It's hard, very hard, to be positive as the 2020s start.
Around the world, populist nationalism and its freight of xenophobia is ascendant, just as the first trickle of climate refugees is starting up. That trickle will become a flood, then a tsunami.
- Forty percent of India's population will have no access to fresh water by 2030. That's over half a billion people.
- By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America will see a further 143 million climate refugees.
- The permafrost is melting and exposing us to ancient bacteria and viruses against which we have no defence.
- The oceans are acidifying at a rapid rate: by 2050, much of what lives in the ocean will be extinct.
- We only have sixty years left before the Earth's soils no longer support life.
Writing in the Guardian in 2018, media theorist and futurist Douglas Rushkoff related his experience of being paid half his annual salary to speak at “a super-deluxe private resort ... on the subject of ‘the future of technology’”. He was expecting a room full of investment bankers. When he arrived, however, he was introduced to “five super-wealthy guys ... from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world”. Rushkoff wrote:
“After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own ... Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? ... Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?’
“The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down ... They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for survival.”
This is what we're up against: not just an existential threat from the climate, but a class of uber-wealthy cartoon super-villains (I really don't know what else to call them without resorting to pungent profanity) who are determined to keep their obscene wealth literally at any and all costs.
Meanwhile, I would very much like to be proven wrong about this, but I firmly believe Donald Trump is going to be re-elected. I was fairly sure of it two years ago and absolutely nothing the Democrats have done has changed my mind. They still don't know why they lost. And the corporations who own them refuse to put forward a voice, be it Sanders or Warren, that speaks against their interests.
If Trump wins, it will be the last free election the United States has in some time. He has already "joked", repeatedly, that he won't leave after TWO terms. It's not a joke. And he sure as hell won't leave voluntarily after one.
People have scoffed at my predictions for the United States in the years ahead, but I stand by them. Bloodshed is nearly imminent: you may even see it in the coming year.
And before we get all smug and righteous, the same forces are at work in Canada. We are just a little behind the times, is all. Trudeau is our Obama: all hope-y-change-y with lots of style and, at the end of the day, very little substance. (To be fair, Obama was ruthlessly blocked at every turn.) Our Trump is yet to come.
So what do you say in the face of all that?
You say, first of all, that a majority of millennials reject capitalism. This is important, because it is our unfettered capitalist system that is failing both a large percentage of humanity and the planet itself. Just one hundred corporations are responsible for 71% if global GHG emissions. These are the same corporations trying to sell us "greenwashed" items, because God forbid we hold them accountable or anything like that. No, the big problem is your florescent light bulbs.
Now, let's inject some nuance up in this here place. Note that word "unfettered" up there. Nobody aside from some radicals is talking about about seizing the means of production. We are talking about restrictions and rules to ensure sustainability.
The Earth can support billions. It can not support billionaires.
NOBODY HAS "EARNED" A BILLION DOLLARS.
If you, an immortal being, started working in 1492 for the princely sum of five thousand dollars a day, and you worked seven days a week and never spent a cent, today you would STILL not have amassed a billion dollars. Or let's take the staircase analogy. Let's say each step of a staircase is worth $100K. HALF of Americans can't even ascend the first step. To be wealthier than 90% of Americans is to walk eleven steps up the staircase...eleven seconds of walking.
A billionaire is 10,000 steps up the staircase. That's three hours of walking, non stop, a step every second. And Jeff Bezos? He's 133 MILES up that staircase...two weeks of walking, 24/7, one step every second.
This isn't envy--which is what I get hurled at me every time I bring this up. The thought of being that disgustingly moneyed--note I didn't say "wealthy"--that much of a predator... fills me with horror and loathing.
There are 2153 billionaires on Earth as I write this. They have a combined net worth of $8.7 trillion. Without reducing the number of billionaires by even one, we could seize roughly $6.547 trillion.
That money would eradicate world hunger completely for more than two centuries. A TWENTIETH OF IT would halt climate change by 2030.
So the next time somebody tells you "there's not enough money", or calls the poor "parasites", do keep this in mind. The younger generation certainly knows. And they're mobilizing.
Led by Greta Thunberg, and other young activists like her, a rebellion is brewing against an economic system that does not take ecology, or even basic human compassion, into consideration at all.
The pushback is intense, of course. A Polish archbishop calls her nothing less than the Antichrist. She and others like her face death threats. Yet they persist. And when I get to feeling like it's hopeless, I remember these young women and summon the strength to keep going.
I know it can be hard to see it sometimes, but there is still a lot of love in, and for, the world. And that's where you need to align yourself. The answer to hatred is never more hatred. If you want to oppose something, empower its opposite. I will say that again.
IF YOU WANT TO OPPOSE SOMETHING, EMPOWER ITS OPPOSITE.
That's the message I have for the world in 2020. There's a lot of darkness out there. Be the light.
Love to all of you.