The world can certainly save itself, but only if we recognize accurately the dangers that humanity confronts together. For that, we will have to pause from our relentless competition in order to survey the common challenges we face.
The world's current ecological, demographic, and economic trajectory is unsustainable, meaning that if we continue with business as usual we will hit social and ecological crises with calamitous results. We face four causes for such potential crisis:
- Human pressures on the earth's ecosystems and climate, unless mitigated substantially, will cause dangerous climate change, massive species extinctions, and the destruction of vital life support functions.
- The world' population continues to rise at a dangerously rapid pace, especially in the regions least able to absorb a rising population.
- One sixth of the world remains trapped in extreme poverty unrelieved by global economic growth, and the poverty trap poses tragic hardships for the poor themselves and great risks for the rest of the world.
- We are paralyzed in the very process of global problem solving, weighed down by cynicism, defeatism, and outdated institutions.
These problems will not solve themselves. A world of untrammeled market forces and competing nation-states offers no automatic solutions to the harrowing and increasing difficulties. Ecological conditions will be worsened, world unless that growth is channeled by active public policies into resource saving technologies. The transition from high to low fertility rates, necessary for lower population growth, requires concerted public action to help guide private and voluntary fertility choices.
Market forces alone will not overcome poverty traps. And a failure of global problem solving mean that we are failing to adopt even straightforward and sensible solutions lying right before our eyes.