Think of this as Volume 15, Number 22 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
She's 87 now, we all love her and are proud of her relative independence. She uses a walker, but she can get around, and does. She took a red-eye in from the coast. But, best-case scenario, the world's oldest folks are going around age 114, and mom's frailty makes her unlikely to be a champion in the sport of Extreme Aging.
When most folks see this sort of scene in their lives they think about the past, but I'm not most folks. I think about the future.
More particularly, the future I won't see.
Today's crisis of shifting from burning stuff to harvesting the abundance all around us sets us up for the next crisis, which for lack of a better word I'll call the crisis of terraforming.
Consider. The explosion of air temperature we're seeing right now is a second hint (the ozone crisis was the first) concerning a very large question. Now that we can terraform the Earth, what kind of Earth will it be?
This is all good news. It doesn't feel that way when your job gets outsourced, when you see growing competition for every opportunity, but it is in fact good news. Competition fuels growth. We are going to see an acceleration of growth over the next decades the likes of which the world has never seen. You think you're lucky? Your kids are going to be luckier still.
Energy harvesting gives us the chance to control the Earth in ways that are even now considered impossible. Think about it. Global warming just means there is more energy in the air. Start harvesting that abundance, as we can harvest the Sun shining on us, the wind blowing by, the tides rolling and the molten core of the planet itself, and it's easy to see global cooling becoming the next crisis unless people learn to get along.
They can do this, because as nations become middle class, and as minds become the center of wealth creation rather than resources, they're less inclined toward war and cooperate intelligently. Self-interest becomes mutual. They start to see hate for what it is, a tool by which small numbers of people take from the masses to give only to themselves. It's a gradual subsiding, but war is subsiding around the world, slowly.
Still, middle class lives do require the harvesting, and recycling, of vast amounts of material. Growing trade implies a gradual homogenization. Life is becoming more similar in Tokyo, Mumbai, Dubai and Kansas City than it is different. The language of cars and TV and Internet is how we all will live.
Present trends are leading toward a monoculture. It has one predator, us. It has decreasing diversity. It is increasingly vulnerable to diseases that once wiped out single species but can now destroy all life on Earth.
Already, wild animals are moving into even our largest cities, seeking a way to survive. I don't care how safe your suburb seems. It is an ecosystem, a natural order dominated by cats and dogs, squirrels and small raptors, all seeking niches under man's enclosing arms.
Outside our cities the land is increasingly fenced. Hunters, like their domestic cats, go out looking for the biggest bucks, the prettiest, healthiest animals, throwing evolution into reverse.
How do we turn that trend around? How do we learn to live in harmony with a planet that can evolve rather than devolve into one vulnerable glob of people, cats, dogs, and food animals?
The signs of potential collapse are all around us. Monocultures are vulnerable by their nature. Antibiotics are smart, but bacteria are smarter, and the over-use of antibiotics in our food animals is making us still-more vulnerable.
New sciences have to be created, new structures, so that our children will have a truly sustainable world, one with diverse and evolving ecosystems that make us part of a natural world, even as we live our lives amid steel and concrete.
These are the problems my children will face. My daughter is a lot like her grandmother, in her face, in her figure, and in the way her mind works. She has made it her mission in life to study these problems, and help move us all, even a little bit, toward solutions to the next crisis.
As a child I witnessed the Nixon Crisis, with manufacturing becoming the “Rust Belt” and money moving toward the “Sun Belt” of abundant computer technology and an information society, a life lived in offices. Today I'm witnessing the Obama Crisis, with energy moving from hunting and gathering to farming and harvesting, and people moving from “exurbia” into newly-vibrant cities, where research labs build the future.
Tomorrow our children will face another crisis, even more terrible than ours, a world that can be terraformed and must be, with diversity replacing monoculture, with harvesting controlled to keep global temperatures level, and with man having within him the god-like power of climate choice and environmental diversity.
Wish I could be here to see it, but mom tells me in her every step I may not be.
Still, when I leave this world, I know I leave it in good hands. You do the same, and our grandchildren will have the chance, and you will have given them the wisdom, to truly explore new worlds. The Star Trek future will replace our current dystopia, and in that search they will seek out God as she is, in every natural force of the universe.