We're THIS Close To An Excellent Future
We love a good disaster story. Irwin Allen made a career out of disaster movies. Roland Emmerich picked up the disaster baton. There are series on TV like "How The World Will End." In 1970, Paul Ehrlich, a population biologist at Stanford, predicted that by 1999 the US population would be decimated to 22 million people living on 2400 calories a day. Remember when our population was knocked to 22 million, 15 years ago? Those were dire times. Oh wait: the scientist had it ENTIRELY wrong. Today, the average African gets more than the 2560 calories per day.
We're obsessed with doom. What if we're not on the cusp of ultimate disaster? What if we're really close to an excellent future? What if there are cool advents around the corner? What if smart actions on our part could hasten these improvements to make them come soon?
Things Are Good Already
- Our longevity and our active years are getting longer. Babies born today can expect to live to the age of 81 with today's science. That's two decades longer than the world average of those born in 1950. This is going to cause us all to rethink the ideas of retirement, work, and funding our lives. The old pension system was meant to fund people for that decade after room. Now that could be two or three decades beyond the time clock.
- Over the past century, child-mortality rates have dropped by 90 percent. This lack of mortality is the reason for our global population rise.
- Poverty has dropped more in the past 50 years than it did in the previous 500 years. Yes, the rich are very rich. But the poor are less poor. Communication and information technologies are allowing the "bottom billion" to go online, tap into information, organize and communicate. "Send Al to town to tell his father." has been replaced with a text message. Poverty is financial asymmetry. Financial asymmetry is caused often by informational asymmetry. Communications and the Internet are leveling the playing field.
- Illiteracy has been halved since 1970. Eighty-five per cent of the world's adults can now read and write. According to UNESCO, the percentage of children attending primary school has increased from 80 to 90 per cent since the beginning of the 21st century.
- In terms of gender equality: in developed countries, women now outnumber men at universities in many countries; quite a few are earning more than their spouses in their careers. There is still work to be done as high the truly high paying jobs are not readily available to women.
Resilience and PermacultureResilience is about the ability to bounce back after a crisis. Because of economic disasters and run amok government, we are in danger of financial crises. Our economic systems have little capacity for self correction and self healing. The answer is right here (not this blog, but where you are sitting). By creating resilient and durable systems locally, people can respond and adapt to changes that come from unforeseen pressures (financial, social, environmental). The resilience move is well underway. It decentralizes demands such as food production. It shifts where money is being spent and earned; and where we're using energy. In reaction to some community's "food deserts," (ie. wherein junk food is not considered food), people working towards the goal of resilience have taken to growing food locally. That plays with the sliders of the economics of food:
- Industrial farming is more efficient. Local farming will be more time consuming.
- Industrial farming requires large amounts of energy to harvest, process, ship the food, refrigerate the produce, and bring them to market. Local farming can be very low impact from an energy use perspective where the expenses are shifted to issues of land cost and labour expenses.
- The effort to produce food through a local garden can replace time at the gym. Food accounts for 17% of many homes. If one earn less money, the food budget line is bigger. If one grew half of their food, that represents 8% or more of the income.
How to Make It Happen
In Little WaysStart a garden. Grow herbs, tomatoes, peas. You would be surprised how easy, inexpensive and rewarding growing your own food would be.
In Big WaysBuild community gardens for people without yards.
Water PurificationWater water everyone. Not a drop to drink. Our world is covered in water. More than 99% of is not drinkable. The lack of clean drinkable water is a source of disease as people use the water available. Lack of potable water limits where farmland can grow food. We have such a ubiquitous supply of water, if only we could drink it. What if bulk water purification were just around the corner? There is a lot of research in the field. Manchester University, is using graphene (a nanotechnology) to construct a membrane that can simultaneously block the passage of very small molecules while allowing the rapid permeation of water. It allows the filtration to occur on several orders of magnitude faster than even the researchers predicted.
How to Make It HappenPush to see forward thinking projects in your community implemented. Push that your government fund scientific research like this. Write your federal representative and tell them that more research like this is needed.
Turning Pavement into PowerSolar is not a miracle cure. It's expensive and it has a weak voltaic throughput. That said, the sun isn't going away; and we have lots of flat spaces like roofs and roadways nearby humans. In Silicon Valley, it's not uncommon to see solar arrays above parking stalls. Sun Power (Link), builds solar canopies that keep you car in shade and suck down that sunlight to convert it into electricity. They are ideal for parking lots or open areas adjacent to facilities, they generate on-site solar electric power, reduce energy costs and provide premium shading with protection from the weather. Shopping malls could convert their parking lots into an energy source. Ask your mall if they're considering this! (they love calls like that ;) ). There is currently an IndieGogo campaign (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-roadways/x/1113916) to fund the creation of solar roadways. The solar cells will be to power in-road lighting, de-icing pads and the like. Given that asphalt (a product with a petroleum component) is getting rapidly more expensive, by contrast, solar cells and their technology are getting less expensive. As these two lines converge, it may become cheaper to deploy solar.
How to Make It Happen
In Little WaysBuy solar doo-dads. Consider installing solar on your home, or hang a solar cell from your balcony. Local businesses, Home Depot and even Walmart sell solar kits.
In Big WaysTalk to you local government. Encourage them to subsidize and incentivize solar power. In Victoria, there are programs in place to aid people looking to adopt solar. We need those and more to push for solar adoption.
Some vague ideas about how the future will play out. It leaves out some of the details of how to fund the ad hoc buses and what happens if people don't want pizza. But it's amusing nonetheless.
If you survive the end of the world, take a stroll down memory of all of the other predicted disasters that have decimated us by now.
Cover photo from Flickr
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