TimeLine - Signs of the Times
Mr. Ed Ayers, of Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., writes (see book reference below) about rapid increases in global change. How we perceive change has something to do with how we respond—and for the most part humanity is not responding! We are losing time and opportunity! Why? There are so many issues that beg our attention. So many distractions, so many influences, and very serious potential conflicts ahead. And if we are so distracted as to not attend to change, change will come in spite of us—it comes because of us!
We say humans are a driving force behind global change, but can we put our finger on the mechanism behind this force? All humans in a corporate sense—that is, everyone all together—exhibits behaviors that boost carbon emissions, drive up population, and increases consumerism. Businesses are corporate entities that are organized in a way to influence (even direct?) much of humanity's behavior patterns. This article considers how global power behind change is from the individual, national, and even the corporate level.
NATIONS AS POWER
The concept of a nation having a role in organizing and dispensing power is not as old as we might assume. Yet today we assume nations are the governing organizers of global power. Today's market place is driven by business on a global scale. This influence moves the world in ways that go beyond any nation's role in directing human activity.
... As global commerce is increasingly run by global organizations that are not controlled by any single government, it sometimes seems that more falls between the cracks—and out of sight—than doesn't. The bottom line is that if governments can't keep track of what's happening to large flows of organisms and substances that need to be stabilized if the planet is to be stabilized, their ability to develop effective mechanisms for stabilization will be treacherously compromised. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 223
So, there is no way for governments to track everything and this is true for a 'shadow economy' that Mr. Ayers describes in some detail (see his Chapter 6, Section 3: "The Global Shadow Economy"). Just think about black markets in operation all around the world where no active monitoring can account for this part of human activity. Billions of dollars flow without taxes or tariffs! Surprisingly, this is an incredibly large sector of human activity and this too influences change.
... In most countries anywhere from 20 to 65 percent of all economic activity consists of black markets, organized crime, or unregistered work. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 87
And take note, this reference is not merely for lesser developed nations. And what of the open market activities that are being tracked? How are these channels of trade regulated to minimize the negative impacts of change?
Are nations themselves stable enough as platforms to offer lasting influence that will exert the right kind of efforts to counter change on a global scale?
We now have good reason to believe that even among agencies that are confronting climate change and biodiversity loss, most of the planning is focusing on problems that may not be the the main problems created by those phenomena—that, rather, the biggest problems may turn out to be shocking surprises. But even if the phenomenon is recognized and the problem is correctly identified, time and energy may be wasted because of questionable assumptions about the institutional mechanisms that will be used to solve the problem. It's hard enough to motivate leaders to work on the right issues; it's harder still when the institutions they lead are moving on shifting sands. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 226
What is the right governing entity to coordinate humanity's response to change?
... As noted earlier, we take it for granted that the nation is the fundamental unit of human governance. ... The nation, too, will have successors–and even if that doesn't happen all at once, the process of eroding national sovereignty could profoundly alter our prospects for dealing with the unraveling of human security. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 228
As noted at the start of this article, governments are not the only global powers to direct, drive, or coordinate human activity. In fact, governing bodies such as national assemblies, congresses, houses of parliament, etc., may be losing a grip that is shifting to multinational corporations! Are they responsible or concerned enough to make a difference in the face of change?
- Global corporations, many of which rival nations in overall economic and political clout. ... The trend in recent years has been toward a globalization of everything from executive management to parts procurement to assembly, so that the idea of a corporation having a home country is becoming rapidly obsolescent. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 229
Perhaps, for example, you think of Ford, Sony, MasterCard, BP, Exxon, Nike, Microsoft, Toyota, etc., as simply trade names in the global market place. There are no effective borders limiting such names and monetary power moves across the globe as unrestricted as information is free to move about the Internet. Even trade agreements tend to coordinate regional corporate flow beyond simple nationalistic interests. The world is in such a fluid state that countering current trends will take a unique effort, especially if no single agent or agency can coordinate a response to global changes.
And the products sold by multinational corporations must be looked at in terms of another currency—information! As we consider elsewhere, information is controlled to the benefit of certain parties; how would that help in a campaign to make progress toward a sustainable future? Is it not reasonable to assume that corporations use media power more effectively than governments do?
... Global media, commercial advertising, and the culture of entertainment are rapidly supplanting traditional institutions of authority from the family unit to the community to the nation. Families, cities, and nations all have established methods of law enforcement and punishment, for example, but some of their newly ascendant surrogates do not. This raises perplexing questions about who will assume responsibility for the consequences of human behavior. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 231
Information has no borders. The power of the market place, its influence, and the array of all ideas and human motivations are now unconstrained—e.g., satellite TV, Internet. Unprecedented in scope, the implications for the the potential for all human thinking to be swayed falls to those who command our attention.
The headlines commonly misdirect our attention from global change problems such as climate change or resource depletion, et al. How often are we told commercial prod7ction and consumer consumption is news worthy? Seeking peace in the Middle East, or elsewhere, runs across the front page. In the absence of true peace how safe is the earth's ecology, food webs, or biodiversity? To live in a secure environment is constantly cited as a human right. And in the struggle, nations not corporations task themselves to seek peace. The effort seems endless and all the while change continues.
