Remember those gloomy headlines of last summer greeting the "Global 2000" report submitted to the President of the United States by the State Department ant the Council on Environmental Quality? Now comes a 250-page follow-up volume recommending what can be done to counter the first report's dire projections about the state of the planet twenty years from now. It is directed at US governmental policy and practice, but it is a hefty word to the wise for all citizens as well. It deserves widespread public discussion.
The food on your children's table, the heat in their homes, the air they breathe, the water they drink -- and the peace of their world. These are among the elements of the future that can be made more secure by individual, national, and international action to forestall the new "global" threats seen in the reports.
The "Global 2000" study started right off with what turned out to be its most quoted passage: "If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. Serious stresses involving population , resources, and environmental are clearly visible ahead. Despite greater material output, the world's people will be poorer in many ways than they are today."
The new report, "Global Future: Time to Act," reminds us of that very big "if." Negative trends do not have to go on. Anyone reading this newspaper will know of many achievements in reducing overpopulation, developing resources, controlling pollution, overcoming poverty. "Global Future" calls for national leadership and international coordination to draw on local thought and energy around the world. Here are a few promising recommendations in various categories:
* Population. By doubling the availability and usage of family planning services in the developing world before the end of the decade, the world's population in 2000 could be kept a half billion lower than the projection of 6.3 billion -- and eventually stabilized at 8 billion instead of the 12.2 billion projected at continued higher fertility rates.
* Food and agriculture. Sufficient reserves of basic food should be available for prompt response in the event of major shortfall. The US ought to join in this year's effort by the International Wheat Council to achieve an effective and equitable agreement based on the concept of nationally held reserves with international coordination at times of market strain.
The US could also lead by example in protection and management of its own dwindling agricultural lands. Steps might include federal technical and financial assistance for state and local governments seeking to develop land preservation policies.
* Energy. Four-fifths of the wood used by the developing countries is burned for fuel. If the necessary wood is to be there by the end of the century, tree planting must be multiplied by five. The US can help by supporting the World Bank's proposed expansion of fuelwood lending, increasing fuelwood assistance by US agencies, and working for adoption of a fuelwood program at the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy this year.
* Water. A key is making better use of the water available. Support for research is neccesary on methods of crop management to use less irrigation water , and on development of high-yield crops that use less water or water of poorer quality.
* Biological diversity. A formidable phrase for the world's mix of plant and animal species, many of which have been disappearing before their full potential has been determined. At the present rate, 15 to 20 percent of all present species could be lost by the next century. With them, for example, might go chances for higher-yielding or more pest-resistant crops. Efforts to inventory the world's species and help developing countries preserve them should be supported.
* Global pollution. International agreements to control hazardous waste should be made more effective. The US should improve its system for letting recipient countries know about US exports of substances prohibited or restricted for use in the US itself.
* Sustainable development. The US should make up its overdue obligations to the World Bank. This is a minimum, we might add. Growth and environmental protection can be mutually reinforcing rather than antithetical. Support should be given to linking the two in development aid decisions.
These and other ideas, of course, will not accomplish much if they languish on paper with no steps taken or alternatives produced. As the preface to the report says: "It is within the power of this country, working with other countries, to alter the future. The resources exist. The solutions ca n be found. The will to act must be summoned."