Humanity 2009

By David Simard on January 15, 2009

The sum of human knowledge doubles every 18 months or so. Our understanding of everything is moving along in leaps and bounds. There are more scientists per capita than at any other time. These men and women are working in fields such as nanotechnology, the human genome and renewable energies. World literacy has progressed from 62% in 1970 to 82% in 2007. As we speak, 1.5 billion human beings use the Internet on a regular basis. Global life expectancy is rising; there is peace among Western nations, and on and on goes the fact sheet. This bodes well for innovation, sustained economic growth, and hopefully, for a culture more oriented towards the scientific method, and a much deeper attachment to sustainability issues.

The current economic crisis is scaring many, but we must understand that in the end this crisis will not be cataclysmic. Capitalism is here to stay. Some may tell us radical Islam is on the march or that the religious right is slowly eroding the United States from the inside. While these subjects deserve more than a fleeting glance, for these forces are obstacles to progress, we are nonetheless on the cusp of a new and hopeful era.

As we start 2009, we can be pleased to see Barack Obama at the helm of the United States, for he is a clear symbol that the global zeitgeist is on the move. The world we live in is one where there is hope of a better future for all of humanity. In spite of the current financial crisis and the activities of terrorist organizations, there is an undeniable trend toward better lives for more people. During the last 15 years we have been witnesses to the greatest transformation the world has ever seen: one billion human beings have escaped the clutches of abject poverty. Obviously the rise of India and China has a lot to do with this phenomenon; in fact, they are responsible for the changed global dynamic. Will the trend continue? I would like to answer a resounding yes! However, great challenges still need to be met with equally great willingness to change.

There is great peril facing our global civilization. Africa and the Middle East’s chronic problems in adapting to modernity have caused them to fall ever further behind the rest of the world. These billion human beings are presently doomed to live in countries that have no viable institutions, where civil war and the omnipresent threat of civil war are the norm. The "bottom billion" is a great challenge, for there are no easy solutions, every country having its own set of realities. However, in the next decades we may see more focused aid initiatives, channelling our aid dollars to countries that have already demonstrated that they have vigorous institutions and stable political systems. This would mean that we prop up stable emerging countries instead of financing failed states like the Congo, where foreign aid has translated into billion dollar Swiss bank accounts for the Mobutus of the world. This could be a better way to reward countries that want to escape the poverty trap.

As we enter 2009, the current economic crisis strikes at the difficult relationship between liberalism and state regulation. These two poles will be vying for power for the foreseeable future, the equilibrium resting somewhere between them. We should remain hopeful that a better world is possible in the decades ahead of us, despite the eternal scourge of poverty and ignorance. There is something happening that makes us more aware of our place as the leading species on Earth. Is this global consciousness speaking to us loudly enough? Not yet!

Our survival depends on how we attend to the responsibilities we have taken on during the last century. With industrialisation has come education of the masses and the great possibilities of science, including longer and fuller lives for more people. But these achievements have come at a terrible price. This process has not listened to the cries for sustainability, which has put life, including humanity, in danger.

Our present administration of earthly resources is in a way, corrupt. We have gained complete governance of life on our planet but have failed in becoming the managers we must become. Changing the present course will be our real crucible. Our capacity to reach global consensus around all issues relating to environmental sustainability will be the key to the continuation of our walk out of the shadows of poverty and ignorance and onward toward a brighter, more enlightened future.

Despite the fact that we are talking a lot about global warming and the Kyoto accord, the changes we need will have to be more profound. The most difficult change of all, for it is a deep cultural change, must be to reconcile capitalism and the environment; us and nature. So as we start off 2009, let us hope that we will make the right choices, for the stakes are high: they are all-encompassing for our humanity.


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