What are you most afraid of?
Ill health? Climate Change? War with China? War with Russia? Or both simultaneously. The Far Right rising again in Europe and America? How about A.I.? Mass illegal migration? Energy Costs and Shortages? War? We have two wars going on right now (Russian vs. Ukraine and Israel vs. Hamas) and either one can spill over into a major catastrophe.
Reading the Sunday papers or listening to the more serious news you can only come away with a pretty bleak view of the future and precious few solutions that don’t curb your freedoms to enjoy life. I have just read John Gray’s book The New Leviathans that builds on the philosopher Hobbes and predicts the end of liberalism and the rise of kleptocracies everywhere, including the USA, which will revert to a kind of neo-feudal state with elites and extreme poverty and violence. We already live in a world where Musk on X claims he is promoting ‘freedom’ but filling the world only with ‘hate’. Orwell would have understood that so well.
Whether young or old, it doesn’t matter which, both are equally affected by the future but may have different fears. The young must fear the coming of A.I. to take their jobs (especially the boring jobs, the starter jobs). Young professionals will certainly fear A.I., that includes lawyers, doctors, economists, journalists, academics and as the Hollywood strikes revealed, actors, writers, and musicians. Then add their concerns about the climate. We learn this week that A.I. computer hubs consume billions of gallons of fresh water that is needed for farmland. They may want to protest, vote for political parties that promise to eliminate cars entirely (in Wales all cars have to travel at 20 mph already and they are no doubt ordering many red flags to hold up in front of them for the coming mass unemployment due there.) Sadly protests in the UK and Europe won’t make a damn bit of difference as most of the pollution (from coal-fired power stations) that is driving up the global temperature are located in China and India. Both are still building coal-fired power stations and protesting in China is illegal and ill advised in Modi’s India. As an aside Bloomberg (9.27.23) states that 62% of Apple factories are based in Asian countries at risk of flooding due to global warming and most are fuelled by fossil fuels (Natural Gas or Coal).
So whereas we can establish being young isn’t much fun anymore, the old have multi-level problems, ageing, health, obesity, the consequences of decades ill advised diets, smoking, alcohol. Combine this with a declining workforce in European healthcare systems it’s not trending for a good outcome. Then factor in a total lack of places or money to house millions of elderly unable to care for themselves (especially in the UK) we are heading for a social care disaster. (Unless you have money, a lot of money). Climate change will also produce shortages of food, ever-higher prices and as populations’ age shortages of labour to work in food production. (See Japan). As world temperatures rise the food we are used to will fail to grow. Some crops can adapt but feed nine billion people as it is predicted to be by 2050? I have my doubts. So food security and your right to access it will be paramount. (Just like all the dystopian novels tell you). Malthus may yet be proved right.
You might argue that A.I. will solve all these problems. We might get lucky and not re-elect Trump in the USA, but pity Ukraine if they do. The sc-fi writer Paulo Bacigalupi wrote about food companies solving the world food problem by coming up with ‘nutrition free food’ and millions died of starvation with full stomachs. We already have a UPF (ultra-processed foods) that have caused mass obesity. And instead of teaching people to eat healthily we give them a slimming drug Ozempic to gorge on instead, courtesy of Novo Nordisk (now the most valuable company in Denmark.
Don’t think things looked any better in the sixties. There was the permanent threat of nuclear war (from Russia as ever). It affected the psyche of a whole generation who learned to live for the moment rather than invest in the future. After all, many people back then didn’t think there would be a future. It’s ironic that those same people are still alive and facing the same threat from Russia again. It meant that many people, didn’t make plans or get a pension until far too late. It was a case of damn, I’m still alive, I’d better get a proper job and get on the housing ladder before it’s too late.
I asked my nieces and nephews what they fear and although they parrot climate change, all their worries are mostly about school, exams, their immediate future, they don’t seem to look at the wider view. Maybe that’s healthy. My youth was definitely blighted by fear of nuclear war (my school was next to the atomic bombers airbase). They are definitely worried about personal safety, knife crime, being on the wrong side of wokeness and are extremely devoted to political correctness. I never once worried about my personal safety when a kid, except for what might fall out of the sky one day.
So many people now say ‘I never watch the news or read a newspaper.’ They get all their ‘news’ from on-line and Tik-Tok which is totally free of fact checking or balance. So everyone has opinions on everything but no actual knowledge. Worse, they seem happy with that because algorithms deliver them more water from a poisoned well to reinforce those new set of views by the minute.
My friend says ‘What does it matter, we all die in the end.’ That’s factually true, but wouldn’t you prefer to choose when and where and how?
Yes, I believe mankind is driving climate change, no I don’t believe that we will ‘solve’ the problem in time to save the bulk of humanity or the wild animals.
Solutions of the hair shirt variety will not be politically acceptable and people will just elect people like Trump who tell them it’s a hoax, even as Category Six hurricanes sweep their houses into oblivion.
That’s my fear.
*Meanwhile, be brave, take a look at my latest mystery *The Book of Ashes or if into the consequences of climate change, try Mission Longshot. Space is the frontier now and there are three runners and riders (Russia is clearly failing) to take control of our future. Your future. If you want to know where the next war will be - look up!
© Sam Hawksmoor Fall 2023
Author of Mission Longshot download or order the print version