What do I think of our world?

Each of us have our own principles, things that we hold important, and our views about the world. On this page I will tell you about mine.

I know, that the visions of the future within this page are not especially positive. However, I do believe that the way to a better future can be found by accepting the problems we are facing and doing what we can to address them. Even though the global problems of today are huge, the game is not over!

Environmental realism

I am openly worried about the condition of our environment. I don’t fear the changing climate, melting glaciers, dwindling natural resources, or polluting water sources per se. These are serious problems. However, I am afraid of what comes of these problems. I believe that they will make life more difficult all over the world – producing food, water, and energy becomes more difficult. If our environmental problems are not globally addressed the developed nations have to fight for their high standards of living and life in the developing nations turns into a struggle for survival. This is our shared road towards competition and conflict for resources.

I am afraid that in the midst of the changing climate and dwindling natural resources some nation feels the back of the camel breaking and starts using military power to secure its access to food, water, and energy. From this perspective it is completely irrelevant whether or not climate change is caused by humans. Whether we do something to address these problems or not is the relevant question.

This is a global prisoner’s dilemma: no single nation has direct incentives to counteract global environmental issues. Nations able to use more energy and natural resources have a competitive advantage in international politics and their people enjoy a higher standard of living. However, the mankind as a whole has a shared incentive to not drive our world into conflict. The only way we can prevent the world falling into conflict is international co-operation and shared rules for a sustainable world economy. This is of course easier said than done.

This is the biggest political question of our time and it should be at the core of every nation: there has to be peace in the world.

Globalisation

We live in a world that is made possible by international trade. Trade keeps our world together and encourages to avoid conflicts. Why fight if you can trade? Maintaining this trade requires constant production – massive exploitation of natural resources and a lot of energy. We are nevertheless in a conundrum: environmental degradation and dwindling natural resources limit this production. If international trade someday dries up our cities will turn off, people lose their livelyhood, incentives for conflict increase, and a societal collapse is no longer a distant idea. The world we live is in a delicate balance, breaking this balance has dire consequences.

People who have grown after the Cold War (like myself) have a privilege to enjoy the stability of the globalised world. There have been fewer wars and international co-operation has gone better than ever. This has enabled the growth of production and better living standards all over the world, which is excellent. Taking into account what I wrote in the Environmental realism chapter, there are limits to these rising standards of living. Our world is incapable of maintaining western style living standards for the entire human population. I believe that discord between nations is going to increase. Developing countries do not consider this setting fair and developed countries are probably not ready to give up their standard of living just because of goodwill.

Political polarisation

You may have noticed that the political ambiance in the western world has become tight as a wire during this century. Some topics divide people into two opposing camps. The quarrels between nations have been replaced by quarrels within nations. The front lines no longer follow national borders but the borders between various cultural and ideological groups. This is a serious problem since it can lead to democratic governance grinding to a halt or to a civil war. Democracy cannot function without the ability to reach a political compromise.

Arguments of today are already fairly aggressive. In a polarised discussion perspectives are proclaimed with a surprisingly high intensity and proponents usually see it as both true and right. No quarter nor understanding is given to the opposing side. Sometimes it is just easier to dismiss people with opposing thoughts as nothing more than malicious idiots. Even though a discussion of this kind is antagonising there are real people with feelings and things of high importance behind it. People rarely gravitate towards conflict with each other for unnecessary things. Sadly, the motives, values, mental wounds , and important questions behind this anger are usually hidden beneath the surface. Understanding diverse opinions requires studying, genuine interest towards the topic, and real human connection.

Behind the important beliefs people hold dear is usually a real experience, a real emotion. Emotions are always real experiences – although sometimes it is quite difficult to understand where they come from. As the foundation of all ideologies is a piece of truth – something which is both true and important for the followers. Protecting one’s own self interest is an example of a very common and completely logical piece of truth. If one’s own quality of life or that of a loved one is threatened, that person usually favors an ideology that protects those interests. This doesn’t make the ideology the whole truth of the world, but it makes sense for its proponents.

Behind the people aggressively pushing for their ideas is usually a feeling of one’s own supremacy, experiences of being ignored with one’s thoughts, or defence of one’s own self interest.For anyone of us presenting our mental wounds or vulnerabilities is hard and often avoided until the end. There is also the vital role group dynamics. People tend to gather around people with similar thoughts. In a group it is often painful to admit that our own group might be wrong about something. Even though the opposing group might have something important to say, for the group it is often more important to “win” than to understand the opposing group. Polarisation is a thing that will not unwind by itself.

Democracy and progress

We live in a world of plentyful food and stuff, maybe there’s even too much stuff. This is historical, this has never happened before the industrial revolution. This massive production has made possible the current state that we live in: economic progress is fast. People have made their lives better by working together: by building stable societies, educating younger people, and producing useful products. This was not possible in the world of slow economic development, there weren’t enough stuff people need to live better lives. The world of rapid economic development creates incentives for us to help each other to live better lives. If the work I do helps the education, healthcare, or access to food and housing of other people it makes the society better for myself as well. Rapid economic growth gives us all an incentive to work for the good of each other. I think this is the positive spiral of democracy, welfare, co-operation, peace, and progress.

If you already read the texts on this page you might guess that this phenomenon is under threat. If for some reason the global economic growth will drastically slow down our incentives for working together will change. This could be caused by e.g. a conflict stopping world trade, dwindling natural resources, or shortage of energy. People lose their access to important things. Getting food, energy, clothing, or healthcare products wouldn’t be obvious anymore. People get more concerned about their own survival. When economic growth is slow people do not experience their lives getting that much better even though they’d be working together all their lives. When co-operation is no longer the way to a better life the incentives to steal, conquer, and enslave become greater than that of living together in peace. This is why war and conquest were such a common strategy during pre-industrial times.

I am afraid that environmental crises, diminishing natural resources, political polarisation, and worsening international relations will bring us back to a time when subjugating other people is the best way to make one’s own life better. This would be destructive in a world where there exists both 8 billion people and advanced weapon systems.

I believe that the human species will survive even the big challenges we will face. What is under threat though is the better life that we hold dear in the developed nations and to which the developing nations are striving for. I think people’s chance for a better life is worth protecting.