With the horse and pony show going on during this election cycle, I can’t help but notice that there is a big nagging issue that nobody wants to touch for fear of letting the cat out of the bag. It’s the reason why they don’t talk about climate change, or the everlasting European debt crisis, or talk about the future at all.
The candidates and media assume that our goal as a country is to “get back” to unchecked consumption of our world’s resources. Economists call it growth.
Has anyone thought that “recovering” slowly and carefully is the best approach right now, until we figure out how we will deal with an overpopulated, overexploited planet?
I think Obama actually has been tending toward a slow, smart recovery, but can’t even come close to that admission in an election season. Last election he talked about a shock and awe economy. While gas prices are cheap and the credit is flying, no one thinks about what they are doing, but when prices spike and their cards are maxed out, people go into shock and start complaining. They start blaming everyone else for their short-sightedness.
If you look at his policies carefully, you might see a pattern of long term investment geared toward a lean future. His “all of the above” energy policy is actually a practical way to approach am energy cliff when nobody wants to admit there is a looming energy crunch. An everyone-gets-a-say educational reform, where states are encouraged to try out various reform approaches, is also a good way to get a diverse generation prepared for a tough future. Even his foreign policy reveals this forethought. In a future where the US can’t afford to be the world police, we will need all the worlds regions to be aligned without being directly dependent on the US.
Our general population is so amazingly shortsighted, it makes me sad that we can’t have a public debate about the (non-fanciful) future we are heading for. I wish more people could or would recognize the caliber of thought and effort Obama’s team is putting into buffering us from the consequences of our deep-seated problems (edit: or as it was originally posted “deep seeded problems.”) His policies are not necessarily what we need, but when there is no debate, the unacknowledged, between-the-lines approach is all we will get. And if he loses we won’t even get that. It will be back to a path straight over the cliff.
Strangely, what makes our problems hard to swallow is that they come from our success. We are much less violent as humans than we have ever been, and we are continuing to get more civil (Think of all the protests around the world that formed instead of wars, and the rebel groups seeking peace talks.) Our medical advances are saving ever more people and becoming more ubiquitous. And, our resource extraction/food production has become more efficient than our ability to consume (amazing to think that it is possible.) The result is overgrowth, overpopulation, and yet still increasing societal stability. We have done great things as humans.
It doesn’t always seem like it’s true, because we are so used to it, but humanity is progressing at an amazing rate. Despite the loud public whining about how bad things are, this growth has let the us get ahead, and live out our individual dreams of owning stuff and being entertained. It’s not just here, either. People all over the world have more material wealth and long term stability than ever. Over the last half century, world poverty rates have shrunk drastically, and the standard of living has improved for much of the world’s people.
Unfortunately, it has also lead to a new generation (by the real definition; people born within the 30 year peak, valley cycle) that is complacent, comfortable, and out of touch with the historic struggles that have defined humanity. This generation now assumes that an easy life (often, not even knowing that is what we have) is assured and is the natural human condition. We are delusional, in a word. (Edward Albee’s The American Dream, form 1961 is a great play about this generational legacy of delusion.) As much as this generation organizes protests for freedom and opportunity, and seeks the civil progress we all want, they are also generating an impasse.
We have become delusional to the fact that our way of life is actually an anomaly of generational success. We have lost touch with the fact that our joy-ride must come to an end, and that the piper must be paid. We are still stuck on this rock with a whole lot of people who all want more than they have, and more than the earth can provide.
Each election cycle seems to prove to me how screwed we probably are. It is not dire because we can’t solve or diminish most of our problems, but because most of us are so delusional that we can’t even recognize the signs of our dark future. In all the election hubbub, the “worst draught since the dust bowl” swept through 80% of our country and killed huge tracks of crops and natural land. No one seemed to notice. No one honestly accepts that the oceans will die, the carbon sinking tundra will completely melt, rain forests and coral reefs will be lost, the population will hit nine billion, and pollution will hit its highest levels ever all within a decade or two. The candidates we get seem to be drifting further and further away from these truths, and it is feeding the delusion.
For those who know my THT work, it was conceived of exactly 4 years ago, during the last presidential election for this very reason. We have been delusional for so long, that society is now based on it. We are upside down in our priorities and politics, and have been that way for quite a long time. In fact, probably for most of my life. Generational goals, like flying to the moon, or feeding the world, or preserving the last great places are long gone in favor of the monthly tick of the “jobs report.”
You will also know that over the last 4 years, I’ve also changed in many ways. I have been attempting to rid myself of my own latent delusions; the ones illuminated in my THT guides. I have to say it has been very tough, and it is far from complete, but the road has been a rewarding one. All of the things I enjoy like parenting, making, eating, playing, and others are so much better when they are the result of honesty, love, contemplation, and care. Four years ago, my family and I chose to stop chasing the typical American Dream, and as a result we ended up living in a place that lines up with our morality, ethics and ideals. It wasn’t a coincidence, it’s not easy, but it also isn’t an unmet Dream.
So, I guess we do face a choice about our future, and I hope more people catch on that it isn’t limited to electing a president. We can face the totality of the daunting challenges that will affect all aspects of our lives, or we can pick and choose what we want to see, and wonder years from now why it all went wrong.
If the “seed” connection from the title doesn’t make sense yet, it will in the coming weeks. I’ve been working for a while on a series of posts about a new way I have been thinking about Humanity. What if the humanity we have experienced through history thus far has just been a seed? What if humans are destined to use up the Eden we were given in order to become something larger and sustaining?