Saturday, December 12

Uncertainty

I live near one college campus and work at another and relish the opportunity to hear the views of emerging adults.

They worry about the future - not just for themselves but generations beyond.

Rising student debt and a shrinking number of good jobs don't help. The world's population expanded - from 1 billion in 1800 to near 2.5 billion in 1950 to more than 7 billion people today poised to reach 9 billion by 2050. The increase in population does not ensure more jobs. Globalization in communications ensures that many consumers will chase after the same small set of books, movies or songs. Technology sucks the creativity out of work  and even eliminates jobs at retail outlets like service stations or grocery stores just as computers reduced the need for secretaries or typists and software increasingly threatens employment in accounting, engineering, architecture, finance and other fields.

At the same time, governments and corporations tussle over benefits while taking on excessive debt for wars and infrastructure that may not serve future generations well. Businesses and states under-fund pensions. Students are urged to explore nursing as a stable career but new graduates struggle to find full-time employment as hospitals limit work to part-time.  Legislators insist that governments can no longer afford programs enjoyed by older adults.

Few leaders anticipate or plan ahead for trends emerging over the next 50 or more years.

At the same time, the world's climate is changing. Weather disasters, food shortages or conflict over a resource as basic as water could break out and add to the waves of desperate refugees seeking new homes.

COP21 is wrapping up, and by various reports, more global leaders are serious about addressing climate change. Others suggest the action does not go far enough.
 

More than one young adult has expressed fear that it's too late to prevent or slow a changing climate. Many recognize that wilderness is shrinking as populations expand. The collective experience with wilderness tightens with every generation.  Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, recalls his child pointing out that the young did not enjoy the woods as much as their parents did:

"He was right. Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that 
seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.

Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. 

The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment—
but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. That's exactly the opposite of how it was 
when I was a child.... Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature."


More young adults adapt to the new uncertainties by learning to live with less and do more to interact with and record their experiences with nature. Many relish the new simplicity and deliberate over each purchase asking, Does this item make my life easier or does it make my life more complicated? Smart consumers do not overextend with housing, clothing, food and entertainment. A DIY economy is emerging. Many young adults, particularly the educated, vow they won't bring children into a world that is less comfortable than the one to which they were born.

Allure of Deceit tackles all these issues of globalization and more from the point of view of a few families in a remote Afghan village. 

The economy is shifting amid uncertainty, and most young adults do not complain. The rest of us could learn from their examples.

Photo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

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