At the Doorstep of The Humbling Decade
It is ironic that the next decade starts at 2020. Because 2020 vision is exactly what humans will finally attain after hundreds of thousands of years of blind development and evolution. It will be a tipping point for humanity, as more and more of us stare into the mirror and hate what we see. Right now it may be the climate scientists and environmentalists who are in that position. But what happens when the entirety of humanity reaches that point?
What you will read below may be fiction, and it is probably naive, but much of it is based on current trends. Things could turn out better, or they could be much worse. And then, there are those things which none of us can even predict. In a world where both the climate and our technology are changing at breakneck speeds, it is always good to endeavour to make some type of prediction, even though this might be largely inaccurate. If there was ever a time when Futurists were most needed, it is undoubtedely today. Understanding the impacts on our future of our current choices is critical, if we are to hope that at least some of those choices are the right ones.
I call the decade approaching The Humbling Decade. Because it is the decade when humans, for the first time, will not be able to continue to kick the can down the road without severe consequences. This decade will be a humbling experience for all of us, one way or another.
Climate Update: 2030
The summer Arctic ice cover has melted long ago. Models have failed again to predict the acceleration of ice sheet melting, and the albedo effect along with methane release and other possible tipping points that we still don’t understand have ushered in a runaway climate change phenomenon (including a disruption of oceanic circulation currents). The IPCC and climate scientists declare “unpredictable events are highly likely”.
Kiribati officially becomes the first nation to become “extinct” because of climate change, moving its capital city and residents to land purchased on Fiji. Miami luxury seafront property values nosedive after the City Authority abandons plans for the construction of flood defences, due to “beyond predicted” sea level rises and a series of devastating Category 5 Hurricanes. Low-lying seafronts across the world begin to make long term plans as they feel the pressure.
Cities begin to become more liveable after autonomous vehicles bring about a dramatic drop in pollution and noise, but a spike in traffic. CO2 emissions enter a robust, yet still “too little too late” downward trend towards the end of the decade. As the date of AI Singularity is officially predicted to be 2038, personal privacy hacking events and AI-induced unemployement bring about a massive backlash towards the technology. Nevertheless 3D printers, home assistants and home robots continue to proliferate. Energy is rationed per household and new regulations for smart homes come into effect. Mars exploration is abandoned in order to save Planet Earth.
IRT (International Reforestation Treaty)
The International Satellite Forest Monitoring system is introduced, forcing countries to stop burning forest, and accept either a forest neutrality or a forest growth target. Countries who do not sign the treaty or fail to replace lost or burned forest suffer extreme sanctions by the United Nations.
Following the signing of the treaty, a massive urgent reforestation project is launched across the world, using drone technology as well as millions of people made unemployed by AI. It is an effort of trully gigantic proportions, paid for by the taxpayer. Initial readings are mixed, with unpredictable droughts, floods, and soil degradation resulting in lower than predicted survival rates for tree seedlings.
Prices in supermarkets worldwide experience continued instability following multiple “bread basket failures” due to drought and extreme weather. Fishing disputes errupt in the arctic circle as herring and tuna continue their migration to cooler waters and towards the Poles. Plant-based meats capture an astounding 43% of the “meat” market, putting much of the industry out of business but reducing CO2 emissions dramatically. Vertical farm operators enter the stock market.
As animals become climate refugees and continue to migrate away from the Equator, a massive headache develops: tackling invasive species on one hand, and establishing new habitats for wildlife in order to save it from extinction. An International Environmental Treaty to save habitats has been signed but with only few commitments for action. Petition signatures gather across the world for the creation of special wildlife refuges and in some cases Mega Biomes where the most fragile of life can be preserved.
A desperate experiment takes place to try and migrate some of the Great Barrier reef ecosystem further south, following repeated devastating bleaching events. The International Seed Vault is moved from Svalbard to Antarctica due to permafrost thawing conditions. A frozen DNA database of all living species is being built in order to try and safeguard billions of years of evolution.
As Malaria and other tropical diseases begin to increasingly make their appearance in Europe and other places, mental health becomes humanity’s main issue. Generation “CC”, which stands for Climate Change, is being hit by a double whammy of tech isolation and eco anxiety. Humanity faces an existential crisis with record depression and decreased birth rates across the globe. Meanwhile new AI tools and a blood test for cancer revolutionise oncology diagnostics. Many countries establish compulsory DNA population databases. First surgery partly undertaken by robot takes place. The first artificial organs are successfully implanted.
Education and Religion
The fields of Philosophy, Theology and Literature are witnessing an unprecedented revival as people turn to art and introspection in order to find comfort and ask themselves the difficult questions. There are two movements in the arts: a deep depression coming out of collective shame and guilt, and a humanism movement believing in redemption through science and spirituality. Extreme transhumanistic underground movements begin to emerge.
Peace and stability
The first governments formed by Green parties begin to appear. As anger towards governments and corporations gathers pace worldwide, Extinction Rebellion founders decline to accept the Nobel Peace Prize award saying “there’s no time for awards”. International trade wars over the price of food escalate.
Note: I have refused to make any predictions regarding international conflicts, or even world wars. This is the big “wild card”: very difficult to predict, but also pointless, especially since the eventuality of war during climate change would make all the dire predictions above look like a day in Heaven.
There is always the Mad Max option for humans. The choice is up to us.
(to be updated)
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