There are two important anniversaries to note for today which are perhaps linked together in how we move into the future. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of chemical weapons into modern warfare. It also marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.
This juxtaposition of events speaks to the challenges that we has citizens of this planet face. Shall we use the knowledge that we have to create a better world or destroy the world that we have?
Fritz Haber, the noted German chemist and co-developer of the Haber-Bosch process (the conversion of nitrogen into ammonia), worked on the development of chemical weapons such as chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas.
Regarding war and peace, Haber once said,
“During peace time a scientist belongs to the World, but during war time he belongs to his country.”
This was an example of the ethical dilemmas facing chemists at that time. (Novak, Igor (2011). Science: a many-splendored thing. Singapore: World Scientific. pp.247–316. ISBN 9814304743. Retrieved 16 September 2014 – from Wikipedia)
Haber would rationalize the use of such weapons by saying death was death, by whatever means it was obtained. By then I remember what Robert E. Lee once wrote,
“It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”
He would also state (revering, I think, to the Civil War but which can be applied to many other wars,
“The war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.”
A note from my grandfather’s diary
October 5, 1918 – Received 3 letters from Elsie, 1 from my mother. First that I had received in some time. Gas is no stranger to us now.
This is the only reference he ever made. In a report I heard on NPR yesterday, they said that French and Belgium farmers are still digging up unexploded chemical shells from their fields.
Later, my father would make some comments about the impact of the use of atomic weapons on Japan and what it meant in terms of World War II ending.
Today is also the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. There are those today who rather this day be ignored; they show it in their callous attitudes about climate change, water usage, and water and air pollution. I have even hear some take the words of Genesis to mean that we can do whatever we want to this planet.
But the words of Genesis task us with taking care of the planet, not destorying it or misusing. This is the day we say to the people of this planet, you have a chance to make this a better world.
This is a day of two anniversaries; one that takes to death and one that takes us to life, which shall you choose.