It’s easy to get depressed as a result of all the bad news in the world: The corrupt Trump regime, Russian interference in our elections, our growing national debt, the brutal dictators embraced by Trump, wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, genocide in Myanmar, the weakening of NATO, the end of nuclear treaties, the economic threat posed by Brexit, Trump’s trade war with China, the opioid crisis, etc. Those are all issues worthy of concern. But they are, by no means, the most devastating threats to your future.
Thanks to an apathetic public and the head-in-the-sand approach taken by many of our elected “leaders,” many real and present dangers continue to grow. Following, in descending order, is a list of the things that should be keeping you up at night, especially if you have children and grandchildren:
Climate crisis – Scientists say that it could threaten the inhabitability of our planet within decades or even years. Sea levels will rise drowning many of the world’s largest cities, the size and intensity of storms will increase, and temperatures will continue to change affecting much of the land used to grow our food.
Mass extinctions – Humanity has wiped out 60 percent of the planet’s wildlife since 1970. And the pace of extinctions is accelerating. As a result, we may soon discover the true meaning of ecosystem.
Dying coral reefs – Coral reefs are the primary source of protein for up to a billion people. And five of the world’s great reefs are now dying.
Deforestation – Forests have been called the lungs of the planet. But they are being destroyed at an increasingly alarming rate.
Overfishing – The oceans’ fish stocks are being depleted, particularly by factory fishing boats. Combined with the death of coral reefs, the impact is devastating.
Overpopulation – One could argue that this should rank #1 because it affects everything else. As the planet’s resources are depleted, the world population continues to grow. It has exploded from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 7.5 billion today. It is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. But who needs family planning, anyway?
Corrupted food sources – Corporate farming methods are not only polluting our planet. They are corrupting our food with herbicides such as glysophate, pesticides and antibiotics. At the same time, the nutritional values of wheat, rice and corn are dropping – victims of climate change and hybridization intended to reduce growing seasons and increase yields.
Polluted water – The same chemicals that are degrading our food also impact our water. Petrochemical companies pollute aquifers with sulfuric acid and other toxins from fracking while spoiling millions of gallons of water. They pollute our oceans. Abandoned mines leak toxins and radioactive waste into our streams. In addition, our water supplies (even filtered water) now contain a wide range of pharmaceuticals and microplastics. And, in many of our largest cities, water is still distributed through lead pipes. Think Flint, Michigan.
Severe droughts – The climate crisis has led to droughts in areas that contain some of the world’s most fertile lands. This will lead to even more violent conflicts and mass migrations. Indeed, it is one of the causes of the migration to the US from Honduras.
Super bugs – The world is already dealing with Ebola in Africa and other once rare diseases. But as climate change causes the glaciers to melt and the permafrost to thaw, it’s expected that long dormant diseases will be released into our population.
Artificial Intelligence-caused unemployment – The workers in the US and other nations are already struggling with the impact of robotics on manufacturing. For example, far fewer people are now required to assemble an automobile. But the impact of robotics pales in comparison to what’s coming from the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI will soon lead to self-driving cars and trucks eliminating up to 10 million jobs in the US alone. AI will also impact a wide range of other jobs – from paralegals to health care to manufacturing. Some experts estimate that AI will eliminate 40 percent of all jobs within 15 years. If that makes presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s proposals seem more realistic, it should!
Fascism and fascist propaganda – The creator of fascism, Benito Mussolini, said that it could better be described as corporatism – a political system in which corporations rule. Does that not describe the impact of multinationals on the US political system? Studies have shown that large corporations and their lobbyists now control most of the legislation that comes out of our national and state capitols. Moreover, large corporations have bought up and consolidated our nation’s media which influence our understanding of issues. What could possibly go wrong?
Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies – Since the US is the only nation in the developed world that doesn’t offer universal health care, these companies can quite literally determine if you live or die. Or, more precisely, if you can afford to live.
