We continue to experience weeks of terrible news. Fires across the globe, states without ICU beds due to COVID, The Fall of Saigon 2 in Kabul, and some poor idiot claiming to have a toolbox bomb outside the Library of Congress. It seems to be getting worse out there, doesn’t it?
Except it isn’t. Not really.
There are simply a lot more of us and it is a lot easier to tell each other about it.
Two hundred years ago there were about 1 billion people on Earth. This year there are about 7.9 billion. Two years after my mother was born, 1948, there were 2.5 billion people. It had taken almost one and a half centuries to add one and a half billion people. Two years before I was born, in 1972, there were 3.7 billion. Two decades to add a billion plus. Now, almost fifty years later, we have more than doubled that number. By 2050 it is likely to be pushing 10 billion people.
During the last two hundred years what horrors have happened? Slavery and all its aftermath, the American Civil War, two world wars, the cold war, Spanish Flu, Depression, Soviet era famines, the Holocaust, Chernobyl, the BP spill, hurricanes and typhoons and earthquakes, and more than that. Much more.
What is going on now is not really that different from what has gone on for all of human history. We are just the ones living through it and aware of it this time.
More than that, just as people rose and responded to the crisis of the past, so too can we. There is nothing here that is not common to the human experience. It will require work, but it can be done.
We can feed 10 billion people; we just need to radically rethink how we do agriculture. The problem is neither technology nor space nor cost, it is just process. Some estimates for feeding everyone in the world are as low as $7 billion. An aircraft carrier costs about $12.5 billion. We can have enough power without fossil fuels. We can cure diseases. We can make the world a better place.
But we must stop thinking about ourselves and the way things have always been done. We need to realize that while we are not all in the same boat, we are all in the same storm.
Neither give into despair nor resign yourself to helplessness.
Yes, the world is in a bad state. No, this is not all that unusual. Yes, you can do something about it.
The question is: Will you?