Summary: we have become a fearful people, for no good reason. It makes us easy to rule. For 2019, let’s resolve to overcome our fears, face our challenges, and have a great year.
Not a week has gone by since the FM website began that I have not had a comment or email explaining why America is doomed.
Climate change, peak oil, 4GW, social decay, ecological collapse, economic collapse, pandemics of new and old diseases – the list rolls on. It’s the Crisis Crisis, with the doomsters dominating our news. Every day they make readers fear for the survival of America, or even civilization. But for thousands of generations humanity has confronted such serious problems as we climbed from scavengers to become the dominant species on this planet. It’s been a long climb. And our problems today are trivial compared to those we faced and surmounted in the past.
So why so much fear about the future?
Refuting the many doomster nightmares is like plugging holes in a cracking dam. Such stories multiply, driven by fears about the future of our rapidly changing world. Our past successes provide Americans with little confidence about the future. What will happen during the next fifty years, by 2069? Here are my guesses.
- Peak oil will have come and gone. Today’s progress in building new energy sources will continue. By 2069 we have adapted to a post-oil world.
- The age wave will have passed over us. The developed world will have seen the elderly become its largest age group –placing severe stress on their economies – then die. Some nations’ retirement systems will have gone bust paying for their pensions and medical care. Life will go on, as it has after past economic traumas.
- The global long population crash will have begun as many nations have population declines (it has already hit Japan). Societies with fertility rates below replacement will face slow cultural extinction, unless they boost fertility or assimilate large numbers of immigrants. The economic effects of population decline are exaggerated. Nations, like Japan, with falling but highly educated populations will be global stars. The second half of the 21st century will see fewer people, with fantastic benefits to the biosphere, beyond our ability to imagine.
- A new industrial revolution has now begun. Late 21st century industry will rely on catalytic chemistry (as does our body). Children of 2069 in the developed nations (which will be most of the world) will ask their teachers “what is pollution?”
- The Left’s climate change fears will have proved exaggerated, as the shift away from coal, slow population growth, and continued technological progress put emissions on a slower track than the IPCC’s worst case scenario (RCP8.5). Future tech progress might make RCP8.5 look silly (e.g., fusion).
We can only guess what the world of 2069 might look like. It might seem as strange to us as the world of 1950 would be to someone living in 1900.
We look back at the fears of the Victorian era with amusement. They worried that cities grow so large that horse manure renders them unlivable, that the lights would go out when the last whale was killed for its oil, and that the Earth would be ravaged by giant war machines (such as airships and submarines). I believe that in 2069 our descendants will similarly laugh at our nightmares, while they look to a future holding challenges we cannot imagine.
Humanity was born naked and ignorant on Africa’s Serengeti Plains, bereft of either armor or weapons. We have survived generations-long droughts, fantastic floods, an ice age, and a supervolcano. Despite these setbacks, we slowly learned – and developed our powers. We have barely begun this journey. We have always walked into an unknown future, but our past should give us the confidence to do so with caution – but not fear.
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone …. I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”