National Commentary

Beyond the Point Of No Return?

On the eve of yet another new year, leering ahead into 2012 is an unsettling exercise, at best, while the less anxious process of looking backward to 2011 and the years, the greater or lesser of them, that have brought us to this point render a more philosophical, if still emotionally dull, mood.

Yes, what’s to really get excited about these days? The funeral in North Korea reminds us of the good old days of cult brainwashing, something that, in the U.S., Madison Avenue exploits in a milder form to sell cars rather than slavish obedience per se.

The U.S. economy continues to stagnate, and every economist’s predictions of a gradual recovery is qualified with the phrase, “Unless Europe melts down,” or, take your pick, “blows up.” In other words, we’re looking at what is more likely to be a long-term downward trend in the global economy than anything else, especially as we’ve become conditioned to rising energy prices and continued strangling credit, and we uneasily await downright scarcity and lack of core natural resource supplies.

Behold, we’re being told by the experts that before we run out of oil or natural gas, we’ll be running out of fresh water, and nobody seems to be preparing for that one. In the short term, it makes one make sure there is a quick exit option anytime visiting Las Vegas. How a half-million people can just sit there and wait for their water supply to dry up gives pause.

The planet, and all of us on board, really are approaching a crossroad, with the only problem being that we don’t know when we’ve passed the proverbial “point of no return.”

There is no certainty to reality, after all, not like everything in our culture teaches us. We are taught that football games end after 60 minutes, that movies have pre-planned endings, and that nothing really bad is going to happen on any “reality” TV show: somehow, everything works out OK. Even in the case of death, it always happens to the other guy, until of course, it’s your turn. In that case, you can’t really appreciate its reality, because you’re dead.

It may be that the planet is already hopelessly doomed, sooner rather than a few billion years later. Why wouldn’t that be a viable prospect? We humans, especially in cultures locked into the “Protestant ethic,” think there’s always a way to fix the problem, no matter how advanced it may be.

We can only hope there’s still time to reverse present trends. While our current menu of vital natural resources are diminishing, a whole array of qualitatively new ones are over the horizon. The very real prospect for mastering the process of controlled nuclear fusion (nuclear fusion, not fission) energy, for example, represents a true “game changer.”

Global warming, for example, can be reversed by a Fahrenheit-lowering greening of the planet best achieved by massive irrigation technologies that can turn arid regions, such as the 3,000-mile wide Sahel above the equator and below the Sahara in Africa, into the lushest breadbaskets on earth. In such cases, the undertaking serves not only to reverse the biosphere’s ecological crisis, but to alleviate hunger and elevate the living standards of billions of people, as well.

With technologies like nuclear fusion, combined with a new spirit of global cooperation (now there’s a challenge!), such opportunities can be practically realized, and massive gains made in the lifetimes of most of us.

It’s no wonder that with current conditions as they are now, Time magazine named “The Protester” the “Person of the Year” for 2011. It leaves open the question, however, of what outcomes the “Protester” will demand. Unless they are powerfully constructive ones, the net outcome remains doom.

The problem is that, along with our other woes, there is a contagion of anarchy sweeping our orb. The operative animating principle both in Wall Street’s corridors of power and among those occupying its streets outside is to damn the “system” and to exercise raw power.

To overthrow real tyranny is one thing, but to cripple the means to constructively transform and redeem our planet is another, entirely.

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