By David Harris
If you had any powers of observation at all over the last 20 years or so, there are a few things that should be coming increasingly clear. Global warming is here and getting worse — epic fires, droughts, melting arctic and glacial ice, sea life dying due to warming oceans.
Exponential population growth is quickly pushing living space and resources to their limits — people fighting over places to live, mass immigration to wealthier countries, environmental degradation affecting more and more people.
Growth on our national debt is unsustainable and will, at some point, bring about the granddaddy of all economic collapses — U.S. debt is 103 percent of GDP (third-highest of major world economies) and climbing; look what happened to Greece.
Twice in the last 20 years Democratic administrations have brought down deficit spending and reduced growth of the national debt. Twice the following Republican administrations have passed massive tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy while increasing our national debt. The Republicans should never again be trusted as the ones fighting for fiscal responsibility.
Consumerism has become the major economic force around the world. We must buy more goods and services to support the jobs that allow us to buy more goods and services. This inevitably leads to a higher demand for fossil fuels and resources causing global warming and the inevitable limit to our western lifestyle. We all want that first-world standard of living with its convenience and access to material comfort. But it would be impossible for the whole world to sustain this for everyone.
Can we change?
Is it possible to change our lifestyle, using less so that others can have more both now and in the future? The parents and grandparents of early 20th century America, many immigrants looking for a better life, knew hardship and did not want to pass that along to their children. They suffered and paid a personal price so that their kids could have it better than they did. Most of us, on the other hand, grew up comfortably with little or no hardship. We expect to pass that along to our children through hard work but not much sacrifice in what we think of as our standard of living.
Unfortunately, the things that are happening in the world right now are still too far away and not directly affecting us enough. We are like the frog in steadily warming waters not feeling the fact that we are slowly boiling to death. Climate change, population growth and the national debt will affect our children in ways we cannot avoid through hard work, education and transfers of wealth.
This generational responsibility weighs heavily on me at times. I am 60 years old and running out of time to do something about it other than voting, letters to the government and lifestyle choices that minimize my ecological footprint.
It is time to sacrifice and suffer a bit now, just as generations before us did, to improve things for the future. But I struggle to figure out what more to do that will really make a difference. I want to walk to D.C. screaming along the way, wake people up, then scream at the people who should know better when I get there. Maybe I will. Try to wake people up first.
David Harris lives in Winthrop.