I wrote my Five-year plan in 2007, and in 2010, soon after I learned that my cancer had metastasized, I wrote an essay on what I had learned in my life. Here is the basic outline:
Our world is in serious trouble, and we are the cause.
1) We (i.e. progressive Democrats) are the cause
By continuing to support systems that will inevitably lead us to disaster.
2) We (i.e. environmental activists) are the cause
By our failure to act on what we do understand, by backing off from a radical understanding, and allowing; even promoting, an analysis which prevents real and needed solutions from coming to the fore
3) We (i.e. highly-educated Protestants) are the cause
By continuing to embrace and elevate the values that have led us to this dire situation.
In the 2010 essay I wrote the following regarding “Our world is in serious trouble.”
The belief that our world, at least the human part of the world, is in serious trouble is a common belief. Former Colorado Governor Richard Lamb, in addressing a UN conference on the environment made the statement “We are living on the shoulders of some steep slopes, all of which lead to disaster.” Chris Martensen (financial annalist) uses an image similar to Lamb’s “steep slopes.” He speaks of a “hockey stick” shape that is the shape of a graph of anything that changes exponentially over time. The graph of anything that grows by a percentage (exponentially) over time, no matter how small the percentage, will eventually approach, then exceed the 45 degree slope and will appear to suddenly ascend. All graphs of exponential change can be made to take this same shape by adjusting the increments of time in which the change is recorded. There are a number of areas critical to human well being which, if measured in the increment of time of one human life, have reached the 45 degree point (which is to say that whatever is being measured will double in a person’s life time) and which will soon begin an accelerated rate of change. Some of the areas are: world population, species extinction, depletion of available earth resources (like petroleum), and many environmental indicators such as artic ice shrinkage etc. The specific consequence of accelerated change in each area is unknown (literally off the charts), but it is certainly known that the general affects will be disastrous.
I wanted to emphasize that last line because there is a tendency in our culture toward linear thinking, whether by apologists for or critics of our lifestyle. It is good to study the past, but it is wrong to assume that the future will always be an extension of the past.
I once had a conversation in Nicaragua with a New York Stock Exchange broker. We were on different delegations that overlapped by a day, so we had a lunch-time conversation. I wanted to know if he and his colleagues were aware of peak oil, and how that factored into their decisions. He said they were very aware, but they mainly looked at shorter term issues. It was a pleasant conversation, I was not arguing because I really wanted to know if he realized the kind of danger that peak oil presented to our economic system. Finally he said that he had the faith that when problems become big enough, more resources will be directed to solve those problems and “someone will figure something our; they always do.” Then he left.
“They always do” was all he had to offer. The future will be like the past.
My caution is to avoid linear thinking. Complex systems have built-in feedback mechanisms which can alter the course of that system dramatically. This does not mean we are wrong in our analysis that the world is headed in the wrong direction, but it does mean we cannot know how it will all play out.
My point – don’t count on any specific doom scenario to motivate you.
We know that many people, especially the most vulnerable, will suffer greatly. We don’t know exactly how it is all going to play out, but we know enough that we must turn the world around – it is headed in the wrong direction, and we have been at the helm.