The industrial revolution is dead! Burning fossils for fuel, stuffing our bodies with poisoned factory food and filling our homes with toxic possessions; pillaging and poisoning our planet while ignoring the devastating impacts to life—this model of civilization is the walking dead.
Yes, many are still wailing and moaning and desperately holding onto the ways of the past, and at times the din of collective denial is all but deafening. Yet as distracting as this cacophony may be, it is still only the death throe of a dying age now racing helter-skelter towards extinction.
This isn’t to say that even in the best-case scenario the fundamental models this era was built on, or the now defunct structures and practices it spawned will disappear overnight. Or, that our global community can hope to escape altogether the dire consequences of our past errant ways. Sadly we cannot and we won’t
Still, we would be wise not to allow ourselves to be too distracted by the machinations of this climactic angst, for we stand now at the proverbial fork in the road on civilization’s evolutionary journey. On the one hand we may choose to advance into what may be the most rapid, widespread, and transformative era civilization has ever witnessed. On the other hand, simply by failing to move boldly forward our civilization may land on the dust heap of ages: refuse for a distant civilization to build on. The clock is ticking loudly now and the eyes of our children and of future generations are locked upon us.
If we listen to science today, in as short a time as the next decade we face a veritable tipping point scenario on a host of key metrics measuring the planet’s ability to sustain global civilization. Already the needle is pushing the redline pointing to unsustainable fuel supplies; dwindling forests and shrinking water supplies; soil erosion, toxic and unsustainable food systems; spiraling global poverty and population growth. Then the mother of all indicators, rising carbon emissions, though still debated in some quarters, is already unleashing catastrophic climate impacts including rapidly melting glaciers and encroaching seas and deserts. Unchecked, the composite of these trends will form the perfect storm capable of spawning whole nations of refugees and dangerously extending the already pressing list of failed nation-states.
Clearly, this picture is daunting if not mind numbing in scope and complexity and leaves even true believers gasping for a more hopeful perspective. And while the world argues endlessly about comparative minutia, mercilessly holding out for perfect and painless solutions, the disastrous impacts we’re already witnessing today continue escalating at an ever more alarming rate.
A sage philosopher once said that we humans often don’t progress in life simply because we fail to sufficiently visualize the great potential of the future. Similarly, humanity today risks becoming so dangerously mired in preserving the outmoded models of the past, that we fail to recognize the urgency of the moment or sufficiently develop the innovations that will not only move us beyond our present challenges, but at the same time usher in an enlightened and bountiful future.
Consider how just one or two old, and by comparison, ponderously slow industrial technologies reshaped the previous century. From the Wright brother’s first flight in 1903 through commercial aviation, lunar landings, galactic exploration and even space tourism; from early typewriters and adding machines to super computers and the still emerging miracle of the internet and digitized global communications. Even the most enlightened person living at the turn of the 20th century could have never imagined the lives we take for granted today.
Then think of the plethora of hyper speed next generation technologies and the revolutionary advancements they’re unleashing today in the fields of science, medicine, psychology, architecture, energy, agriculture, education and more. Consider how any one of these trends can revolutionize life by this century’s end. Given sufficient time to mature, the combination of these transformative developments will almost certainly alter life beyond anything even our greatest minds living today could ever imagine.
So here we stand, in the spotlight of the ages, at the front end of what may very well be forever seen as the decade that represented the most critical juncture in the history of modern civilization. As a global community will we rise to the challenge and play our role with the hearts of heroes and the vision of angels? Or—simply by holding on too tightly to the ways of the past—will we squander the hope of ages for unimaginable progress?
Evolution is a relentless master, with humankind representing the latest product in its astonishingly successful march through the ages. This engine of progress culminates today in the warm hearts, bright spirits and lighting quick minds of our younger generations, who in ever growing numbers are dedicating their lives to an epic campaign focused on preserving the planet for subsequent generations—including their own.
In light of their impassioned struggle it seems only fair to ask what right the elder generations who hold the reins of power today have to stand idly by ignoring or denying the escalating threats of present-day Business As Usual? Are the creature comforts of the elder generations’ golden years so precious that they can excuse callously and heartlessly risking the future of our noble and blameless youth, and of untold generations to come?
If this is the red-letter decade and passive inaction in any form is the enemy of the future to be vanquished at any cost, what is a commonsense response? How should we act today if we’re to be less an obstacle to progress and more a solution to the challenges at hand? Anyone in their 40’s or 50’s or beyond knows one thing by now fur sure – 10 years passes in the blink of an eye. Which means above all else, action, forward movement and momentum must become the coin of the realm and remain so throughout the decade ahead.
Furthermore, the time for half measures is clearly past. Changing the day-to-day habits of over six billion people to dramatically alter the practices of a global civilization in just 10 short years can only succeed by boldly advancing truly radical measures. If ever there was one, this is the time for heroic activists to rise and join the global campaign courageously marching towards a brighter global future.
Touchstones For Bold Action:
1. Learn as much as you can about what’s really happening to our planet today. Knowledge holds precious power over ignorance, denial and avoidance.
2. Think big, bold radical measures! We no longer have the luxury to even consider incremental steps.
3. Lead by your example. Say yes first and then figure out how to make change happen.
4. Don’t worry about the financial costs of change today; the price of inaction will be far greater tomorrow.
5. Don’t worry about the naysayers–plenty of people do see the truth today. Join with them to form this powerful movement for positive change.
6. Start now: volunteer, join, act, connect. Do what you can today and improve as you go forward. Positive action and forward momentum are the essential keys to success.
7. Above all else make room for the youngest voices at the table today. Profoundly hear their thoughts and ideas. This is their time, their age we’re building, and their future we’re ardently preserving.