This is the third part of my futures post series for January 2010. The first one evaluated my results for 2009. The second talked about what I think will happen in 2010. This is the “what could we do” post. There are a lot of things, but I’m going to pick four.
Reform the way we make decisions in this country. Why? We and many of our elected representatives are abysmal listeners, easily spun by the people with money (corporations, lobbyists). We are easily affected by sound-bites with zero substance, and too fast to position on the red or blue lines of our two-party system. Here are a few ideas:
- As far as I can tell, both parties have lost the center. One option is happening – more people calling themselves independents. Another option might be a third party. The tough question is around who or what.
- We could be teaching critical thinking and listening skills more at all levels, and re-teaching to adults. We have classes in business about organizational dynamics and project management – but not very many about thinking clearly. Maybe there’s a business idea there.
- The surest way is real campaign reform that sharply limits the amount of money anyone can give anyone.
Why did I pick this one first? I mean, really, it’s hard to measure, hard to affect, hard to change. But our current way of making decisions is clearly broken, and if we can’t fix that, we won’t be able to fix the other problems coming our way.
Get real about energy. Planning for a future with fossil fuels as a main source of power shows a criminal lack of imagination. No matter what you believe about the role of fossil fuel or humans in climate change, it’s a geopolitical nightmare that reduces our safety and the extraction and transportation process endangers our fragile home. It’s going to take a while to re-tool our power grid, our transportation options, and phase oil out of many of the products it’s an integral part of. But given that world population is going to keep increasing for at least the next four decades and most of the world will keep modernizing, we can’t just drive less or ride our bike or the bus to work. We must do more, faster. Let’s built the modern energy infrastructure of the future now, and go all-out on our options. Let’s get creative with wind and sun and solar arrays in space, with tide and waterfall, and with thorium-based nuclear plants.
This we can measure, we can change fairly easily, and we can use to build economic strength. The primary tool? A government with more willpower than the oil lobbyists have. And that willpower can come from us, the people.
Provide an excellent education to everyone. This includes here, in the United States, but I think even more leverage over world problems (and thus our problems) can happen if we educate others. The literacy rate in Afghanistan in most areas is below 50% and for Afghan women it is around 15%. We know a lot about education. It has ties to increased income and decreased family size, to increased health and increased power. How many of the people in congress have no high school diploma? Most people running businesses and supporting themselves and contributing more than they take from their own societies have a basic level of education. We could be investing as much in the education system in Afghanistan as we are in the fighting force there.
Outcomes in education like students in school, students graduating various level, and literacy rates are measurable. This task will secure our children’s future.
Put enough healthy food and water into the right places. This planet can feed all of us. We can all have enough healthy water to drink. We need to stop the hijack of aid delivered to poor countries, and we need to deliver more. And with it we need to deliver tools and ideas and education so they can produce it. Because we know climate change is going to lead to migrations (if not from where to where, and when), we need stock and plan for emergencies. Estimates say over one billion people are undernourished worldwide.
Also measurable. There are so many people working on this problem that if everyone added just a little leverage (money, time, writing), we could save a few hundred thousand lives this year.
There’s a simple statement here. With enough education and energy, the basics of existence, and a little critical thought and respect for different points of view, we can thrive in the midst of all of the myriad forces of change buffeting us. If not? Maybe it will be a miracle if we survive. I’d rather thrive.