The drought in the Southwest troubles me incredibly.
I'm here in Michigan where we seem to have an inexhaustible supply of fresh water. Six quadrillion gallons of the stuff pounding the shorelines of sugar sand beaches, wave after wave. And that, incidentally, is how it should be. Or how it's been for 10,000 years or so. And while I often lament the falling water levels here, we're not in the same water-starved ship as our fellow countrymen and women in the West.
I worry about the people in the southwest. I worry about the crops grown there that feed my family. I worry about the ecological damage.
And of course I worry that a water thirsty nation will turn its eyes on the Great Lakes with intentions to siphon it to places far outside the Great Lakes watershed so Civilization can continue there as it has for the past half century.
I'm not alone in this worry. I'm not just some paranoid, tin-foil hat wearing loner eating self fermented pickles and sauerkraut in the Northern forests. Nope....it's this very same concern that prompted the eight Great Lakes states to sign the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement that restricts the flow of water outside the Great Lakes water shed. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York have all signed on to this agreement.
Because every once in a while, sanity reigns.
Because we can't continue to use resources as though they are inexhausible.
It is my deeply held belief that we as a nation and a world are at a turning point where we cannot continue to address the problems and issues of our time with the same solutions we have for the past 100 years. We are at a point where we need to radically re-think how we're going to maintain a just and prosperous society.
We need to re-think energy. We need to re-think water. We need to re-think agriculture. We need to re-think industry and manufacturing as 3D printing and advanced robotics advances. We need to re-think our social fabric as technology emerges where Living in Public extends to the digital world. We need to re-think economics as technology makes menial labor obsolete.
Many of the solutions which have served us excellently for the past 100 years, even traditional Liberal solutions, are going to be insufficient to prepare us for the future that's banging on our door. We need to identify liberal values as separate and distinct from classic liberal solutions and strategies, and guide the world on the former.
It is my opinion that we need new thinkers on a radical level to address a world where manufacturing can take place in anybody's printer, where oil is expensive, where artificial intelligence is both everywhere and indistinguishable from human decision making.
When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s I saw the year 2000 as a horizon over which The Future happened. The science fiction I read, the movies I saw, the conversation I had marked that year as the turning point. The future would have Mars colonies and robots and, of course, flying cars. As a society we were captivated by what 2000 would bring as we all shared a vision of The Future.
...but 2000 came and went.
And the Horizon of a Future we jointly held became the past.
I don't know what the new shared horizon point to the future is. I don't know if we HAVE a new, jointly held horizon point to the future in our culture. Maybe 2000 was it. It seems now most folks are looking backwards.
But our original point was right.
The world changed dramatically at our original point. We just haven't noticed it yet. And we haven't prepared.
I like to think that the political turmoil, splintering, and gridlock we have is a sign of grasping as we start to realize we're unmoored from....something. We have a collective sense that our solutions are no longer connected to our challenges. We just don't know how to find our anchor again.
I don't know who the new thinkers are. I don't know what the new ideas are. What I do know is that we are not prepared for the world that's coming no matter what we do. We have no dominant vision for what a just future looks like in the world that's coming on like a freight train. I feel like we're reaching desperately for solutions that worked 50 years ago.