Thinking about the future can be really scary, especially as a senior with only a year left of guaranteed food, shelter, community, and nothing to do all day but learn. The bubble we’ve been living in at the College will pop, and “real” life, “adult” life, will be harshly felt for some of us. Everything feels so uncertain. We long for clarity and security in our decisions after graduation, but both are in scarce supply.
Sometimes it seems like all we (college students, Americans, humans) ever do is prepare for the future, save for the future, try to predict the future, try to control the future. Most of us want the future to be better than or equal to the present, but we forget to enjoy what the present brings. We spend our time obsessed with what-who-and-where’s next, obsessed with the very thing that scares us most: the uncertainty of the future. The terrifying reality is that there are only two things certain in the future, death and change.
I won’t spend time talk about death in this post, honestly thats a library’s worth of material in and of itself; rather, I’ll focus on change. Change in the future is certain, a fact illustrated by Jorgen Randers in his article “8 Ways the World Will Change by 2052.” Randers spends much of his article forecasting the future, something that generally annoys me, but his delivery is frank and full of dry humor, which I appreciate. Two of the most important topics that he addresses, in my own opinion, are the inequity between the rich and poor, and the importance of life satisfaction as a measure of how well we are doing as a species. He forecasts change in each of these areas.
There is a difference between inequity and inequality. Inequality is inevitable, people are different, and humans naturally rank and teleolgically categorize each other. In addition, the natural distribution of resources of the planet ensures plenty of differences between communities. But inequity is another story. Inequities are disparities between people that are a result of systemic, avoidable and unjust social and economic policies and practices that create barriers to opportunity.These are the social and economic policies put in place by the elite, the privileged few, the one percent. Whatever you call them, they exist, and the gap between these elite and the rest must close, the status quo must change, if we are to move towards a more sustainable way of living.
Randers also focuses on life satisfaction as the measure of comparison between now and the future. I like life satisfaction as a measurement because it is an internal measurement. Many times when we try to gauge our progress it is in relation to other people, groups, or nations; these comparisons are the root of most conflicts, or at least unhappiness, in the world. The whole idea of keeping up with everyone else, or trying to pull ahead of everyone else, is the central motivation of many. These are external measurements. Life satisfaction however, is a subjective measurement unique to each individual. To assess life satisfaction, people must reflect inwardly (something that doesn’t happen enough), and gauge progress based on individual goals.
In the next 48 years, we will face incredible challenges as we test the limits of our planet, of our economies, and of ourselves. The future is scary and uncertain, and the task at hand for our generation is to deal with everything coming our way. My hope is that we are able to take action, that we find time for inward reflection, and that we don’t let the fear of the future overwhelm everything else.