Summary: Sometime during the past few generations we lost our confidence in ourselves. Fear replaced it. This makes us weak and easy to manipulate. But we exaggerate the dangers, and our history gives us reason for hope. Let’s shed our fears to build a better future!
Climate change, peak oil, 4GW, social decay, ecological collapse, economic collapse, pandemics of new and old diseases – the list rolls on. It’s the Crisis Crisis, with the doomsters dominating our news. Every day they ask “How can civilization survive for a new generation?” But for thousands of generations humanity has confronted such serious problems as we climbed from scavengers to become the dominant species on this planet.
We no longer even remember the steps in our long climb. For example, Victorian London was one of the world’s greatest cities, one of the first modern cities. Its people lived closer to nature than those of today’s London. Their food was “organic”, since the agrichemicals industry – with its artificial preservatives, colorings, and other adulterants – had not been invented. It was as nice as often portrayed. (Note on the below table – Rutland is a rural Midlands county and Colton is a rural Midlands village. Compare with the two cities.)
“The groaning tables on Victorian Christmas cards groaned beneath platters of food that would be condemned as unfit by modern health officials.”
— From William Manchester’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory.
Fantastic progress in technology changed brought the health, affluence and security that most of us in the West enjoy today. It has spread around the world. In Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel Moonraker, MI6’s secret agent 0011 vanished into Singapore’s “Dirty half-mile.” Agent 007 was glad it was not him. Today Singapore citizens consider US cities to be as crime-ridden holes compared to their well-run city-state.
So why so much fear about the future?
Refuting the many doomster nightmares is like plugging holes in a cracking dam. These stories multiply, driven by our fears about the future of our rapidly changing world. How strange that our past successes provide Americans with so little confidence about the future. What will happen during the next fifty years, by 2069? Here are my guesses.
- Peak oil will have come and gone. By 2069 we have adapted to a post-oil world.
- The age wave will have passed over us. The developed world will have seen the elderly become its largest age group – placing severe stress on their economies – then die. Many local governments’ retirement systems will have gone bust paying for their pensions and medical care (details here).
- The global long population crash will have begun as many nations have population declines (it has already hit Japan). Societies with fertility rates below replacement will face slow cultural extinction, unless they boost fertility or assimilate large numbers of immigrants. The economic effects of population decline are exaggerated.
- A new industrial revolution has now begun. Late 21st century industry will rely on catalytic chemistry (as does our body), producing few pollutants. Advanced power systems will provide ample clean power.
We look back at the fears of the Victorians with amusement (Queen Victoria died in 1901). Would cities grow so large that horse manure renders them unlivable. Would the lights go out when the last whale was killed for its oil. Would the Earth be ravaged by giant war machines (such as airships and submarines)? We can only guess what the world of 2069 might look like. It might seem as strange to us as the world of 1950 would be to someone in 1900. I believe that in 2069 our descendants will laugh at our nightmares, while they look to the future with fear about challenges we cannot imagine.
Our most serious challenges result from choices we make as a society. The nature of the problems and the results are in our hands. These are largely in our minds, unlike the external problems discussed here. We have the wisdom and social cohesion to cope with them, if we make the necessary effort.
Long ago humanity was born naked and ignorant on Africa’s Serengeti Plains, bereft of either armor or weapons. We have survived droughts and floods, an ice age and a supervolcano – slowly leaning and developing our powers. We have always walked into an unknown future, but our past should give us the confidence to do so with caution but not fear.
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone ….I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
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- Is America’s decline inevitable? No. – Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people?
- Rebuttals to the big list of reasons why America will fall.
- Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters.
- Experts, with wrinkled brows, warn about the future – Experts often see the future with alarm, seeing the dangers but not benefits. That gets attention, from both the media and an increasingly fearful public.