The news these days is sometime hard to hear. The trend is ever downward for so many. The mantra seems to be "we have never seen this before," and it is true for anyone less than 80 years old. What I find so interesting is the continual expectation that these challenges will eventually smooth out and we will get back to some semblance of order.
My intuition tells me something much different.
A recent column by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman said the following.
We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...
We can’t do this anymore.
“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog ClimateProgress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.
What we are experience these days is nothing short of a re-structuring of what we have called normal for the past 60 to 80 years. We are now faced with an unprecedented combination of challenges including climate change, the end of inexpensive energy, and the unraveling of the economic fabric is crating a global situation we had NEVER experienced in our lifetimes, a culture changing perfect storm so to speak.
I firmly believe we will not "get back to normal" but that instead, we are in the early stages of moving to a new normal. As a species, we have had to make significant changes before so I am confident we have the ability to transition our culture to the next stage.
Deep, deep in our social and possibly genetic coding we know what to do. And we also know it takes great focus and perseverance. I do not assume it will be a smooth ride for everyone, transitions never are. But we have the opportunity to come through this with an American culture that is far more sustainable, reliant on the use of more local sources and having a high or higher overall quality of life.
We may very well consume far less stuff, but by refocusing ourselves towards those things that make live deeply rich and satisfying, we can replace what some may feel as "lost." These include a significant increase of interaction with people and the advantages of resilient and more self-reliant communities.