As the end of 2010 approaches, I have more trepidation than I can remember. A large part of this comes from growing evidence that projections of an impending population crash are likely to be accurate. Critical natural resources are becoming noticeably depleted, such as fossil fuel, fresh water, and phosphorous. The world economy is still struggling in a recession caused by unbridled greed and unjustifiable speculation about future performance. Facing incontrovertible evidence of accelerating global warming, nations continue to avoid taking the necessary steps to reduce their contributions to it. The only viable political party in the United States that has something resembling a realistic view of how the world works has resorted to bribery to keep the government from being totally stymied by the party of greed and delusional denial of the harm it causes.
Personally, I am struggling like many others to deal with the impact of sporadic employment and declining wages. Now officially middle-aged, I would be facing an extremely uncertain future even if civilization wasn’t on the verge of collapsing, especially since I lack the strongly competitive personality that seems to be required for “success” in our growth-oriented economy. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve come to spurn the whole idea of a “growth-oriented economy.”
In my most recent period of unemployment, now three months long, I have developed a better sense of the kind of world I want to live in (“Imagining the Future”), and just begun to discover what will be required to create it. Comparing this with what is likely just adds to my fear. At a time when humanity’s survival depends on people coming together and sharing resources, the existing socio-economic system is making its last stand to preserve the artificial isolation that enables a few people to hoard or render useless the resources the majority of others need for basic survival.
Many of us are focusing our efforts on increasing how much money we will have in the future, forgetting that money is an artificial creation whose value and use is determined arbitrarily by us; it is not a physical substance subject to the natural laws of mass and energy conservation like the natural resources we are using it to squander. The collective We, the human species, must “get real” soon, changing the nature of our interactions with each other (which we have allowed money, as a tool, to help shape) so we can responsibly manage our impact on the flows of physical substances we and other species require for our continued existence. There is no way to overstate the urgency of doing this, and how difficult will be, but we must first agree that it’s necessary.
Luckily, a growing number of people are agreeing, both in what they say and what they do. Many are trying to tweak the existing system by increasing demand for “green” products and working to identify, at least in an abstract way, the environmental impact of production, use, and disposal of these and other products. Others are finding ways to reconnect with Nature in both physical and psychological ways, and a few are attempting to opt out of society altogether.
Despite my trepidation, I’m grateful for the awareness I’ve found, the opportunity to do something important with my life, and the friendships that have evolved along the way. For me, the best cure for fear is action, and I intend to take much more of it in the coming year.