Yesterday there was a fascinating exploration of the political and security issues arising out of China's ascent to global economic supremacy. Today there's an interesting discussion at the Huffington Post on how America will respond to its debt crisis. Reading these projections is eye-opening and thought-provoking but virtually all of them have the same fatal flaw - they totally ignore the mounting impacts of climate change and associated environmental threats. We're looking at problems in isolation of realities we cannot afford to overlook and it's backfiring on us.
Huffington refers to the era we're in as the "Age of Much Worse Than We Thought It Would Be." From Katrina to Wall Street, America's problems (and they're not alone) are starting to become almost uncontrollable or at least unmanageable:
...In practically every sector of our society, the old order is exhausted. But we seem incapable of making fundamental changes without the loaded gun of a full-blown crisis pointed at our heads. For example, the financial crisis -- and what it has exposed about the behavior of Wall Street -- has caused us to rethink the relationship between Wall Street and rest of our economy.
It's obvious the old way of doing things is no longer viable. But, absent the sense that everything is about to collapse, we are dragging our feet on deciding what will replace it.
And there are some other "unprecedented," "unique" -- and potentially catastrophic -- problems headed our way if we continue to accept the old order's lack of imagination about what is possible. I'm thinking, first and foremost, of our debt problem.
...America is like a patient in danger of suffering a massive heart attack. We may be able to postpone things with a bit of outpatient surgery, but we won't be able to avoid it without some serious lifestyle changes. The economic coronary isn't quite here yet, but it's on the way. And when it hits, it will, of course, be "unprecedented" and "unique." But not unforeseen -- let alone unforeseeable. Here are just a couple of the symptoms of big time trouble ahead:
By 2020, interest on the debt alone will reach $900 billion per year.
That same year, five segments of government spending -- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, net interest and defense spending -- will account for an estimated 77 percent of all government expenditures. All other federal spending will have to come out of the remaining 23 percent.
...The needs of the past and the demands of the present exert a powerful pull on our attention while the future doesn't have many advocates -- it's always something we can get to later. And there was a time when we could get away with pushing our problems down the road, secure that our reserves would always bail us out. And there was a strong safety net to catch those who fell through the cracks. Well, those reserves are gone now and the safety net is frayed and full of holes.
...For a change, let's imagine a crisis that is worse than we think it will be, and take the necessary steps to avoid it. If we don't, we'll find ourselves facing another "unprecedented" disaster.
Huffington is dead right. The old order is over, we have to accept that. The 80's are gone - politically, economically, socially even militarily. By clinging to the past we undermine our ability to prepare for the future. We have to stop operating on a "best scenario" basis and stop falling back on some intangible trust that the future will take care of itself.
What she is saying is that there's an enormous leadership void today and I would argue nowhere more so than in Canada. Ours is a country led by people without vision, incapable of laying out a path for the future, ours, our children's and our grandchildren's. This is an unoccupied field just waiting for someone to answer the challenge. That "someone" should have been Michael Ignatieff but he's shown himself not up to it.