Friday, December 4, 2009

Predicting The Future

Predicting the future is not as difficult as it may seem. No supernatural vision is required. No dreams to interpret. Since the age of enlightenment, people with even average intelligence have been doing so. Insurance companies do it for a living and make lots of money at it.

The future to be concerned about is the one inhabited by your children and grandchildren. The list of things which will endanger them is long and sounds like a passage from the biblical "book of revelations". Without listing the possibilities, we can step back taking a look at history and be forewarned that serious troubles lie ahead for the people we love...perhaps even for ourselves. It would be easy to use well worn platitudes like "nothing to fear but fear" but a serious consideration of some facts is in order.

A rodent virus in the 13th century in central Asia moved west, as did progress, during the time of Marco Polo to become the "black death" killing 50 million human beings world wide in about 5 years. The same occurred with the world flu pandemic in 1918. Only that time about the same number perished in only 2 years because of the progress in transportation. Its a long story but born out of the black plague came three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition, Estimates of death tolls range from less than 10,000 to 125,000. The attitudes of the Inquisition were brought with European explorers to the new world. There disease and religious brutality killed 20 million aboriginal inhabitants in 10 years. The following era of colonialism enslaved, killed, and brutalized untold millions around the world for four centuries. It is estimated that colonialism killed 20 million in the African Congo alone in less than 20 years. Colonialism created the onset of the First World War which killed 40 million in 4 years. Get the picture? Natural calamities are joined with human ones for the self destruction of mankind.

What could be worse?

Answering that question requires a focus on world population which has steadily increased century after century since the black death in the 13th and 14th century. Now standing at 6.6 billion, by 2050 world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion. Our grandchildren will be in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. In 2008 a combination of government policy and natural disaster caused a world wide shortage of corn and wheat. Food riots occurred in seven nations. Hoarding and panic ensued in China and elsewhere. In 2005 the combination of lack of funding, malfeasance, and natural calamity caused the levies of New Orleans to break during hurricane Katrina with great loss of life and property. These are portents of thing to come.

The United Kingdom's chief scientist John Beddington, recently warned that the world is headed for major upheavals in 2030 which he callled "the perfect storm" due to food shortages, scarce water, and insufficient energy resources. These conditions will produce public unrest, wars, and mass migrations. He states,"our food reserves are at a 50 year low but by 2030 we will need to produce 50% more food". It is claimed that the world wide AIDS epidemic has killed 25 million persons in 25 years. As early as 1976 Australian historian and economist Hugh Stretton stated,"...let us for once be honest about the environmental problem. It consists of too many people resources. We must therefore reduce the number of people or...the allowance of resources to each...if we don't, nature will."

World history shows that our ancestors have been through some brutal times but the present issue may be whether worse things could happen. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who lived during the English Civil War of the 17th century, described a "state of nature" where humans unchecked could produce a "war of all against all" and lives would become "...solitary, poor, brutish, and short."

Don't expect workable solutions from government. In the future we should expect the loss of democratic forms of government as panic and desperation create the willingness for autocratic responses to energy shortages, food shortages, crime, hoarding and rationing. Those who live in the hope of the revival of classic liberal principles, securing individual liberties, and with the hatred of the evils of an arbitrary autocratic state, will be devastated. The dream of our children and grandchildren knowing "the blessings of liberty" will evaporate. For once the "super conservatives" will too late understand the meaning of liberalism vs. tyranny and the high water mark of the "glorious cause" of liberty, will be marked about the time of the first nineteen amendments to the Constitution.

1 comment:

Dave Collins said...

A fellow named Bill McKibben posted an article regarding the climate talks in Copenhagen at TomDispatch this week. ( )He theme was the inability of the world's political systems to cope with climate change - an observation James Hansen, chief climatologist for NASA made almost a year ago. In the article, McKibben includes this report:

"A new analysis released Thursday by a consortium of European think-tanks shows that the various offers on the table add up to a world in which the atmosphere contains 650 parts per million and the temperature rises an ungodly five degrees Fahrenheit. "

He has a particular interest in this measure as he was one of those who organized what has been reported as the largest single day mass, global demonstration in history which was based on the number 350 million - the maximum concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that can be sustained without serious climate disruption; the world is currently at 390 parts per million.