Responding positively to the big challenges of our times

The science is not good for the next hundred years. Scientists note that we are in the middle of a great extinction event — the sixth in 540 million years.

They call it the “Anthropocene Extinction,” meaning, the extinction is caused by us: humans.

Massive climate change could affect life dramatically. One group of scientists believe that humans face a 20% to 30% chance of species extinction by 2070 -- the results of runaway global warming

And all those changes will affect our societies, our governments, how we live and treat each other.

How do we respond to a bleak environmental and social outlook for the next fifty years? Here are three things to think about:

(i) Treat every moment as precious, because life is increasingly fragile. It is a truism that every moment of life is a gift, but there will come a time when life will be far more unstable and uncertain. It may be sooner than we would like. Certainly, for the people who already lost their homes in the growing wildfires, or because of hurricanes and floods, those days are already here. They are the bellwether for the rest of us. One day, they lived everyday, normal lives. The next day, in a single moment, they lost everything.

We can and should prepare for uncertain times ahead. But in the meantime, we should be grateful for the moments we have today. We should be grateful for the stability we can enjoy right now, and too often, take for granted. This stability is not guaranteed. Civilization is far more brittle than we think. And, rather unfortunately, there are dark times ahead.

Take the time to enjoy what you can, in the craziness and stress of modern times. Tell people you love them. Hug a friend. Be open with others. We will look back on those moments fondly in the days to come.

(ii) Reject the conventional wisdom. Everything about our lives today is a fraud. We wake up, scurry off to jobs, and think about trivialities. We are programmed by marketers, business executives, and government and religious leaders. If we are lucky, perhaps 1% of our thoughts in our heads reflect original, critical thinking, and not simply the copy-and-paste of someone trying to brain wash us for their own purposes. 

Yet “the way things are” is a death sentence, both for life on this Earth and the human species. The status quo is a charnel house. There is nothing ethical or decent about it. Every thinking person must reject it, and fight hard to change it. If you are in school, study social change and social movements. If you have your own business, dedicate some aspect of it to positive social change. If you are in government, start to ask deeper questions and fight for true justice. This is perhaps the most delicate, challenging time for our species in all of human history. And we are absolutely failing to rectify the grave problems of the day. We are signing our own death warrant.

(iii) Have hope for a Golden Age. I talk about the Golden Age because I believe the challenges of the future present an opportunity to restructure our lives and our global civilization in a way that better supports human freedom. Life today, for too many people, is built on exploitation and struggle. We have the means to change that. In fact, we have to change that, if we want to survive as a species. 

When it becomes increasingly obvious that things are falling apart, we shouldn’t flee or head for the hills. We should bravely assert a vision that is positive, encompassing, and dignified. We can use the challenges of our times to create a better type of civilization.

How do we respond to a bleak environmental and social outlook for the next fifty years? With courage, with strength, and with a positive vision for what the world could be.