The Fluid Society

Can humanity still save humanity?

There is no denying that the world is currently facing a dramatic situation..We are living in a consumer society that has outgrown its capacity, As a result our natural environment is gradually collapsing.So much so that numerous scientists in the fields of climate, biodiversity, resources and biology, believe that in their areas, the points of no return have been passed. Meanwhile, politics, worldwide, remains in the grip of short- in term interests, mutual competition and territorial conflicts, instead of jointly looking at the warnings of scientists and how to solve the big issues facing humanity.

For more and more people, this creates the feeling that humanity as a whole is on a slide, which threatens to get steeper and steeper with the ultimate result, that nature will take over and humanity, ravaged by increasingly violent forces of nature, will be left decimated or disappear. Trust in political leaders worldwide is therefore frighteningly low. While dictatorial regimes like in Russia and North Korea continue to brainwash the people to their very core and suppress any possible protest in advance, in authoritarian countries like Iran and China the people rise against autocrats. No change can be expected from these regimes. At the same time, democratic countries seem to be paralysed by dangerous passivity or even tending towards autocratic governance, which explains the success of a man like Trump. The seriousness of climate problems and other issues is widely acknowledged, but at conferences where decisions are to be reached, people keep postponing essential measures or solutions, fearful as they are of national political sentiments, as well as pressure from big business. Thus, the deadlock and sense of impending catastrophe continue to grow, while time irrevocably rolls on and the time available for action evaporates.

The question this raises is whether mankind will still be able to save humanity in 2022? From the point of view of nature or the earth, there is hardly a problem. If man turns the world into a mess, nature will solve the situation through powerful floods or droughts, unprecedented hurricanes or landslides. After a few decades of misery, humanity will be gone, or decimated to acceptable proportions, and nature will restore itself and flourish and grow, as before.. The key question therefore is whether there is any rational way out at all to prevent or drastically reduce the major natural disasters and save nature from further catastrophes, or whether the forces of nature have been definitively unleashed.

Any path to solutions requires, first of all, consensus on what is going on and what acute measures need to be taken. Given the lack of such consensus at the moment, witness the failure of virtually all global conferences on the many global issues, there is little room for hope that subsequent conferences will suddenly lead to agreement. Apparently, the misery in many areas will first have to get considerably worse before there will be global consensus among the various parties..  Apparently some countries will first have to completely or partially get submerged before the world will start moving on that point. By then, we may be several years away.

Time is running out. Engineers mostly pin their hopes on upcoming new inventions. These are certainly being developed but will come too late and have as yet too little impact to turn the tide. International bodies like the UN, the IPCC, and the like will not suddenly start functioning well as long as their mandate is not strengthened by national governments. Politicians will not suddenly turn from short-term thinkers into long-term thinkers, simply because the world’s political systems do not support long-term thinking. Companies, which by nature always fuel consumption,  in order to increase sales, will not suddenly change their economic models, at the cost of diminished sales or angry shareholders. Governments, which live off taxpayers’ money, will not suddenly be cured of their tendency to gag voters, because after all, they want to win the next elections.

Thus, humanity has detached itself from its bond with the nature it depends on and has got itself trapped in market-economy models, which are inadequate, as well as in political systems, which are not designed to cope with global issues. Is there hope? Little, because what power can break this deadlock, in favour of new economic models, governance systems, forms of international cooperation, which do have a future, are based on the awareness of  the finite nature of life on earth and treating other living beings on this planet with respect? As yet, no new political or spiritual current is emerging, nor is there any private or collective initiative, that will be able to develop fast enough to make sufficient impact in the limited time humanity has for reorientation.  

Therefore, what we will see in the coming years is the effect of rats leaving the sinking ship. Many rich people have secured large estates, in quiet regions of the world, to retire, if the situation worsens dramatically. Meanwhile, they keep their businesses afloat, to enjoy the income they need to sustain their luxury lifestyle for as long as possible. The world’s poor, who are already constantly affected by nuisance on account of climate change, exploitation by big business, wars concocted by politicians, will partly be adrift to find refuge in countries where life seems better. But rapidly, the borders of rich countries are being closed to these people. Inevitably, the coming years will strongly hit this group. And then there is a large “middle group” of people who currently have good incomes and jobs. But many jobs will be at risk if the need to consume less leads to declining. production and closing factories. Inevitably, countries that so far have enjoyed great prosperity will become impoverished

Certainly there will be alternative energy systems based on sun and wind that cause less pollution, as well as many other technologies, especially digital ones, that will keep life enjoyable without the extreme amount of physical goods we still consume today. After all, how many physical devices did someone need before, instead of all the functionalities a modern smartphone offers? But all this can be maintained with fewer people, at lower costs, with fewer raw materials and transportation.

We are inevitably moving towards a “low consumption society”, because we have to and because it is (technologically) possible. This will hit the rich countries particularly hard, as that is where overconsumption is highest and where change will have the greatest impact on daily life. But the macro effect for the world will be positive. More people in prosperous countries will go back to other forms of life: small-scale forms of living, outside the big cities with the help of technological solutions that contribute to working remotely in a cleaner, quieter environment while consuming less energy and using fewer resources than in big cities. However,  this will not be possible everywhere or for everyone. Due to lack of space, pollution, poor climate or unemployment, many will be pushed back to poverty. It is not inconceivable that many big cities, will become uninhabitable due to sea level rise, lack of jobs and unaffordable housing.

Thus, even if politicians do not actively work on alternatives structures for society or a different economic system, the situation will force change. In fact, politicians have a simple choice: either they can support and guide the natural process towards consumption reduction, leading to a gentle transition towards a more austere society, or politicians continue to support the classic market model respectively are unable to reach consensus at international conferences: then nature will intervene all the more forcefully to force humanity to change course.

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