Dear Journal, March 3, 2052: It continues to be overcast, dark, and hazy again. The weatherman announced that today is a “red” day and particulates are forecasted to be worse for the next eight days. I cough and think; “Why did it have to happen?” We made pollution a common daily event. It is now mid-21st century and where are we going to end up in the next ten years, the next twenty? George Will once said; “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”
How does that impact us, now, today? Today, only interior design brings color to our lives by bringing color inside homes, while outside with the smog, we see only shades of gray. It is neither comfortable nor pleasant to open windows in the midst of summer. What the heat scorches, the pollution only amplifies. That layer of dust on the furniture also covers your body. Yes, air pollution has been linked to memory loss, respiratory ailments and heart failure. Remember “Mickie the Miner” said in an interview? He who was so annoyed of hearing people complain about city pollution? He said; “Nobody matters any more!” – is this what our urban culture has come to?
Environmental costs are affecting everyone’s discretionary spending. How many Americans can now afford to use their air conditioning and heating any more? More and more people are going to the “embrace nature” energy campaign where we open our windows and live more like our families did in the 19th century.
Today, we now have over 11 billion people on this planet. Forty years ago they used to say that the planet was not changing, not warming. All megacities continue to work with huge population problems, as well as, pollution that is so dense trees are gray with carbon particulates., Now, add to that megacities that are established on the coastlines around the world. Do you remember the flooding of major cities around the world like Hong Kong, London and New York City? Cities like New Orleans and Venice are either submerged or behind very expensive dikes.
Flooding in this sense is not a one time event. It is the consequence of rising coastlines. There is an estimated 100 million refugees forced out of their cities due to rising coastal waters. They had no potable water, food, electricity, and all fire, police, healthcare, telecommunication and transportation systems were overwhelmed by flooding. Australia and New Zealand have had to commit more defense forces to protect their borders from refugees fleeing from South East Asia. And still, not one country has a policy that addresses coastal flooding.
Transportation has changed, too. Look at the corner service station sign showing $25.00 a gallon for unleaded gasoline. We now have electric cars, fuel-cell powered vehicles, natural gas powered eighteen wheelers, bi-level articulated buses are now standard and mass transit programs have dramatically expanded. Ethanol has not made the impact once thought it could, it only increased food costs. What happened to alternative energy? I can remember when we could take vacations out of state, even out of the country. Those were great experiences. What happened to energy affordability and availability?
It is unimaginable, to see the excessive number of people who have starved in this century. A recent estimate is that the total number of people who starved the 21st century has surpassed the total number of people in the last 300 years. Africa alone has lost more than 90 million people due to lack of food and water. Weather changes in China, Pakistan, Brazil and Australia have created exaggerated cycles from drought to floods. The dwindling flow of water from K2 and Everest areas of Himalayas alone has impacted over a billion people. Those unprecedented cycles have caused extreme crop failures and restricted exports of various grains. Natural disasters that continue to hit US crops as well. I guess there is wisdom in the saying; ““Man has only a thin layer of soil between himself and starvation”.
Do you remember where you were October 13, 2036, when we had our first space crisis? Most people remember not knowing when or where the errant rocket would land. It was to be the first Asian space craft to set up mining operations on the moon. The rocket’s uncontrolled trajectory caused it to burn up in low orbit. The most serious problem was the on-board mining equipment. A nuclear reactor, that powered the extractor, ruptured over an area from Cairo to Tel Aviv. It was estimated that 1.2 million people were exposed to high levels of radiation. How many will die of cancer or radiation exposure?
In the early 2030s, we read and heard about cities on water rations, and various suburban and rural areas that no longer had access to potable water. Yet, industries are continuing to fight against communities over what? Water. One would think that government or industrial leaders could try to solve flooding and drinkable water problems. Communities around the world and industries alike are still dumping their waste, untreated, into lakes, rivers and oceans. Where are the results?
Recall the trade wars from 2021 to 2025? What unfolded when China reinstated their “Accession Protocol”? Their actions in 2021 caused a major trade war between East and West. China lost their economic policy, which many perceived as a loss of face (even with political support from India and Russia). The WTO decision and UN sanctions backed the European Union, Canadian, and US positions. The policy severely impacted trade balance among many countries and the ban on germanium, specifically, halted critical supplies of strategic material for energy and communication products. Fiber optics and photovoltaic solar panel prices increased three-fold in only two years.
In 2023, another strategic event escalated due to Lithium producers export restrictions. The “Lithium Wars”, led by Bolivia, Brazil and Chile, drastically limited electric battery production and eventually caused a global work stoppage for over two years. Only through the successful use of oilfield brine did the battery industry fend off economic collapse in the US.
A recent National Geographic article was about deforestation and its impact on our planet. I had no idea that the rain forests around the world had decreased by 30 percent in just two years . The article documented how laws in various countries were not enforced and farmers continue to eliminate the rain forests to produce crops for only 3 to 4 years. Clearing of forests, produce wood for lumber, but at the same time destroying ecosystems and varieties of plants that have been on this planet since the Jurassic Period. Just the value of knowledge about those rare specimens are unfathomable and forever lost. In 5 years, what remains of the land is often depleted of nutrients and left to erode.
Dear Journal, think about what is happening. Each problem is a global issue by itself. Each of these tribulations, alone, could impact the survival of humanity. But now, we are faced with a convergence of these ten major issues and realize the tremendous impact and severity each bring to our world. Because of their interconnectedness, each of these issues, could be major problems that might escalate into an epic tragedy. Gandhi said in the 20th century; “Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
We should have started fifty years ago. Sad, after 50 years we still do not have anyone accountable. Looking back, one has to sit down and ask; “What have we done?” Then we must respond by saying: “This is not how the story is going to end. We must have the will to Lead Smart, with a vision, and create endless opportunities through Sustainability. It’s not too late! We can have a future and turn our needs into reality.”
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