The Future – Entitlement or Obligation?
The very title of this essay project – The Future We Deserve – suggests that we are “entitled” to a perfect world – one with a clean environment, peace among nations, jobs for everyone, plenty of wholesome food, and the best education possible; i.e., a good quality of life.
It’s a great list. Unfortunately, it’s nothing but a wish list without a lot of hard work, realism, perseverance, and empowerment. There’s no magic wand to make it happen. It’s something we must accomplish ourselves.
And along the way, we face two daunting challenges:
1. Over-population. Planet Earth is experiencing continued, phenomenal population increases that cannot be sustained at their current rate in the future. Resources for food and clean water are already being stretched for the current 6.9 billion world head count. Add to that the increasingly limited job and affordable housing opportunities around the world, and you have more than a long-shot chance at a reasonable future. It’s a warning about ensuring human survival.
China, the world’s most populous country, may seem harsh with its one-child family planning policy (enacted in 1979), but it is being realistic about its ability to support a reasonable quality of life for its people. Academic and economic achievements are top priorities in China’s culture, so a family that concentrates its resources on feeding, clothing, housing and educating one child will go a long way to ensuring decent prospects for that child as well as future generations. Though China’s birth rate now registers 1.7 – average birth rate per woman throughout her life and just below “replacement value” – its population is still increasing and is not anticipated to peak until about 2030.
India, currently the second most populous country, has a fertility rate of 2.8, well above replacement value. That means India is growing faster than China and by 2040 is expected to surpass China’s population. If India has a poor quality of life for most of its people now, how will the economy ever catch up to the needs of its people?
Countries, religions and self-serving businesses that continue to encourage large families put intense pressure on people who cannot afford to rear and educate numerous children who eventually must face a limited supply of jobs and a high cost of living in the real world. “Make Do With Two” would be a welcome mantra for family planning that could help curb the exploding population growth and give countries a shot at providing their residents with a decent quality of life.
2. Inherent human greed. The human tendency is to satisfy our basic needs for food, clothing and shelter, and then progress to higher levels of fulfillment. Excessive economic inequity occurs when some people believe they are entitled to a much larger share of the pie at the expense of others.
Human greed is nothing new. History tells us that for thousands of years, power and money have been driving forces for those who seek to conquer others in pursuit of decisive control and great wealth.
In modern times, corporate and political greed, scams, disreputable financial practices, and the irresponsible spending of public funds have become so commonplace that people feel somewhat numb to the fallout. Even those at the opposite end of the spectrum – people who feel entitled to endless government handouts – pose an economic threat to public funding.
Another drain on public funding is military spending. More than a trillion dollars a year is being spent throughout the world on weapons. That’s three billion dollars a day. And yet less than one percent of that amount goes toward addressing world hunger. Again, it’s not about caring for the people, it’s about power and control on the world’s playing field.
Companies continue trying to do more with less – produce more products and profits with fewer people. They are not interested in how many people are without jobs. It’s all about executive salaries, stock options and others perks, protection from harmful environmental consequences, and satisfying stockholders. And along the way, the gap between the haves and have-nots grows wider, another warning about our ability to ensure human survival.
We know these challenges exist and it’s up to us to pursue effective solutions. Family planning, holding politicians and corporate leaders accountable for their actions that affect the public, and making wise decisions about our environment are key strategies for our survival and a decent future. We must earn the right to that future and we’re obligated to do so.