Philosophy of Life, Ethics, etc.

David Blair: Philosophy of Life,

Ethics, etc.

 

 Contents

(For all topics except “Ethics”, Scroll, not Click)

The Ethics section is on a separate page; click link on left to get there directly 

 

Philosophy of Life

Introduction

Secular Humanism

Secular Humanism: The Movement

My Relationship to Secular Humanism over the Years

Some Thoughts on Secular Humanism

Psychology of Happiness and Suffering

Ethics  To go directly to the Ethics page, click link on left.

Climate Change and World Issues  Click to go

Nuclear Power and its Role re Climate Change  Click to go

 

 

Philosophy of Life

 

INTRODUCTION

My general approach to life is well described by Secular Humanism.  But Secular Humanism as it stands today needs to be augmented by what science (and some ancient wisdom, for example Eastern philosophy) has found out about happiness, suffering and wisdom.

The terminology needs to be briefly discussed.  First, the term “secular” is used here with the following meaning.  A movement or a life philosophy is “secular” if its thinking and reasoning is not based in any way on the concept of the “supernatural” (gods, heaven, miracles, etc.).  Second, “Secular Humanism” is commonly abbreviated to “Humanism” by its proponents; at times I shall use this abbreviated form.  However the abbreviation can be misleading, for there are people who describe themselves as Humanists of a different kind—in particular, Christian Humanists.

The science that explores happiness, suffering and wisdom is usually called “clinical psychology.”  On this website I shall avoid using this term, because it immediately suggests that the knowledge and understanding thus obtained is of use only to people with a mental illness.  In fact it is of much help to people generally.  In my view it is well worth teaching in schools.  I therefore choose to use the term “psychology of happiness and suffering,” abbreviated to H&S psychology.

The rest of this major topic (Philosophy of Life) is discussed under the two headings, Secular Humanism, followed by Psychology of Happiness and Suffering.  In each case I give a fairly objective account of the subject and also my own “take” on it.  In the case of Secular Humanism the distinction is formalised (as far as is practicable) by the separation into two subsections, dealing respectively with the Humanist “Movement” and “A More Personal Discussion.”

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SECULAR HUMANISM

[This is my own description of Secular Humanism.  The views expressed are not to be taken as the views of the Humanist Society of New South Wales or any other body.  However the views expressed are believed to be consistent with the “spirit” of that society and of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.] 

Secular Humanism: The Movement

Humanism (i.e. Secular Humanism) may be described briefly as “ethics without the supernatural” or “good without God”; but it is more than this.  “A way of life based on the natural world, particularly human values” sums up Humanism more completely.  The roots of Humanism are found in the ancient world [particularly ancient Greece: (i) Athenian society, which for a while practiced a form of democracy, and (ii) “Man is the measure of all things”—a familiar quote from Protagoras].  “Humanism” as a term was introduced in Europe in the Renaissance, when, still within the context of a Christian society, scholars rediscovered the writers of ancient Greece and Rome, and pointed out that those writers had much to tell us about life that is of value.  Since then, the development of Humanism has owed much to the values of the Enlightenment, the discovery of evolution (Darwin), and the inexorable progress of science.

For Humanists (i.e. Secular Humanists), ethics—and indeed a whole wise way of living—is based on what humans value.  Such a code of ethics, or way of living, is not based on tradition, authority, or an ancient text stating what was supposedly revealed to some prophet.  While the various latter sources may give useful food for thought, they are always open to question—in contradistinction to the attitude of religion (with the possible exception of the less dogmatic forms of religion).  Clearly all this needs to be spelt out further: some helpful links to Humanist sites are given below.

Humanism also encourages people to pursue their own values, so that their life becomes more meaningful and, in general, more fulfilled.  We also tend to adhere strongly to Enlightenment values such a democracy and human rights.  Humanism recognizes the importance of science as the best means of finding out the way the world is (as opposed to what is valued or good, which requires looking within ourselves).  A more informed decision is in general a better decision.  Science, reason, and an enquiring mind are of great importance in countering a curse of the world as it stands today.  This “curse” is “fundamentalism,” namely, the blind adherence to tradition and authority, in religion and also in various other areas.

