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About Foresight (a minor rant)

Why worry about tomorrow? After all, according to one of our most respected thinkers, "always in motion is the future."

It's a reasonable question. Consistently accurate predictions about interconnected complex systems are functionally impossible, at least at any real level of specificity. It's long been known that even people paid far too much money to make predictions about a constrained system (such as the stock market) usually do no better -- and typically worse -- than a chimpanzee flinging darts (or whatever else the chimp feels like flinging). One of the best-selling books about foresight in recent years -- The Black Swan -- essentially argued that trying to glimpse the future was worse-than-useless, because it would get you locked onto the understandable (but actually unlikely) and make you miss the seemingly impossible (but actually inevitable). Failed predictions and futurism go hand-in-hand, to the point where the first thing that someone identifying himself/herself as a futurist is typically asked is some variant of "where's my jetpack?"

The conventional image of a "futurist" is that of someone who speaks with certainty about the yet-to-come, making bold predictions of headline-generated changes... and never really being held to account when those predictions fail to be realized. (In fact, there's a weird pathology at work in the traditional media and political worlds: the only way to be taken seriously is to be repeatedly wrong, but in acceptable ways. Being right, when the conventional wisdom was wrong, will get you ignored.) J. Random Futurist gets quoted on CNBC one day saying that Facebook is undervalued, and will soon be rich enough to buy a small country, and quoted on FBN the next day saying that Facebook is doomed, DOOOOOMED, because of what Google just unveiled. This isn't informative, and it isn't illuminating; at best, it's infotainment.

Conventional futurists are the Michael Bays of the intellectual world: what they produce can be spectacular and amusing, but is ultimately hollow and depressing.


There is no way back to the Garden of Eden, back to nature, and no chance of becoming the gods we appear to think we are now. We neither would want to overcome nature nor would we want to go back to nature. There is at least one more option: to find balance with nature. This could be a sensible, alternate path to the future and a goal to be reached with all deliberate speed for the sake of the children. After all, we are borrowing this world from our children. Surely we will not continue mortgaging the children's future and ruining the planet all of us inhabit here now to the point Earth cannot be fruitfully inhabited by them and coming generations. Certainly not on our watch!

Responsible people will have to stop colluding in elective mutism and ignoring the best available scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth. The time remaining for us elders to secure a good enough future for the children is fairly short, I suppose. We cannot effectively address any global challenge if we do not allow ourselves to understand from whence it orginates. If people cannot see that an actual threat exists for which the human species bears great responsibility, that itself is a problem to be understood and confronted forcefully. Fortunately many of us in this community can see that the family of humanity has a human-driven global predicament before us that has not been adequately acknowledged, let alone begun to meaningfully address and actively overcome by the human family.

Some people say that we have too many challenges to confront now; that we have to deny how certain global ecological challenges are themselves posed to humankind by the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers. Unfortunately the human community appears not to have space-time available to much longer avoid facing the question of why looming threats to future human wellbeing and environmental health are occuring with such vengeance in our time. Please consider that we cannot wait “until tomorrow” to respond ably to such ominous threats as appear to be emanating from the colossal scale and unbridled global growth of human overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities. Please take time to reflect upon the untapped potential of the human species. Within the human family there is the capability to deal with the formidable ecological challenges that are already visible on the horizon. Despite the pathetic ways we are behaving, we can do better than we are doing now much better than ostriches when it comes to choosing a posture suitable for seeing the world in which we live. Look up, look ahead!

Human beings may be acting in our time as if we are more stupid than ostriches when we place our heads firmly in the sand while proclaiming we see what is happening. But the human species embodies so many more gifts from God than the ostriches, even though many too many of us with our heads in the sand follow leaders who take pride and engage in unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities that make our stupidity plain to see. How much longer will knowledgeable members of the human community with splendid gifts such as only human beings possess silently stand by and, by so doing, condone the incredible greed, the pathological arrogance, the extreme foolhardiness of a tiny minority of the family of humanity, that is not only ruling the world absolutely in our time but threatening to destroy life as we know it and the Earth as a fit place for the children to inhabit? A remarkably small group of self-proclaimed masters of the universe hold the ‘destiny’ of all in their hands. This elite international group appears to be operating behind the scenes these days and "growing" the global political economy to such a colossal scale that it could soon become patently unsustainable on a planet with the relatively small size, make-up and environs of Earth. Although we are presented with a virtual blizzard of propaganda to the contrary, our planetary home is not, definitely not "too big to fail."

Earth is bounded and finite; its ecology is frangible. It cannot be sensibly compared to a maternal presence, in the sense of it being like a mother’s teat at which humankind can forever suckle. Neither a mother’s teat nor the Earth is actually inexhaustible, despite the children's fantasy and adults' belief that either one is an eternal source of sustenance. The human family ignores human biological limits and Earth's physical limitations to support life as we know it at our peril.

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