... Global security demands that planning move to a level that transcends the political fates of particular governments or agencies. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 233
If nothing else, we are faced with ominous implications that humanity's global activities impact the prospects for human survival. Surprises and survival appear in the window's view along with discussions on sustainability (also see area on Global Change).
RESOURCE CONFLICT FOLLOWS CHANGE
Many discussions on
vital resources, such as air quality, or water supply, concern matters that
have no borders. Such issues merge and clash at borders where demand is heightened
by extreme need. Water is life's common denominator. Just consider some of
the examples stated here:
... In addition to the 26 or more countries that are now water-deprived, hundreds of additional regions within countries, including large areas within China, India, Mexico, and the United States, among other high-impact nations, are water-scarce. Many treaties and cooperative agreements have been set up for river basins that are shared by more than one country. These are critical, because they are growing signs that conflicts over water could be a major cause of future wars. And significantly, these water agreements cover some of the world's most volatile places–the Jordan River between Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian West Bank; the Indus River near the border between India and Pakistan; and of course of the Nile, which all told involves ten African nations. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 235
More importantly, with policymakers focusing on the question of who gets how much water, they are almost entirely overlooking the prospect of pervasive secondary or synergistic impacts, such as sharp changes in the prices or availabilities of food, fiber, or wood, or in the climate itself, which will affect every water-dependent person, plant, or animal on Earth. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 236
And when food, water,
fuel, or other resource starts to become limiting on a global basis, what
will come of humanity's future?
WHEN GLOBAL NEEDS EXCEED SOLUTIONS
Prophetic in dimension and implication is a future conflict over food seems inevitable. As population continues to grow and as the landscape in urban areas spreads over formerly productive, rich, agricultural lands, the sources of food supply shift as market economies shift from agriculture to manufacturing. Consider the following example regarding China and the future need to import grain from abroad:
When a study by Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute calculated that China's demand for imported grain would exceed the entire world's supply by the third decade of the twenty-first century, the disconcerted reactions of UN, US, World Bank, and Chinese officials showed how blindered traditional methods of forecasting have been as a result of the specialization and fragmentation of knowledge. Agricultural economists had not been paying attention to the paving-over of land their extrapolations assumed would be available. It had apparently never occurred to these specialists that the amount of arable land in China might be changing. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 236
So, there is now an
ongoing change in China. The market place will generate the monetary resources
to buy extra food as needed in the shifting structure within China. But will
the food be there? What will China do in a crisis? What of other countries
and their needs? What if there is a bad spell and production of world grain
falls off ... way off current trends? What will the world do?
... In the 1990's, China's economy was booming, and if there were impending food shortages China could probably afford to import surpluses and from other countries. The problem lay in how much China would have to import. His analysis showed that by 2030, China would need an extra 200 million tons beyond what it could produce itself. That 200 million tons happens to equal the entire export capacity of the world. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 239
This example is no
less significant in that someone thought out the larger picture to see huge potential problems are ahead. Time will tell how this or any global
scenario will play out. How does that factor into the time line for humanity's
CONCLUSION — DECADES TO DESPERATION
Does all this portend world conflict? Certainly in other areas of WindowView global conflict and related themes fall into their own respective places. We can make no hard predictions based on the example above, but conflicts of various kinds are more than likely before 2030. What's in the news today?
There are certainly grand implications when several factors converge to simultaneously hit a crisis point. The shift in power from nations to corporations will be wrenched by realities that corporations have no ability to address. Remember, nations raise armies while corporations are merely about raising dollars. So, all of what we've covered above describes an unstable base for humanity overall—this instability grows as we continue moving forward.
The best suggestion is to work toward solutions from as many perspectives (national, regional, and corporate) as can be achieved at any point in time. However, given the complex matrix of issues, we might suggest that if global change is left unchecked, sustainability is a goal lost to opportunities past, and we then enter what is best characterized as last several decades to a global desperation. This latter time frame leads to tensions that work throughout all the fabric of humanity—a fabric that is even now unraveling.
The importance to global change is in looking at how social, biological, and physical sciences all reveal data and signs for more ominous changes in the near future. This is change in every aspect of human and earthly affairs ... globally. The Window looks further to see change as a backdrop to a biblical timeline. Driving forces for change force us to ask the most important questions about our true origin, who we are, why we are here, and what the Scriptures tell us about the future. Change forces us to look deeper to face choice or crisis. Life is an opportunity to look for the answers.
Please Note! We are presenting a number of quotations in the "Signs of the Times" series that are taken from their original context. So Be Aware ... the impact of these statements is only heightened and intensified by a reading of the original text cited below. WindowView serves to reflect many original sources and in this case we highly recommend a reading of the entire book used as a source here! The 'Signs' are woefully important to revealing humanity's future, reading these quotations in their original context makes this point all the more clear!
Quotations attributed to 'Ayers' are from: Ed Ayers. 1999. God's Last Offer - Negotiating for a Sustainable Future. Published by: Four Walls Eight Windows (www.fourwallseightwindows.com)
Mr. Ayers is the Editor of World Watch magazine, a product of the Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C. The institute is a 'think tank' that often puts out publications that note change in the world theater from the perspectives of economics, policy, resource uses, and the potential for global trends based on past and current human activity. This is a secular institution and the title of Mr. Ayers' book makes no special reference to a particular theological framework.
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