Humanism largely aims at human happiness or fulfillment and the relief of suffering.  While this value statement may seem a mere truism in this day and age, there are many consequences.  For example, almost all humanists support a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, and support the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research and treatment.

Secular Humanism is not a purely intellectual pursuit.  Humanists enjoy fun like anyone else.  Feelings of beauty, love and awe are available to all, and do not have to be mediated by some connection with a supernatural realm.  Humanists are happy to acknowledge the feeling of awe that most of us have when we contemplate the amazing order that exists in the world, including the marvel of the human mind/brain.  If one likes, one may use the word “God” to apply to the whole universe, or to what may be called the “web of consciousness.”  But does such a move (such a change of definition) really help our understanding?  I suggest that it merely leads to confusion.  (I say a little more on the web of consciousness at “Other science and philosophy” on the Other Interests page.)

Humanism also has its political activist side.

More information on Humanism can be found on the site of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has member organisations in a large number of countries.  In Australia there are State societies (for example, the Humanist Society of New South Wales, which unfortunately is going through a rocky ride as of the beginning of 2010) and a coordinating national body, the Council of Australian Humanist Societies.  It is of interest that in two countries, the Netherlands and Norway, organised Humanism has a large membership.

This completes a brief account of Humanism.

For more on Humanism—from a more personal viewpoint—read on.

To skip to the next topic (i.e. the topic below Humanism), scroll past the next two subheadings to the heading “Psychology of Happiness … ”

My Relationship to Secular Humanism over the Years

I was fortunate in my upbringing, in that my parents were humanists in practice, though Christianity sometimes got a look-in.  This parental “humanism” was a good antidote to Sunday School (to which we children were directed!) and the Church.  For, given the suburb in which we happened to live, that Anglican church belonged to the “Sydney Evangelicals” wing of Anglicanism; furthermore, for the greater part of the relevant period, we had a minister who was quite fundamentalist.  While I took much of what was said with a grain of salt, the Church had a much greater subconscious influence than I realized at the time…I now regard this influence as pernicious and indeed brainwashing.  I began to pull out at age 17.

In 1970, while living in Edmonton, Canada, I discovered that there was actually an organized movement, (Secular) Humanism, that explores philosophy of life without basing it on notions of the supernatural.  Not surprisingly, I joined the newly-formed “Edmonton Humanist Group,” and upon my return to Sydney in 1974 I joined the Humanist Society of NSW.

A member of the Society, Frederick Esch, believed it was of great importance that Humanism be given a philosophical underpinning.  He phoned me one day, introducing himself and describing the Humanist School of Philosophy (HSOP), a subgroup of the Society which he had recently formed.  The aims of the School were to develop such a life-philosophy to the extent possible, to provide a forum for study and discussion, and to promote these philosophical ideas through writing and through running courses.  The HSOP became the forum for most of my Humanist activity for the many years that followed until the group ceased to meet.  The meetings involved a lot of focused discussion, and they were quite enjoyable.  The group was always small.  Despite this, each of us gained considerable insight; Fred made quite a lot of contacts with groups that had interests in common with us; and members of the group initiated more than one course in the adult education sector.  Thus the group was not without achievements.

However Fred’s vision of a philosophical system that would “take off” in the wider community was not realized.  The reason?  Just as in philosophy, there are a great many shades of opinion.  Hence the state of knowledge at any given time cannot be captured in a single system (even though “broad agreement” may be said to exist among Humanists).  The path to progress (besides discussion and reading) is via different thinkers developing their own ideas and putting them into writing.  Over time the “centre of gravity” of humanist thought can move and improve.

For much of the time since the winding-up of the HSOP I have been active in the Humanist Society of NSW itself.  I’ve written a number of articles, some for the Australian Humanist and some for Humanist Viewpoints, the magazine of the NSW Society.

