NEW YORK -- Citing droughts, pollution and a plague of environmental crises, Time magazine Saturday named 'Endangered Earth' the 'Planet of the Year,' only the second time in 62 years an inanimate object was accorded 'Man of the Year' status.
The magazine, which in 1982 broke precedent by declaring the computer the 'Machine of the Year,' issued an urgent call for a 'universal crusade' to save the planet.
To emphasize its dire, apocalyptic vision of a planet and its inhabitants bound for extinction, the cover of next week's issue features a suffocating globe wrapped in clear plastic, tied with twine, sitting on a Long Island beach at sunset.
The beaches of New York's Long Island and much of the Atlantic Coast suffered from a wave of medical waste and debris last summer.
'Now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who can inspire their fellow citizens with a fiery sense of mission, not a nationalistic or military campaign, but a universal crusade to save the planet,' Time said in announcing its choice.
'Unless mankind embraces that cause totally, and without delay, it may have no alternative to the bang of nuclear holocaust or the whimper of slow extinction.'
In a departure from previous years, when there were runners-up for the year-end cover story honor, Time said nothing or no one else was even considered for the annual selection of the person, people or thing that most significantly influenced -- for better or worse -- the course of world events.
The choice 'had its origin in the scorching summer of 1988, when environmental disasters -- droughts, floods, forest fires, polluted beaches -- dominated the news,' publisher Robert Miller wrote in a note at the beginning of the issue.
Drought wreaked havoc for farmers and grain supplies across the country and touched off intense forest fires in the American West, manmade pollution drove swimmers from beaches on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, killer hurricanes tore through the Caribbean and floods devastated Bangladesh, the magazine said.
The atmosphere's ozone layer continued to be depleted by chlorofluorocarbons from spray cans, plastic objects and air conditioners, and large areas were poisoned by radioactive waste, it said.
In a special plea, Time said the United States, the largest user of natural resources, must take the lead in efforts to solve the world's environmental crises.
The magazine said the environment should be placed at the top of the agenda at the next economic summit to be held in Paris in June.
Time convened a group of 33 scientists, administrators and political leaders from 10 countries, including the Soviet Union, to help formulate an agenda for environmental action.
Miller noted that the participants from the Soviet Union were 'particularly' open in what they revealed about their country's environmental problems. The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, was Time's Man of the Year in 1987.
The cover photograph of a 16-inch globe was created by Bulgarian-born environmental sculptor Christo, who has wrapped everything from bridges to islands in the name of art.