In Canada we’re going through another wringing-of-the-hands exercise about the decrepit state of our ‘socialist’ health care system. A recent report ( has called for the spending of CA$15 billion or so (Americans, multiply by 10 for scale adjustment, and by 2/3 for currency adjustment) to fix the problems. What amazed me about this process is that during the public consultation phase, most of the people who called in (both health care practitioners and patients) said the focus should be on preventative health care instead of treatment: consensus was this was not only cheaper, but would reduce lost workplace productivity by more than the cost of the investment, save lives and reduce suffering. Despite this, the commission and and its experts focused 100% on upgrading hospitals and treatment facilities and staff.
That got me thinking about our propensity to spend all our time and energy on how to fix problems (corruption, war, famine, crime, disease, terrorism etc.) and none of it on preventing the root causes of these problems. My nomination for the Top Root Causes of Everything Wrong With the World, in no special order:
1. Bad/Inadequate laws (including tax laws) – that permit/encourage pollution, waste, and corporate abuses and fail to protect the environment, animal and human rights or encourage
2. Excessive and anti-democratic concentration of power and wealth
3. Organized religions and groups that promote hate, discrimination, violence, overpopulation and intolerance
4. Ignorance, complacency and lack of critical thinking – especially ignorance of history, other cultures, ecology, and the value of community
5. Proliferation of abetting technologies – weaponry, polluting technologies, fertility technologies, irresponsible biotech etc.
6. Too many people having too many babies
7. Political and economic systems that misfocus human effort on corporate goals (growth, profit etc.) instead of human problems (i.e. wealth instead of well-being)
8. Lack of ‘good’ technologies – that enable energy efficiency, community self-sufficiency, etc.
9/10. This is a blog that others are supposed to comment on. What’s missing from my list?
I was tempted to add two items to this list, but decided they didn’t belong:
(a) War, crime, political instability and sense of individual helplessness – but not being a member of any organized religion, I can’t buy that these are evidence of, or caused by, some basic flaw in human nature; although violence begets violence and these things are self-perpetuating, I think they’re mostly fundamentally caused by 1.-8. above
(b) Excessive food production – if you’ve read Ishmael or Story of B by Daniel Quinn, you may accept that this is also a root cause of many human problems, but the argument for this is too complex for a blog, so I decided to leave it off the list (but please, read these books!)
Whenever I get really discouraged about the state of the world, I refocus on the root causes instead of the symptoms. And I think, neither George Bush nor Saddam Hussein is the real enemy, the real enemy is our 30,000-year-old inability to address the root causes of the Earth’s problems, such as the 8 listed above, because we’re always too busy trying to save the patient from dying to develop a vaccine for the disease.

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  1. Bill Swan says:

    David:I just came across your site today. I am re-writing a children’s novel (for publication this Spring, Lorimer). In it, one character is always trying to save the world. Stuck in last minute adjustments, I did a Google search on Saving the World. Your site came up first.I appreciated the excerpts from the list of 39 steps (the link is dead; do you have an update?). I’m happy to say I have no character named Amber. (But my 19-year-old daughter has a friend named Amber; what does this say aboout our lifestyle? (Lifestyle: interesting word. I grew up when nobody had a lifestyle. We all just did stuff we liked and grew bored with stuff we had to do.)BillAlso from just outside Toronto

  2. Larry A. Thompson says:

    Dave, having read your view on why you think “Bush” involved the U.S. in the war on Iraq, I am convinced that you will find the following information extremely compelling. Please go to the following website and click on “issues”. There are four parts to it. It won’t take long! Thanks! ……

  3. At or near the top of my list of faults wsith the world is the totally misguided way our young ones are brought up to think that more is better, and the so called role models that perpetuate the myth that acquiring riches beyond your wildest dreams is something worthy of taking a person’s lifetime over.Robert L. Fielding (please visit and make comments on my blog –

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