Monday, August 16, 2010

The Story As I See It

Why I believe we are on a downward spiral, globally:

  1. Climate change. Even a cyclical, natural (although I personally doubt we are entirely unconnected to this) change in climate could, and is predicted by scientists, to flood many current coastlines and create unlivable temperatures in a large portion of our food-producing areas globally within 20-50 years. Where will all the people go?
  2. Overfishing. A vast portion of this world receives food from our oceans. At current fishing and consuming rates, bluefin tuna is predicted to be seriously endangered or extinct within 3 years.
  3. Dead zones in the oceans. Run off of industrial waste, pesticides, fertilizers, and oil have created these areas of rot in our oceans. They are only getting bigger, and they probably aren't going away.
  4. Impending fresh water wars. This is already becoming a problem but it's off the radar. Most folks don't think about it, unless you're one of the hungry ones because the country upriver from you dammed off your local river to irrigate crops for their own people. Fresh water is, like food and air, something nobody can live without. Ever.
  5. The logistics of feeding an exploding population. The so-called "Green Revolution" helped our planet produce enough food (theoretically, anyway) for the population at that time. Since then, our global population has grown and continues to do so. Can the increased application of more chemical fertilizers and more pesticides bump production up significantly in the coming years? Particularly when larger and larger portions of the population are demanding their rights to a heavy meat diet such as what we have in the US? Are the only people who get to eat going to be the ones who have money?
  6. Excessive use of petroleum-based fertilizer and pesticides that are depleting the soil. Organic food and farming is making a comeback, but it is slow going. Agribusiness has found efficient ways to produce food (less satisfying and less nutrient-rich) but these methods will, in time, turn those fields to dust, unable to grow anything. Returning organic material to the soil by means of composing, instead of throwing it into a landfill, will help replenish the soil and ensure that it lasts for many more years. Livestock manure plays a part, too, along with proper crop management. But these are too time consuming and expensive to be seriously considered by big food production complexes.
  7. Deforestation. In the name of progress, more and forests and farmlands are being razed and contributing to soil depletion. Trees and plants "exhale" oxygen and "breath in" CO2. Humans and animals do the opposite. Symbiotic relationships don't survive when one side of the equation is seriously depleted.
  8. Loss of community. Humans are social animals. We need interaction with others; not the same for everyone, but very few folks wish to live in a vacuum, and even fewer can do it and stay sane. People still have communities and support systems today, but instead of relatives that live with you and neighbors you interact with, these connections can be far flung and hard to reach, making communication less frequent and not face to face. Not feeling as a solid and known part of your own local community, I think, fosters a kind of "renter's mindset" instead of "owner's mindset" regarding local issues, needs, and goals. It also practically ensures that a few people fall through the cracks, such as elderly, lonely folk dying because they don't have enough to pay for air conditioning or food, or children who are molested or neglected because everyone was too busy with their own lives to notice what was happening, or cared.
  9. Loss of a sense of collective responsibility. Maybe this should be a part of #8, but my point in this case is more corporate responsibility. If a legal creation of words can participate as a citizen (and that is where we are headed, don't you doubt it) then it also needs to follow basic tenets of humanism - and how that falls between pleasing stockholders and marketing lethal products (cigarette, anyone?) is a moral issue everybody has to answer for themselves. But unrestricted greed has already threatened to push the global economic train over the edge, yet no accountability has been demanded by the real people, you know, the ones who actually breathe air and eat food.
  10. A belief in entitlement. Many developing countries are desperate to achieve the standard of living enjoyed by the US and other established nations. Unfortunately, a finite amount of resources is difficult to dispense globally. Especially when those who have don't wish to change their lifestyle to help accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of people who feel they, too, deserve to live like us.
  11. Reliance on finite fossil fuels. A finite material cannot, ultimately, provide unlimited growth. To believe such is a delusion of incredible scale. To assume that technology (powered, of course, by this same finite fuel) will step in at the last moment and provide us with a different cheap and prolific energy source is, in effect, betting the future of the next generations on a game of roulette. Don't our children deserve better than that?
  12. People in power doing everything they can to maintain the status quo. Let me state this more bluntly - this very small percentage of the population already possesses most of the wealth (which means access to resources), and yet keep grasping for more and more, with less and less for the remainder of the world's population to share. Or maybe they would rather we all fought over it?
  13. A "throwaway" mindset. Don't fix it or even build it to last, throw it in the landfill and buy another one! It would be almost impossible to keep a vacuum or blender for 20 years these days anyway, because the models and parts change yearly so these items HAVE to be replaced, instead of getting repaired. The manufacturer (and the retailer) make more money when you replace an item rather than buy a part or two to fix it. This is an aspect of capitalism that promotes waste and does not encourage companies to build machines with the quality needed to ensure they will last for a long time.
  14. Many people no longer know how to survive with0ut the myriad of services our society has in place. This includes, among others, food preparation from raw ingredients, grow your own food, service your own machines/tools, build a shelter, ensure your water is drinkable, dispose of your own waste (organic and trash) properly.
  15. Unsustainable mindset. All people need limits. Certainly, I don't hold myself up as able to resist things I want as compared to things I need as often as I should. But I can state definitively that awareness of the true cost (in labor, excessive resource use, and fairness) of how much everything I use in my life helps adjust my thinking more and more.
All of these factors contribute to each other and interact in lesser and greater degrees. Many of these concerns show signs of becoming critical within the next 20-50 years. I probably won't be here for the last part of that....but my son and my nephew will, and the children of everybody I know. What kind of world are we leaving them?