The World Is Burning

Ruth Gadebush

The planet is burning—figuratively, not literally. Although it is more literal than we like to admit.

As we approach the anniversary of the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor bringing us into that last “world war,” let us recognize there is no such thing as a nice war, even when a nation must defend itself. Both the victor and the defeated suffer in unmeasurable ways well beyond the traditional focus of men and boys—as if that were not enough!

All wars are caused by greed on the part of someone, someone who thinks his/her group is due more than those others with whom the planet is shared.

From the beginning of time we have had invasions of someone else’s territory simply because the aggressor desired it for one reason or another, be it land or the demand that all must worship and live as s/he does.

Most of us know many of the stories in the Holy Bible, the source of various religions with seemingly as much or more conflict than love. This latter is difficult or impossible to explain except with the idea that I have seen the light and am compelled to help you be saved in the same manner. All in the name of serving you.

As a disclaimer, let me assure that I am not speaking of the missionaries who in their approach have made life better for many around the world. Unfortunately, that does not apply to all who cross borders.

Avoiding the power part is in the approach. There are those who seem to be born with a sense of entitlement, and there are those who developed it within the living situation in which they find themselves. Of course, the purpose of religion is to prevent such greed, but as hinted above it often does not have that result despite its good intentions.

It is some eight decades since the bombing of Pearl Harbor that so many of us still remember. I don’t believe there has been a day since that somewhere on this planet hasn’t had conflict.

Just as in what has become known as WWI we thought that humankind seeing the horrors of war would forever more be committed to finding a better way to deal with disagreements. Alas, we are currently seeing a different story as we stand on what many fear is the beginning of ever more horror, devastation to come.

None of us can ignore the fighting we now see in Ukraine. Between Pearl Harbor and now, my generation has lived through Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and countless other less widespread military involvements. Those are just the ones we were directly involved in.

In that time, we have developed bigger and better weapons, not to mention bigger and better communication that we hoped would help us solve problems. Alas, bad spreads as easily as good.

Our nation scuttled the League of Nations but has strongly supported the United Nations. We don’t know if it would have thrived had we supported the League of Nations, but we still strive with the United Nations, which without doubt has been better than nothing. It is our hope. Still we are far short of the promise, the dream of ongoing peace.

At this time, we live with the threat of the use of nuclear weapons by one man in his lust for power in the glories of a past Russia. While much of the world desperately tries to quell this conflagration, it is by no means certain that the fire can be put out.

Granted, we developed and used the first nuclear weapon, but I believe we had no choice. One must defend. Nevertheless, the horrors are present in endless ways.

Despite the many contracts/treaties of mutual restraint of nuclear use, the tragedy remains and in the ever more threat of the ability to deliver there is the prospect, not just possibility but probability,  of total destruction. The terror is beyond imagination.   

To go on to another kind of fire, in the western United States there are the ever-increasing flames of fire due to the drought of climate change that many refuse to recognize despite the scientific evidence. In that category is also the increased strength of hurricanes. Humankind finds it difficult to take the steps necessary to manage climate change while we still can.

Of a different nature yet is the attempt of Jan. 6, 202l, to overthrow the government of this nation that for all its wrongs is the best the world has to offer. As this is written, we have a political campaign that instead of a candidate offering his/her own qualifications for a vote exaggerates and exacerbates the faults of the opposition when, in fact, a little bipartisanship could be extremely valuable for the nation.

Not to be forgotten is the abundance of personal weapons in this nation. Yes, they are used for recreation, which is one thing if for food but another if for trophies. The claims for protection all too often result in tragedy with an innocent family member being mistaken for an intruder or law enforcement shooting the wrong person in fear and haste.

Worse yet, there is no denying those weapons used for one kind of crime or another from theft to mental illness and pure unexplained anger. The rash of mass killings is near epidemic; still, we tolerate it as a personal right to bear arms.

Whatever the source of the fire, it is not serving us well. Can we change sufficiently to overcome the bleak picture?

As we condemn actions of the past, doesn’t it occur to us that future generations will judge us by their changing standards? We cannot change the past, but we can take responsibility for the present.

Remember that fire consumes no matter its source. We have a limited planet to be consumed. It is time to consider our own role, our own firefighting on this planet we share.

Isn’t there a better way to use our resources? That old adage to treat others as we want to be treated is still valid.


  • Ruth Gadebusch

    Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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