IF YOU are apprehensive or scared outright by the barrage of bad news, you are not alone. In 2014, Barack Obama, who was then president of the United States, suggested that because of all the bad things reported in the press, many conclude “that the world is spinning . . . fast and nobody is able to control it.”
Yet, shortly after making that statement, he spoke passionately about current strategies to fix many of the world’s problems. He called certain government initiatives “good news” and said he was “fundamentally hopeful” and “profoundly optimistic.” In other words, he pointed to noble human endeavors as the means to control the world and avert a global catastrophe.
Many share his optimism. For instance, some put their trust in science, predicting rapid advancements in technologies that promise to fix the world. One expert in digital technology and innovation confidently predicted that by the year 2030, “our technology will be a thousand times more powerful and by 2045, it will be a million times more powerful.” He added: “We’re doing pretty well. While the problems we face have never been greater, our capacity to meet challenges is outpacing them.”
Exactly how bad are world conditions? Are we really at the brink of a great global disaster? Although some scientists and politicians preach a hopeful message, many people still feel uncertain about the future. Why?
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Despite their best efforts, the United Nations and other organizations have failed to bring about nuclear disarmament. Instead, defiant leaders scoff at arms-control laws. Countries with a history of nuclear weaponry are frantically upgrading their old bombs and creating new deadlier ones. Countries that once had no mass-destruction capabilities are now able to destroy huge swaths of humanity.
This unprecedented nuclear preparedness makes the world a very dangerous place, even in times of “peace.” “Lethal autonomous weapons systems that make ‘kill’ decisions without human input or supervision, for example, would be particularly worrisome,” warns the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
OUR HEALTH UNDER SIEGE. Science can take us only so far when it comes to good health. High blood pressure, obesity, air pollution, and drug abuse—all risk factors for disease—are increasing. More people are dying from an array of noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and diabetes. Growing numbers are disabled by other diseases, including mental illness. And recent years have witnessed the unpredictable outbreaks of such dangerous epidemics as the Ebola virus and the Zika virus. The bottom line: Sickness is out of the control of humans, and the end of it seems to be nowhere in sight!
HUMAN ATTACKS ON NATURE. Factories continue to pollute earth’s atmosphere. Millions of people die every year from breathing contaminated air.
Individuals, communities, and government agencies continue to dump sewage, medical and agricultural waste, plastics, and other pollutants into the oceans. “These toxic pollutants poison marine animals and plants, as well as humans who eat contaminated sea life,” explains the Encyclopedia of Marine Science.
And we are running out of fresh water. British science author Robin McKie aptly warns: “The world faces a water crisis that will touch every part of the globe.” Politicians admit that water scarcity is largely a man-made problem and that it poses a grave danger.
NATURE’S ATTACKS ON HUMANS. Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and earthquakes bring about devastating floods, crushing landslides, and other types of destruction. More people than ever are killed or are otherwise adversely affected by these forces of nature. A study published by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration points to a greater potential for “more intense storms, deadly heat waves, and more extreme flood-drought cycles.” Will nature deal humankind a deathblow?
Surely you can think of other grave threats to our survival. Yet, you will not find satisfying answers about the future by analyzing all the bad things happening today. Some may say the same about listening to politicians and scientists. As mentioned in the preceding article, many have, however, found convincing answers to questions about world conditions and the future. Where are such answers to be found?