Globalization has changed me personally. 20 years ago I knew about the population explosion. I had been aware of it and watched it since I was a teenager in the 60’s, but I now realize I was watching from the sidelines. I lived my life like those around me, and certainly wasn’t putting two and two together to come up with a very complete picture of where we appear to be going, nor was I integrating my expectations and actions with where we are, where we have been in time and history, and where we can expect to go. The times are changing rapidly, though, and have brought me some striking revelations.
A historical perspective helps. When I think back to previous civilizations such as the Romans, the Mayans, and the Greeks, and when I consider the Chinese, about whose history I frankly know too little, I have to compare them with our current, huge global civilization and notice specific differences. While globalization happened in the past with the development of world trade, both by land and sea, we never had the speed or incredibly low costs for movement of goods, people, and information that we have now. We are continually encountering new challenges as a result, and that trend will continue. The biggest factor we didn’t have before, however, is that our rate of resource consumption has exploded in the past two centuries, and our population with it – or the other way around. In any case, population growth has been enabled by amazingly inexpensive resources, primarily providing energy, and our resource use has exploded with the population.
The past ten years have been a personal awakening for me and a lot of people. A big change has been that, unlike how I felt and acted twenty or even ten years ago, I now feel like I am in the middle of the things. Changes in remote parts of the world, both human and natural, are affecting me more and more deeply. A hurricane a thousand miles away creates a frightening gas shortage where I am. A political change on the other side of the earth causes economic and political changes where I am that hurt my ability to support myself and my family. I don’t remember a time when such remote events could affect me so deeply and personally. That puts me in the middle of things in a way I never was before. It also means that things I do, and that my local and regional groups do, can affect people on the other side of the world just as easily.
We can’t afford to watch from the sidelines in the new, globalized world. With the globalization of communications and trade we are all in the middle of things as we never were before. Trade agreements are only small changes compared to a development – globalization – that was destined to happen anyway. To me that means we can’t stand by on the sidelines. We are in the middle of the field, and the game is on. That revelation is a great awakening to me, and I think to most people. Am I happy about it? No, but I don’t feel any of us have a choice. To retire to a cabin in the woods and live off the land only delays the inevitable and reduces our ability to deal with it. We are much better off wading in and working for better times for all.
The time for just thinking about what to do is shrinking, or already gone. I mentioned this concept to a good friend, and her first reaction was “The football game is a good analogy, and I guess we need to practice.” My first thought was that we don’t have time to practice, as the game is on and the ball is in play. This is a time when humanity needs to start thinking – and acting – on its feet like never before.
When our problems are caused by our large numbers, large numbers of us need to rise to the challenges. In a time when the big changes are often made up of the choices of millions, or hundreds of millions, of people, the result is a sum of all of our actions and choices. While the situation may seem impossible, we can’t sit back and just give up. Every one of us is a part of the solution, a part of the mass movements and choices that can sink or save us in the future. It is time for each of us to be part of a new realization, a great awakening, that will lead to new knowledge and invention with the goal of creating a new future unlike anything that has occurred in the past, a future where we know more about our world and environment than ever before and can do the right things to ensure good lives for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We may be at a critical point in human civilization, and the future is up to each and every one of us.
Large movements are created out of individual actions, spurred by shared understandings – great awakenings. As I say here all the time, we each have the ability not only to make smart choices for ourselves and our families, but to use our amazing communication networks to tell our government and corporate representatives what we want. Without that they may go on doing what they were doing before, which may not be favorable to the futures of our descendants and the world in general. We can learn fast, and “think globally and act locally”, and the power of our numbers can add up to the big movements and changes we need. It is up to each of us, however, to learn and act for a better tomorrow, and to create a great awakening everywhere possible. In that way we can work together with the other people of the earth to deal with both the challenges nature is presenting us and the challenges we are creating for ourselves.
As always, I welcome your comments. – Tim