Saturday, January 4, 2020

Welcome to the Twenties

Looks like I haven't written here since 2017. I suppose habits change in adulthood. Or it could be that I got depressed with politics after 2016 and grew tired of shouting into the void.

However, with a new decade it seems a good time to record some thoughts. The next ten years might not be easy. Our senile and racist conman of a president opened up the year assassinating a top Iranian general, so things are already off to a worrisome start. Good luck to us all avoiding a war. I hope the elections go well in America this year, but worldwide the political environment is frightening with right-wing populists ruling Russia, China, India, Turkey, the UK, the Philippines, and Brazil.

To counteract the pessimism, the last decade did have a fair amount of good news. Childhood mortality and extreme poverty fell significantly, literacy has increased, and birthrates have continued to drop.

That said, I feel like I'm starting this decade with less hope than I did the last. Only part of that is politics. A greater part is environmental damage and global warming. I've had the same concerns for decades, and humanity keeps putting off doing anything close to what it needs to do. We are far past the point where we should have taken action, and the debt we have built up is significant. Even if we act decisively now, we can still expect rising sea levels for the rest of our lives to cause trillions of dollars of damage to coastal areas. Given what we've seen this century, I am pessimistic we'll act with anywhere close to enough speed, and that is going to mean even greater costs and suffering.

Solving things will not be easy. To simply get to a neutral position where we aren't digging ourselves deeper into environmental debt is going to require sacrifices to our standard of living. Technology will not improve fast enough to eliminate those costs. Imagine the disruption of setting aside half of all land area as a wilderness reserve, eliminating 90% of cars, reducing the number of plane flights by 90%, reducing meat consumption by 90%, and eliminating all usage of fossil fuels. We should be making changes along those orders of magnitude within the next ten years.

That will be expensive, but it is cheaper than the cost of inaction. I hope we make those changes before too many decades go by. It could be a beautiful world if we make make that transition.

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