The Other I

January 17, 2015

Updating the worry list


Should we be unable to generate a list of our own, one of Britain’s major newspapers has just helpfully published a list of the most important things we humans might worry about for the next ten years.

Climate change:  The world has made literally no progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions since the first Kyoto agreement, and scientists are warning us of increasing deadly droughts, floods, water and food shortages, acidic oceans, air pollution, uncontrolled fires, and mega extinctions of up to 25% of all mammal species possibly within the next 50 years.  Oh, and 2014 has been the hottest year on record.

The global spread of a viral epidemic like SARS or Ebola:  The Black Plague swept over the world, reducing populations by 50 -75% of the population when it struck.  It is not inconceivable that a virus could jump on the back of our global communications systems today and outpace the ability of scientists to develop a cure or immunization to outwit it.

An implosion of failed states and states being taken over by religious fanatics.  Theoretically religion is supposed to make us better, more loving, more caring.  Again and again, though, it is the reason for torture and killing.  Western countries today look with horror at the terror being visited on peoples in Africa, Europe, America, and Asia by Islamists.  But Christians have more than a thousand-year history of doing exactly the same thing.  In fact, ethnic cleansing and rampant racism in our own back grounds suggest that we are even now not immune to persecuting those who are different from us.

Economic collapse:  An economic collapse similar to the one that shook the world in 2008, only bigger and longer and more universal worries some economists the way climate change worries climatologists.  Governments are still facing the problem of what to do about banks and other financial institutions that are too big to fail, and big corporations spent vast amounts of money lobbying state officials to make sure that legislation will not damage them.  Meanwhile, the gap between the richest and poorest is growing, not closing, and recently economists have produced research suggesting that this might be an endemic tendency of many modern capitalist societies, including America.  Historically, situations like these fester and simmer, until one day blowing up into outright rebellion and warfare.  Endings are not necessarily happy ones.

I think these are worries worthy of concern.  Great concern that singly or together they could even lead to the extinction of the Homo sapiens.  My problem with worries, though, especially when the worries are big and serious and global as these, is that they tend to turn people off.  We look at them and quite realistically realize that not one of us as a single person can solve any of them.  So we either deny they are happening at all, sink into despair or anger, or hope that God will do something about it rather than leaving it to us.

But the whole point of democracy, of community, or responsibility is not to say a single voice doesn’t count.  It says that lots of single voices is what change the world.  To give into the temptation of helplessness is the very thing that will contribute to our worst worries coming true.

What can I do?  Lots of little things that will change the world if a lot of us do them.  In relation to the environment, I can use my vote to make sure that I don’t help elect a climate-change denier or someone so indebted to big business that they won’t support reductions of fossil fuels and support renewables;  I can sign petitions supporting policies that I think will support work toward a creating economies that don’t destroy the environment;  I can do my best not to waste energy, turn off lights I’m not using, install solar panels, buy an energy-efficient car.  Ride a bicycle.


We can’t solve any of these problems by ourselves.  Just as we couldn’t create any of them by ourselves.  We are just single human beings.  But for better or worse, what each of us does adds up.


  1. Sadly we dont seem to learn from other people’s experience.For instance, use of plastics goes on unabated:-(


    Comment by tskraghu — January 18, 2015 @ 6:05 am | Reply

    • Yes, I just read that plastic bags are deadly for our fish populations. In the good news department, here in Britain there is a concerted attempt by supermarkets and high street stores to encourage people to re-use their own shopping bags. In some places, stores are actually charging customers for the plastic bags they need. Hurray. It’s a start anyway.


      Comment by theotheri — January 18, 2015 @ 11:52 am | Reply

      • It is not just the bags alone. With the street economy so active, the way Styrofoam cups are used to dispense chai…


        Comment by tskraghu — January 18, 2015 @ 11:55 am | Reply

        • Oh styrofoam! It’s another one of those inventions that seemed like such a brilliant idea when it was invented in 1942 as an insulating material. Still is, I guess. Now it’s a landfill problem even here in Britain — once the cups et al. have been picked up from the sidewalk. (I think those cups must be made to jump out of the trash bins all by themselves.)


          Comment by theotheri — January 18, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

  2. Democracy requires people to THINK for themselves. What chance do the unindoctrinated stand when recently the Shepard tells his flock of sheep to punch someone who satires his fables, yet in the same breath castigates his opposite numbers in a rival ‘faith’ who issue a fatwa? Forward thinking? He is merely reiterating what Pope Urban [I think] said some 900 years ago. We need to learn from history not ignore it. “If we ignore history we are condemned to repeat our mistakes.” A great Englishman once said “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

    As for global warming only the ostriches in corporate america refuse to see what has been obvious to me for over two decades. Of course I am not a scientist so my view is irrelevant.


    Comment by lairdglencairn — January 18, 2015 @ 11:07 am | Reply

    • Yes, I was a little taken aback by the “punch” assessment as well. It might sound more moderate than shooting or beheading but it still reflects the same attitude: punish your enemies because they are God’s enemies, doesn’t it? And I agree – history shows us it doesn’t work. It just creates a lot of martyrs for both sides.

      As for global warming, I wish I agreed it was only corporate america. They might be the biggest block, but I live in England and an awful lot of people here tell me they don’t believe in global warming either — at least the man-made version.

      As you say, democracy requires people to THINK. But the kind of thinking that’s required needs to be informed, not merely stubbornly insistent.


      Comment by theotheri — January 18, 2015 @ 11:49 am | Reply

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