As I see it
“The future isn’t what it used to be.”
That comment, which appeared above the door of a local liquor store a few months ago, says it all in eight words.
I can remember that near the end of the Great Depression, in the late 1930s, and during the decades following World War II, everyone’s vision of the future was the dawning of a “new golden age” of ever-increasing prosperity.
Sadly, that is no longer the case. Today’s generations growing up and those in their early years of adulthood will be confronted with an entirely different prospect ” crippling energy shortages, rising pollution and global warming, the pressures of overpopulation, an out-of-control national debt and negative balance of payments, a growing terrorist threat that is fast becoming a religious war with no limits and no end in sight, and a steady decline in middle-class job opportunities.
The looming decline in the world’s oil production in the face of rapidly rising demand means ever-escalating fuel costs, and ultimately, a devastating impact on transportation with the inevitable end of the petroleum era. Then what are we going to use to fuel our automobiles, buses, trucks and airplanes?
Growing world population and industrialization will increase energy demands exponentially, raising costs to the point where heating in the northern part of the country, and air conditioning (which makes living in the southern part of the country tolerable), will no longer be affordable. And to make matters worse, increasing carbon dioxide emissions will accelerate global warming, raising temperatures anywhere from two to 10 degrees.
Burgeoning population in the United States and throughout the world is a major factor in the demand for energy and all other resources, pollution, global warming, and the rising cost of housing. Urban sprawl is also gobbling up agricultural land, which is needed to feed our growing numbers, at an alarming rate.
Next we come to our out-of-control federal budget deficits and national debt. Borrowing to support tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations, to pay for the war in Iraq and to rebuild the destruction we have caused there, and to repair the damage Katrina and Rita have caused in our own country, merely passes those costs on to future generations, who will be far less able to pay for them. This is not merely selfish it is criminal.
Our balance of payments deficit is equally out of control, mostly with China. China will use our dollars, which we are shipping to them in ever-increasing quantities, to purchase our production and financial facilities, leaving the United States a hollow shell.
The inevitable consequence of all of the above will be a crushing financial burden on future generations, resulting in a drastic reduction in their standard of living.
Finally we come to the growing terrorist threat, and the definite possibility of a future nuclear attack. Are we prepared for that, and will we be in any position to pay for the high cost of defense? Our situation is beginning to resemble the last days of the Roman Empire, with the barbarians overwhelming its defenses.
What will life be like in 20-40 years, when affordable energy is only a fond memory, and the transportation needed just to deliver enough food is no longer dependable? Will the world degenerate into wars and riots, with survival only for the fittest?
You may think that this is an overly pessimistic outlook, but as a friend of mine says, “The difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that the optimist ignores the gravity of the situation.”
It is far easier to bury our heads in the sand and pass the problems on to our children and grandchildren. I’m sure they will not thank us for being unwilling to pay our own way.
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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