, Salem, MA


May 15, 2014

Anderson: Something to fear for new graduates


2. Superbugs, etc. When I was in college, many diseases had been almost eradicated in the United States, including polio, pertussis and tuberculosis (TB), and everywhere, smallpox was vanishing. Miracle antibiotics were available to kill most bacteria. Now, because of more common world travel and undocumented (not-vaccinated) immigration, some old diseases like TB, and new ones like bird flu and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, are becoming threats here. Thanks to the misuse of antibiotics, we are seeing the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs, bringing the possibility of a modern plague that our medical profession can’t handle. Just going to the hospital adds risk of infection to whatever initially causes the visit.

On the subject of disease, let’s worry about the viruses attacking bees and bats, which play a vital role in our ecosystem, including the part that grows our food and battles insects. While worrying about food, worry about genetically modified crops, then toss in my long-standing general concern about population growth, as the world population heads for eight billion by 2030. I know some conservatives see little problem with this; it’s hard for me to see how it can NOT soon become a problem. And it’s also hard for me to imagine that there’s no environmental impact from all these people, many of them wasteful. Even if there is climate change, and good luck, graduates, sorting out THOSE conflicting arguments, when it happened seriously in the past, it affected only a few humans who could migrate from cold to warm, from drought to damp, away from rising seas, perhaps without running into hostile “others.”

3. Here’s the big one that has me seriously scared. Last month, I saw an old friend, Warren Norquist, once a Westinghouse engineer, being interviewed on local access TV. He’s become an expert on EMP — electromagnetic pulse — which I’d heard of but it seemed a remote concern, like climate change. (Yes, I saw this week’s headlines, “Antarctic ice sheet rapidly collapsing,” but if you read the story you learn that “rapidly” means “possibly within a couple of centuries.”)

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