Economic challenges and predications of disaster are nothing new
As long as history has been recorded, economic and social worrywarts have been predicting social and economic collapse.
Recently, I read an article about the imminent collapse of civilization due to the decay of social morals and the rise of materialism, government corruption, and personal greed. It sounded like it could have been written yesterday but, in fact, it was written more than 3,000 years ago.
Why have these predictions been around so long? While I am not a sociologist or psychologist, I do have a theory. It is because these predictions strike at one of our core emotions: fear. I also believe it has a lot to do with the outgoing, usually more conservative generation who have a natural discomfort with the upcoming generation in a new world they do not understand.
Several issues ago, Wired magazine had a cover story on this very subject. While the article discussed how and why sensational stories of economic and social disaster have been around forever, it also points out how and why such predictions have not materialized. I am not saying we don’t have problems that we need to take seriously. I am only saying we have good reason to think we can overcome them or adapt to them.
Here is just one example. Some readers are old enough to remember the oil crisis of the 1970s. We were told the supply would run out. We were afraid for our lives. Last week, the Financial Times reported that the U.S. has more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia that are being unlocked with new technology. Unlocking these oil reserves and tapping more natural gas reserves will allow the U.S. to become self-sufficient in the next five years, maybe even a net exporter. Due to other technological advances and increased political will, it is also very likely these fossil fuels will be used with negligible environmental impact.
Yes, civilizations fall. Yes, there will always be economic downturns that affect a significant percentage of vulnerable people. Yes, a lot of challenges face the human race. However, based on human history, the most practical sentiment is to be optimistic. The most sensible action is to work hard toward our attainable goals and make the world a better place.
November 15, 2012