Peter Goldmark, a former budget director of New York State and former publisher of the International Herald Tribune, headed the climate program at the Environmental Defense Fund.
I've been searching for an article, or a blog, or a post that shines a spotlight on the important connection between the Japanese reactor explosions and the Gulf of Mexico oil blowout last year.
They're both part of the same story: the dependence today of the human adventure on advanced technology.
Japan has almost no domestic sources of energy. The Japanese import a lot, and it was natural for them to "go nuclear" to generate electricity. The United States has dwindling oil reserves, and it was logical to authorize offshore drilling whenever and wherever possible.
In both cases we are talking about "needs" that are enormous, and basic, to a modern economy. And in both cases, the technology involved is complicated, and mounted on such a large scale that if something goes wrong, the consequences are magnified.
A tsunami is a natural disaster. The BP oil gusher and what may be an impending Japanese meltdown are man-made ones, arising from imperfect use of the technologies on which our economies are today completely reliant.
In some areas our dependence is nearly invisible but still very real. We can produce enough food to feed ourselves only with advanced technology -- including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and genetic engineering to produce hardier or more productive crops. Our banking and financial systems are totally dependent on sophisticated, modern computers. So are our air transportation and electrical transmission systems.
But while we are fixated now on natural disasters and the havoc they can wreak, the largest and most dangerous hidden weakness of our dependence on technology is the vulnerability of these systems to computer attack or breakdown.
Remember Conficker? It's a computer "worm" that first appeared three years ago and has evolved since then in both slyness and potential lethality. Is it run by organized crime? By a nation with advanced computer capabilities? By a clandestine branch of the U.S. government? No one professes to know.
But threats like that make you think about what systems in our interdependent globe rely heavily on modern, interlinked electronics. The list is long -- and central to the ability of our economies to function.
Jack Goldsmith, an expert on cyber warfare, writes: "Taken together, these factors -- our intimate and growing reliance on computer systems, the inherent vulnerability of these systems, the [digital] network's global nature and capacity for near instant communication (and thus attack) . . . and the difficulty anonymity poses for any response to a cyber attack or cyber exploitation -- make it much easier than ever for people outside one country to commit very bad acts against computer systems and all that they support inside another country. On the Internet, states and their agents, criminals and criminal organizations, hackers and terrorists are empowered to impose significant harm on computers anywhere in the world with a very low probability of detection."
It is almost certain that we witnessed last year one of the first sustained cyber attacks on a country's weapons systems. The target was, and remains, Iran's nuclear weapons program. The name of the rogue computer program is Stuxnet. Who's the attacker? Is it the United States or Israel, as some have speculated? Someone else? Who decided this should be done? How will Iran respond?
What systems on which we depend for the provision of daily services and security are not vulnerable to chaotic disruption by computer attack? Very, very few.
Welcome to the 21st century.