmillan.
Macer, D. (1998) Bioethics is Love of Life An alternative textbook on cross-cultural ethics , EUBIOS Ethics Institute.
Martin, G. and Goldney, R. (1997) Guns and suicide in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 166, 5.
Pollard, I. (1994) Extinctions and the conservation of endangered species. In: A Guide to Reproduction, Social Issues and Human Concerns. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 249-273.
Pollard, I. and Gilbert, S. (1997) Bioscience ethics - A new conceptual approach to modern ethical challenges. Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics, 7, 131-135.
Pollard, I. and Gilbert, S. (1999) Life, Love and Children: A Practical Introduction to Bioscience Ethics. Seattle, University of Washington Press (in preparation).
Richardson, M. (1995) The Effects of War on the Environment: Croatia. London, E & FN Spon.
Robins, N. and Pye-Smith, C. (1997) The ecology of violence. New Scientist, 153, 12-13.
Stix, G. (1995) Fighting future wars: Trends in defense technology. Scientific American, 273, 74-80.
Toole, M.J. (1995) Mass population displacement: A global public health challenge. Infectious Disease Clinics North America, 9, 353-365.
US Committee for Refugees (1994) World Refugee Survey. Washington, DC: USCR.
Wertz, D (1998) Genetics and "Germ Warfare". Gene Letter, 2, 26-28.
Go back to EJAIB 9(2) March 1999
Go to commentary by A.K. Tharien
Go to commentary by F.J. Leavitt
Go back to EJAIB
The Eubios Ethics Institute is on the world wide web of Internet:
http://eubios.info/index.html