Posted by hyperpat on November 1, 2006
One of the distinguishing characteristics of homo sapiens is their supposed ability to bind time, to look towards the future and modify current actions in order to achieve something better. Unfortunately, it seems as if the great majority of members of this species don’t make very good use of this ability.
Talk to your average teenager or twenty-something. Ask them if they’ve thought about their retirement, or have done anything to fund it. Probably more than 90% will answer this in the negative. Ask about long-term goals for career and family. That answer will mirror the first. Ask about what actions they have taken to assure a clean, robust Earth for their children. Here you might actually get a few positive responses – but then ask them about nuclear, wind, solar, and water power and what percentage of the world’s needs can be met by these methods, and the answers will all too often indicate that they haven’t done any real research in this area and have been unwilling to do the math to really evaluate these items.
For that matter, talk to your Congressman. If his time horizon includes things beyond his next election date, I’d be surprised – note the almost total inaction on Social Security, energy policy, universal health care, etc. Although they seem to talk about these items a lot, when it comes to actually implementing policies and laws in these areas, it’s pretty much a blank sheet of paper, as regardless of how he votes, your Congressman is afraid of alienating someone, and hence not getting re-elected.
Corporations are no better – the next quarterly financials seem to be the be-all and end-all driving decisions about the company’s future direction.
Asking people to look not just to next year or even a decade out, but hundreds or thousands of years out seems to be an impossible proposition. About the only people who seem to do this are some scientists and science-fiction fans, who make up a miniscule percentage of the population. And without this long-term perspective, I can guarantee that a lot decisions made now will be flawed, with some possibly very dire consequences for everyone on the planet.
Seems to me that people’s noses need to be rubbed into the catastrophic possibilities that are coming towards us like a train wreck. Maybe science fiction works that illustrate these problems should be required reading in school. Maybe an organization should be formed to advertise this (hmm…there probably are already quite a few of these, all crying in the wilderness, and nobody is listening). Maybe it will take a real catastrophe that affects everyone before people will wake up and do a little planning.