Monday, October 4, 2010

Imagining the Future

Imagining the future, one persistent vision is my chronicling of humanity's execution of our planet. To some extent I seem to be fulfilling that vision. I know that somehow I need to develop a different vision, a positive one that can both change my attitude and attract others. None of the options I've read about have had that effect; if anything, they make me feel more depressed than I may already be.

I've often stated my most basic criteria for a positive future, but seldom in terms that directly apply to people's lives. Here, then, is a minimum set of ideal conditions that would apply for as long as physically possible:

  • Everyone can at least meet their basic needs (food, water, clean air, shelter, clothing, health care, safety)

  • Everyone has basic freedoms (speech, association, mobility, access to accurate information)

  • No one is contributing to species extinctions, including ours

Now, rather than go into detail about how these goals might be reached, it is potentially more useful to explore what such a world would actually look and feel like. This is where my storytelling skills might be most useful, creating characters and situations that explore each of the elements. Culture is undoubtedly the main variable that would be different, with physical constraints determining many of the details of implementation.

One aspect that makes sense is the fragmentation of the population into various “ecoregions,” where groups can focus on living renewably off the local resources. Trade between ecoregions would be necessary to the extent that resources for meeting the goals weren't available, but wouldn't be allowed for anything but the basics. An alternative is a global culture with the ability to adapt to any situation, but it would require a level of standardization and centralization that is likely to make it extremely vulnerable. Perhaps in my fiction, I could include several cultures, one large and centralized and the others small and adapted to specific ecoregions. A third possibility is a mix of both, which is like what I imagine the United States started out as, and what made it so successful early in its history.

This brings out an interesting similarity in concerns by Republicans and Democrats. Both are afraid of having their freedom usurped by highly powerful groups. For Republicans, the groups are governments. For Democrats, they're corporations. Their views of who best represents them are different too (the respective opposites), but also similar is the fact that they want to protect those who represent them.

As a corollary to my minimum conditions, resources not needed to meet them can only be used if such use doesn't interfere with meeting them. I expect that this “excess use” would function much like our current economy, where development and distribution of products would be determined largely by people's desire for them. If the excess use was sustainable and harmless to people and the rest of the biosphere, then a society could decide to raise the definition of “needs,” but the standards for proving it would have to be rigorous and the conclusion indisputable. It is arguably the violation of this last rule that is most responsible for the resource crisis we are currently facing.

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