Some Thoughts on Secular Humanism

As a preliminary, I note that Humanism needs updating in (at least) one area, as has been emphasized by Peter Singer.  Ethics needs to be widened to include the interests of the “higher” animals, indeed all sentient beings.  How to “weigh” the interests of a human against the interests of another animal is a question of some subtlety.  Singer has proposed an answer; unfortunately his stand has been misinterpreted by at least one author, who represents him as holding that, for example, one cat and one human are equal in value.

I shall devote considerable space to the question: Is Secular Humanism the way of the future?  Traditionally, in countries like Australia with historical roots in Europe, the Christian churches have provided the theoretical underpinning for the people’s way of life including ethics, along with a practical program of activities that reinforces that way.  But in these countries today, typically something like half the population feels that the organized churches are way out of kilter with what is needed as a guide to living in the modern world.  There are two aspects to this.  First, large parts of the theology are not taken seriously.  Second, while society is seen to have become more enlightened, over time, in respect of its ethical values (think of divorce laws, for example), the churches are seen (despite notable exceptions) as lagging way behind.

Given this context, Humanism would seem to provide the appropriate theoretical underpinning for many people.  (This is not to deny that, for a fair fraction of the population, the supernatural realm may continue to be important, and churches will, for them, continue to be of value.)  But how might Humanism have to change to be of practical value to a large part of the population?  I shall discuss three scenarios.

One scenario follows if it is held that there is no point in having a Humanist organisation with widespread membership among the population as a whole.  (It might even be argued that such an organization would inevitably become dogmatic.)  It could be argued that Humanist ideas, if they are worthwhile, will become well enough known via books, magazines, TV interviews, adult education courses and whatever values are imparted to children in (public) schools—no need for an organisation.

A second scenario involves the setting-up of a Humanist organisation that retains the positive aspects of a church.  As a number of leading Humanists have recently pointed out, in order to have widespread appeal amongst the population, Humanism needs to widen its activities to appeal more to the feelings (and not just the intellect, which is already well served by Humanist magazines).  In particular, via ceremonies/rituals.  Already there are some Humanist ceremonies: there are Humanist celebrants who perform weddings, funerals, and even naming ceremonies.  What other positive aspects to add?  Music?  Stories that tap into human feelings and intuitive understanding?  Myths (acknowledged as metaphorical)?  Developing more of a “community”?  Mutual help when someone faces a difficulty?  Significant support to be given to charities?  The appointment of Chaplains?—with training?  (Some overseas countries have Humanist Chaplains.)  Inspirational talks?  (Sermons?)  Can all this be reconciled with healthy skepticism?

Third, a useful model is provided by many of the Unitarian congregations/fellowships in the USA and Canada.

(Traditionally, Unitarians accepted the Scriptures but denied the doctrine of the Trinity, with the name “Unitarian” emphasizing a belief in “one God.”  They believed that Jesus, rather than being divine, was a man, a special prophet who brought God’s message of the new testament—a new arrangement between God and humankind.  According to some, he was, following the resurrection, given special authority over the Church.  But Unitarians, over the centuries, have tended to move a long way from reliance on the Scriptures and towards an emphasis on present-day human experience.)

I have had experience—a positive experience—of the Unitarian Fellowship in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  (A “Fellowship,” because the group did not have its own chaplain.)  The beliefs of members/attendees ranged all the way from theism to atheism.  A meeting was held each week (on Sunday morning, not surprisingly!).  The service opened with a short piece of  quiet classical music (from record or tape).  The service was interspersed with singing (among other things).  The songs were often traditional hymns (of God and Jesus).  But there were songs and other features suggesting an all-inclusiveness.  I have a program of a December 3rd meeting with the theme of Christmas.  Included are a secular song of Christmas, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” and a “Prayer to the Great Spirit (After a Sioux Indian Prayer).”  One chaplain told us that sometimes, at services elsewhere, he (impishly and unannounced) read a passage from the Koran; he added that “Much of the Koran sounds like the New Testament”—so apparently almost no-one noticed anything unusual!