Military-Industrial complex – As corporations and for-profit health care determine the outcome of lives in the US, our military determines life and death for millions of others around the globe. It can snuff out lives in an instant with the push of a button. It also controls a large percentage of our economy. The “defense” budget is $717 billion for 2019. Yet it has little real oversight and few controls. It is estimated that the full cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already cost more than $2.4 trillion. And that’s just the costs we know. A 2016 study by Michigan State University, which was based on public records, could not account for many more trillions of dollars of Pentagon spending.
Guns, the NRA and the GOP – These three things are virtually one in the same. When the NRA abandoned its original mission of gun safety and began working for gun manufacturers, gun sales and the lethality of guns skyrocketed. So, too, have mass shootings. At the time of this writing, there has been more than one mass shooting per day in 2019. Yet the GOP refuses to take action because it relies on millions in contributions from the NRA. However, given the anger following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, many of the Republicans who have obstructed gun safety legislation may be swept from office. Thoughts and prayers.
Wealth inequality – Most wars are spawned by poverty, religion, or expansionist empires. Often, they involve all three. For example, it was the failed economy in Germany following WWI and the Great Depression that created the conditions for Hitler to exploit. The fervor he created led Germany to expand throughout Europe and to seek a “final solution” for those of different races and religions. Not to say there is a direct parallel between Hitler and Trump, but it was economic frustration among whites that allowed the Prince of Orange to vilify Latino immigrants and refugees in order to gain office. And thanks to his one-sided tax cuts, growing deficits, his trade war with China and his growing race war, things will only get worse. We’ve already seen racial violence as a result. What next?
Fox News – Fox News didn’t pioneer rightwing propaganda in the US (I believe that distinction goes to Rush Limbaugh), but it took it to another level. The highest-rated cable news network in the US was created to spew lies in order to capture what Roger Ailes believed was an underserved market frustrated by seeing Nixon forced to resign and seeing George H. W. Bush relegated to a single term. He and the GOP believed that their losses were the fault of the media spreading liberal lies. With the Fairness Doctrine no longer in force, Fox gained a captive audience so loyal to its lies that its viewers refuse to accept any contradicting evidence no matter how authoritative and true. Perhaps, more than any other political phenomenon, Fox is the greatest threat to our democracy.
Oligarchs and organized crime – When the Soviet Union collapsed, Vladimir Putin and his criminal cohorts quickly moved to take over Russia’s industries and natural resources. As a result, they now rank among the world’s richest people. Worse, in order to protect their wealth, they have exported it to offshore tax havens and laundered it through a series of real estate deals – many of them involving Donald Trump. And the Russian mobsters are not alone. Organized crime is alive and well in most corners of the world, including the US. But, these days, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish mobsters from corporate leaders. All too often they are indistinguishable from one another.
Religious and right-wing terrorists – Rightwing terrorists, emboldened by the Racist-In-Chief, have already been labeled one of the greatest threats to our nation by the Director of the FBI. They have murdered innocent civilians in Charlottesville, Gilroy and El Paso. And there’s legitimate fear that they are just getting started. In fact, experts on white nationalist groups believe that their goal is to out-do each other and, most importantly, to out-kill their hero, Timothy McVeigh. Not surprisingly, many act under the cover of religion – “Christian” soldiers determined to cleanse our society. And far too many “Christian” evangelicals, though unwilling to fully support the terrorists, look the other way because they share the belief that Christianity and our nation are under assault by Muslims, liberals and secularists. Evangelicals are, after all, the ultimate ends justify the means crowd.
Now that I’ve listed so many reasons for doom and gloom, I offer you a glimmer of hope. There is, in fact, one potential solution to all of these problems. In the fall of 2020 you have an opportunity to effect real change; to remove the obstacles and greed that stand in the way; to help fend off the worst calamities that could befall our nation and our planet. All you have to do is vote! Vote as if your lives and the lives of your family and friends depend on it!