Looking back in time to what has transpired up until today in the year 2025, I have thought about why things are as they are today. In the 1980s and 1990s the future looked reasonably rosy, and now people are asking what went wrong. I can’t put my finger on one specific event that caused the major changes, but it is easy to see a number of things that jointly caused the major changes that we have had to recently make.
One of the earliest contributors to our changed lifestyle was the change in our climate. Starting back at the beginning of the industrial age we started adding more waste gases to our atmosphere from the increased amount of carbon based fuels being burnt to power our increasing demand for energy. These gases created a greenhouse effect within the upper reaches of our atmosphere which retained more of the heat being created in the burning of fuels. Since the increased global warming was so slow and was only happening in very small fractions of a degree per year, most people didn’t realize what was happening. They were like the frog in a pot of hot water. If you put a frog in a pot and then slowly raise the temperature of the water, the frog doesn’t realize what is happening … until it is too late. If you had thrown the frog into a hot pot of water it would have immediately jumped out.
Another of the major contributors to change was that the people didn’t consider that we only have a finite amount of natural resources on earth. We acted like the amount of oil, natural gas, etc. were unlimited and that we could go on extracting it for the same low costs per unit used. We assumed we wouldn’t ever run out, and we were correct about that; but, we didn’t account for the fact that as we had to go deeper and deeper to find and extract resources like oil, that the costs would keep going up until we could no longer afford to keep using it at the rate we were consuming it.
Other factors were the increased reliance on globalization and the population increase on the earth as each year went by. As we consumed more and more of the earth’s resources we had to expand our sources and find them in other sections of the earth. Once we became reliant on these sources for all kinds of natural resources, it became harder to recognize, and react to, the increasing costs of obtaining them. A similar effect came from our growing reliance on other nations for growing our food. The costs of our goods obtained from other countries were at the mercy of social changes, weather events, increased transportation costs, terrorism, etc. In addition, we didn’t factor in the impact that other countries would have on the climate and resource consumption as their populations increased.
Finally, a major contributor to our not recognizing and responding to those changes in a timely manner was due to our corporate/political/financial systems. You will see why I lump them together as I go on. Our corporate form of management of companies was based on making a near term profit. Shareholders demanded immediate profits and the corporate manager’s incomes were based on attempting to achieve higher profits on a yearly basis. When anyone in government, or anywhere else outside the corporate structure, tried to regulate the way we utilized resources, etc. to better control the longer term, integrated effects, the corporation’s managers jumped in immediately to stop it since it always raised the cost of producing and providing goods and services and thus reduced their incomes. One of the ways that the corporations achieved stopping changes that were in the best long-term interests of the people was through the financing of those elected to Congress. In essence they bought the votes to stop change and brought the governing process of the country to a standstill. In addition to being the major controlling supporters of the financial resources of those running for government, they also made sure that the people didn’t realize the truth. They also paid scientists and engineers to publish reports that offered up denials of the effects of global warming and the resulting climate changes as well as the ultimate effects of continuing to consume natural resources at an unsustainable rate. They managed to raise just enough doubt in enough minds to slow down or stop necessary changes … until it was too late.
It wasn’t until we suffered through a number of nearly simultaneous events recently that we realized what had happened. We suffered from global economic collapses within countries that had borrowed way more than they could ever afford to pay back. We had to deal with enormous degradation of our infrastructure such as our water collection, treatment, and distribution systems. Our soils eroded and along with environmental pollution, droughts and flooding, our food production systems were seriously affected. In addition, numerous major storms destroyed houses, businesses, and livelihoods along our coast lines. The combined economic impacts of these events combined with the continuous increasing costs for natural resources finally brought about the collapse of our economy. That is what caused us to have to go back to living a lifestyle similar to how the peopled lived in the 1950s and 1960s.