Friday, May 13, 2011

Kids and the Future

A friend recently wrote to me about his feelings on the future. He’s been reading a lot and staying up on current events and watching documentaries and “it just depresses” him “that things are so bad right now.” He went on to say, “I’m ready for something big to happen, but I’m really scared about the future. There’s a lot of talk about things getting a lot worse and I don’t really know what to believe.”

My anxiety about the future grows the more I pay attention to the direction of the world and of humanity. I wrote him back, saying, “I too worry about the state of the world. I sometimes feel like there is a great, great struggle ahead of us, either for our generation or for our kids, which brings me to kids. While we still want them, it is not without reservation that we will choose to bring them into this world. With exploding population centers, the changing environment, and the unsustainable ways of living we have adopted, it is hard to go forward with building a family when you know deep down things are not going to get easier for humanity. I hope the news doesn’t depress you too much and that all those documentaries don’t make you fear the future. I hope you stand up against the tide and do all that you can to improve the world on a large or small scale. That’s all we can do.”

So I have been thinking about this a lot lately. More specifically, what are the realities the next generation will face? One that always comes to mind, and my generation could see this too, is the end of oil. It’s going to run out. Everything about this world is going to come to a screeching halt. Sure, more oil reserves will be discovered while I am alive; perhaps extending our consumption of oil past the end of my generation, but that is delaying the inevitable. How are we going to do as a species when we revert to much older forms of transportation to do anything from go to the grocery store to ship something across the country/world? My confidence in humanity to properly address these issues without panicking and all hell breaking loose is slim to nonexistent. When not getting an iPad 2 means the end of the world for you, how are you going to deal with two-mile long lines at the gas station?

I recently saw a prediction of the world population leveling out, or at least reaching a point of much slower growth than in the past 50 years. That’s somewhat comforting, but it doesn’t mean our consumption is leveling out or decreasing, something that desperately needs to happen in order for future generations to live a good and peaceful life.

Keeping hope alive is crucial, but it is hard to ignore the feeling I have that we are hurtling toward an inevitable and disastrous conflict or conclusion of our time here on Earth. It’s tough to strike a balance between concern for the direction of things and a hope in the future. My mind runs wild: Is there going to be another war, a war to end all wars? There can’t be more than three world wars. If sea levels significantly rise in the next 50-100 years, where are the millions of displaced people going to settle? What strain is that going to put on the world’s food supply? Are the world economies going to collapse?

All I’ve got to say is that you better have some faith left when you decide to bring someone into this world.

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