Where will you be when it all FALLS APART?........
Like most people, I have good days and bad days. When it comes to looking at the future and thinking about the pressing social and environmental issues before us, it is easy to vacillate between hopefulness and hopelessness, optimism and pessimism.
If you are paying attention, it is impossible not to feel agonising despair when looking at the convergence of global challenges such as population growth and consumption levels, habitat and species decline, and the multiple negative impacts underway with global climate change.
It is very possible to imagine a future scenario where the requirements for human civilisation can’t be supported and life as we know it greatly diminishes. It is possible that humanity’s days are numbered.
But it is impossible not to feel optimistic when witnessing the incredible innovations and emergence of cutting edge designs, ideas, projects and technologies to make our world a better place due to the outstanding work championed by amazing people and organisations all over the world.
These examples instil hope that a truly living future is possible, a world where humanity fully participates in the beautiful cycle of regeneration in which all other species are involved. Historically, humans did participate in this cycle, but we must reconcile our role as stewards and a keystone species. (Please Refer to my article titled" Human Jurassic Stain").
A mature and nuanced way to deal with this is to be able to sit with the following seemingly contradictory feelings, accepting the gravity of the current environmental disturbances while maintaining hope.
Losing hope has few benefits and only increases the likelihood of the first scenario of a pessimistic future of humanity coming true. Existing in hope without acknowledgement of the real possibility of human decline is at best living in delusion and at worst supports the lack of responsibility and accountability that comes from believing that someone else will save us, while we continue to consume and live within the industrial and societal framework that is the cause of the global environmental decline.
While it’s easier to view the world and thoughts of the future in black and white terms, succumbing fully to either vision of the future , it is more mature to sit somewhere in the middle and acknowledge that the future has not yet been written while working our asses off to ensure that the positive living future is what we pass on to future generations.
Let me explain this further.
Trends that fuel hopelessness.
A number of global trends should cause everyone great concern about the future.
For the sake of this summary, I’m not even acknowledging potential catastrophes that are beyond our control, such as meteor impacts or supernovas capable of wiping out the planet with little to no notice.
There are numerous scenarios that could conceivably end us, but it does little good to dwell on those, I rather save them for Hollywood action movies.
It is important to acknowledge that all of the issues below are so heavily interconnected that it is hard to separate them.
1. Population and consumption trends
I have written previously about the exponentially increasing population which places immense strain on the planet’s carrying capacity ( Please refer to my article" Event horizon & the rise of the Dajjal"). Not only are there too damn many of us, more than 7 billion humans are squeezed onto the earth, and population, is projected to be 8 billion strong by 2024, but we appropriate too much of the earth’s resources to support ourselves.
To make matters worse, consumption trends are increasing at an unhealthy pace, especially as developing countries begin to emulate the typical behaviour of westernised countries’ reliance and over-consumption of natural resources. According to one estimate, worldwide private consumption expenditures have increased fourfold in the last half century.
2. Climate change
While debate continues regarding the precise timing and severity of global climate change, there is undeniable evidence that the earth is warming at an alarming rate, ( article Terra-forming Planet Iran).
Before the Industrial Revolution, natural causes (such as variations in how the sun’s energy reached Earth and changes in the planet’s atmospheric selectivity) were largely to blame.
However, the responsibility for climate change in the modern age, including the dramatic warming that has occurred in the past 75 years, falls squarely on human shoulders.
Accordingly, in the coming decades, we should expect to see even more dramatic weather shifts, natural disasters, droughts, ocean acidification, disappearing glaciers, melting ice caps and rising sea levels.
3. Famine, drought and war
Climate change leads to food and water shortages, ecosystem diebacks, nutrient scarcity and hunger. Left unchecked, these conditions spread from micro climates to regions, ultimately threatening the stability of global food supplies and contributing to further desertification and resource challenges, ( Please refer to Article " Rise of the Persian Favelas").
History has shown that ecological crises typically raise questions about who has the right to Earth’s natural resources, particularly when they are in short supply. How will we feed our population (especially in regions already stretched thin by poverty and hunger) when water and soil are precious commodities? How will we deal with vast numbers of climate refugees who become displaced?
4. Global pandemics
The 2014 Ebola outbreak demonstrated how quickly illness can spread when international travel allows infected individuals to cross the globe in a matter of hours. The recent rash of measles only helped prove the point of how infectious diseases can become easily widespread with modern travel.
Yet imagine what is possible with something as highly transmittable and deadly as smallpox. As population numbers and densities climb, and as we are ever more connected through a network of international airports, it doesn’t take long to envision certain infectious diseases spreading faster than they can be vaccinated or treated. The consequences are potentially deadly.
Then, once bacteria develop resistance to the antibiotics, the cycle starts anew. The age of antibiotics is perhaps coming to a scary end as even small skin infections can turn deadly again.
5. Diminished resilience from wildlife and habitat loss
A healthy natural world is fundamental to the survival of all species. The more we degrade or destroy natural habitats, the greater the risk of species extinction. The World Wildlife Fund claims that habitat loss is the primary threat to 85 percent of all at-risk species.
Human activities alter and sometimes eradicate entire ecosystems through the relentless pursuit of goods and services. This process of habitat elimination systematically threatens thousands of interdependent species, which makes everything less resilient to further disruptions. If honeybees become extinct, for example, they will take their pollinating capabilities with them, so fruits and nuts may not be far behind.
The more compromised global habitat diversity becomes, the greater the likelihood of species extinction and cascading effects that ultimately could undermine our very existence, given that humanity ultimately relies on thousands of other species for its survival and certainly for its well-being. So just as we are making the world less stable due to climate change, we are also undermining the very systems that could help us adapt.
6. Nuclear disaster
The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown demonstrates that even the most sophisticated safeguards aren’t powerful enough to withstand the effects of a nuclear accident.
With nuclear power present in more than two dozen countries (and nuclear weapons in at least nine) the potential for catastrophe is very real, especially when coupled with the potential for increased terrorist activity, humanity currently rests in a very precarious position.
However, even simple human error, a cause for past nuclear disasters,is equally as dangerous. Any technology that requires constant vigilance for future generations is immoral and dangerous.
7. Technological singularity and a lack of human purpose
Some researchers hypothesise that our technological innovations one day will progress to the point where artificial intelligence will exceed human brain power, ultimately taking over civilisation and relegating the human species to subservience, or worse.
I tend to think this is very unlikely, but the concern itself is an important reflection of an existential crisis I believe humanity is experiencing. It’s not outrageous to question whether we will be rendered obsolete by machines, as this is already happening on a number of levels: Supermarkets, checkouts, manufacturing and the use and capabilities of software, to name a few.
Whether the contribution of human physical and intellectual labour will become obsolete in the modern industrial world is very real, leaving us potentially without purpose and with too much time on our hands, a dangerous combination.
We as dominants and Ignominious creatures,do not need an Alien culture to invade and Zap us, we are the masters of our own destruction.
So where will you be when it all Falls Apart?................