A Starting Point

In Global Futures

There are three major problems facing us, the human race; problems that affect us now and will get worse. The effects have been developing over a couple of hundred years and are apparent now, though the impact is ignorable. The rate of change is accelerating, and continuing to ignore these problems will, in about 50 years, result in land and food shortages that will cause severe disruption across the globe. At that point much of the destruction of our ecosystem will have become irreversible, and in, say, 100 years from now, the world will be unrecognisable. Two of the three problems are climate disruption (driven by global heating) and loss of biodiversity. These are the headline issues that everyone recognises and which appear sufficiently different to warrant separate consideration. To that I'm adding loss of agricultural top soil. This is an immediate problem, perhaps more immediate than the others, and, for reasons I hope will become clear, is linked as both cause and effect with the other two.

Personally, I am unlikely to be around in 50 years, though even in ten years life might be uncomfortable. I could simply discount everything and just get on with my life, but I'm not going to do that. I have children, and grandchildren, and I do not want them caught up in global land wars, or becoming participants in their own refugee crisis. I also feel that these global changes are wrong, in the sense that we do not have the right to do what we are doing to the planet, and in the sense that we do not have the right to play with the future happiness of others. I want to do something, but it seems unlikely that going into hair shirt mode is going to help. Equally, I could man a barricade somewhere, but which barricade? I am aware, for example, that many people are doing good work on renewable energy; is the uptake of these technologies happening fast enough? If not, why not? I am aware, again, of the move to minimal government, a move that drives the austerity measures that make life so difficult for many; would increased government spending go in the right direction to address any of the global problems? What should the government be doing anyway?

How to find out more? Relevant information can be challenging to come by. Media reports generally focus on immediate concerns relating to what happened yesterday and any analysis of the future is linked to current concerns, such as economic growth, and, as a result, appear to me to be framed in a way that is unhelpful. This is not surprising. Traditional media channels mostly have to sell readers to advertisers, so what I see is as much to do with reporting styles and editorial choices as anything else, but these choices both reflect and reinforce attitudes to some of the major issues that concern me. Equally, available books and web sites each have their own approach: no one of them is going to be perfect; and writers all come from different places. To make sense of this I need to build a framework for understanding what is going on, what futures we might see, and what we might do in response to those futures.

Writing here is my way of clearing my thoughts.