Sundin column: The bad news is, there’s so little good news
As I See It
For generations the traditional New Year’s greeting has been “Happy New Year,” affirming the expectation that life will continue to get better with each coming year. But when you size up the world today, you find little to support optimism about life in the years ahead. Sadly that is true for most of the major aspects of our lives: our democracy, the economy, infrastructure and resources, health care and global warming.
Our democracy: Our country’s government is becoming increasingly dysfunctional as the divide between the two parties is widening, to the point that our representatives and senators are more devoted to their party’s obsession with beating the other party than they are to the good of our country and the people they are supposed to be serving. Our government is for sale, and corporations and the wealthy have bought both the Congress and the White House, getting them to serve their interests. It is Robin Hood in reverse, robbing the middle class to fatten the coffers of the rich so they can buy still more favors. The wealthy even have the Supreme Court on their side, declaring that corporations are “people,” and therefore should also have the right to pour as much money as they want into the campaigns of candidates who will do their bidding. The result is a loss of confidence in our government — from 80 percent in 1980 to less than 25 percent in 2018.
The economy: Our national debt is $23 trillion (nearly $70,000 for every man, woman and child), and under the current administration is increasing another trillion dollars every year. The U.S. is not alone: Many other countries are deeply in debt. It is troubling that the attitude of the leaders of many of these countries is that debt doesn’t matter. The rising challenge of China and the effects of Trump’s trade wars are also items of concern. And the escalating cost of housing is putting decent housing out of the reach of millions of young families.
Infrastructure and resources: The U.S. is confronted with an enormous backlog of unmet infrastructure maintenance needs — aging bridges and highways, including much of the Interstate System, estimated to cost $550 billion — plus an inestimable cost to replace millions of miles of our water mains and sewer systems, much of which are 100-200 years old. Earth’s resources that support our civilization are finite. We are currently running out of helium, and there is concern about shrinking copper, iron, aluminum and phosphorus supplies, the last of which is essential to fertilizing our food crops.
Health care: The rising cost of health care is putting it out of the reach of a increasing number of Americans The increasing number of people, especially baby boomers, reaching the age at which they will need health care but lack adequate savings portend an approaching health care crisis. We also have a growing doctor shortage, and there is a disturbing evolution of drug-resistant disease organisms.
Global warming: The real elephant in the room is global warming, caused by steadily increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as result of the burning of ever-increasing amounts of fossil fuels. World global energy consumption has tripled since 1980 as a result of a steadily growing population and the rising standard of living and energy demands, particularly in India and China.
The consequences of global warming are far-reaching and frightening. Already clearly evident are the increasing intensity and frequency of hurricanes and deluges in many parts of the world, and of heat waves and droughts causing wildfires, water shortages and heat-related deaths in many other parts of the world. The speed at which global warming is occurring threatens the survival of a wide variety of plants that support wildlife and links in food chains that cannot adapt to the warming quickly enough.
Forest fires and human destruction of millions of acres of forests are destroying billions of trees that are needed to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and release oxygen. Melting ice caps that cover Antarctica and Greenland and glaciers throughout the world threaten to raise ocean levels enough to inundate low lying lands and seaports around the world, creating a catastrophic crisis.
The millions of global-warming deniers, including you know who, standing in the way of desperately needed remedial actions are condemning younger and future generations to a horrible future. Maybe this is why suicides and serious drug use are on the rise.
“As I See It” appears on the first Thursday of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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