The highlight of the meeting was normally a talk.  Each second or third week the talk was given by a visiting Unitarian chaplain.  (I shall return to these talks.)  On the other weeks, usually a member of the Fellowship would speak.  Often this would be a reading, typically from a relatively modern work aiming to give some insight into human life.  But often the speaker would give quite a “meaty” presentation.  Thus, one talk was on the philosophy/theology of St Thomas Aquinas.  In the view of the speaker—though he was no believer in the supernatural— Aquinas’s philosophy provides some insights useful for the person of today.  In a second example, a young woman from the Fellowship gave a talk of which Paul Sagan would have been proud.  She pointed out that whereas, in the Middle Ages, humankind was pictured as holding a central place in the universe, the science of astronomy (together with the theory of evolution) has shown how absolutely tiny and insignificant we are.   Yet (the talk continued) there is a way in which we are very special.  We are able to understand, to a remarkable degree, how the universe works.

As mentioned, often we had the benefit of a chaplain visiting from another city: sometimes from Ottawa, sometimes from a nearby city in northern New York State.  The talks by chaplains that I recall were mostly on purely secular topics: psychology of happiness and suffering (as I call it), with some forays into social and political ideas (Actually the majority of the “social and political” aspects that I remember come from a Unitarian church in Edmonton, Canada.).  There must have been some modern theology (at the Kingston meetings), because I remember one talk in this vein.  It was on the historical development, through the sweep of history, of the idea of an afterlife, starting from the vague Old Testament notion of “Sheol.”  It was notable that the talks by chaplains were well crafted.  They were brought to life by: (i) an entertaining style, such as you might find in a “Comment” article in a newspaper; (ii) making us aware of the feelings engendered when (to take one talk as an example) women are routinely placed in unfortunate situations by attitudes common in our society; and (iii) the inclusion, sometimes, of a relevant story from the speaker’s life.

As a concluding note on the general question of Humanism’s future, I again mention that in two countries—the Netherlands and Norway—organized Humanism is a very widespread movement.

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PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINESS AND SUFFERING

Note that this science includes those parts of ancient wisdom that have stood up to critical review.

 

It is assumed that you have read the Introduction at the top of this web page.  The usual name for this area of psychology is “Clinical Psychology.”

As mentioned above, many of us would benefit greatly by being educated in this area, whether by reading, attending courses or by one-to-one consultation.  While H&S psychology is a science, it must be added that quite a lot of ancient wisdom, for example much of Eastern philosophy, already had grasped much of this material.  I would not steer people directly into the area of ancient texts, however, for two reasons.  First, there’s the problem of separating out the nuggets of wisdom from material that has been discredited—think of familiar religious writings.  Second, modern clinical psychologists and their writings speak to us in a much more direct and succinct way.

(Re “one-to-one consultations,” I must immediately add a strong warning, that if you feel that the “expert” that you are consulting is “off beam,” or ignores nontrivial things that you are telling him/her, drop that person and move on to somebody else.  This advice holds, at least if you find that raising your doubts and queries with the person doesn’t seem to do much good.  Keeping on with such a person can be quite harmful.  This warning comes from my experience—an episode that happened a very long time ago.)

It would be very useful if this material were taught—in a way appropriate to the child’s age—in school.  I finally made contact with H&S psychology well into adult life.  At that time, in the general community it (i.e. clinical psychology) was not something that was talked about to any significant degree.  Who would want to admit to needing help in that area?

One thing that struck me like a thunderbolt was the importance of expressing feelings.  Also stressed is the importance of meaning in a person’s life.  That is, recognizing your own values and pursuing them.  (Of course, all this must take account of the interests of other people.  Also, many values and goals are pursued jointly by a team of people.)

At present I am learning about, and often applying, H&S psychology in its present-day form, incorporating, in particular, “cognitive behavior therapy” (CBT) and “mindfulness.”

[In more detail, present-day H&S psychology draws on a number of techniques or movements.  These include: (i) CBT (This grew out of “rational emotive therapy” [RET], which was pioneered by Albert Ellis in 1955.);  (ii) “dialectical behavioural therapy,” which includes mindfulness; and (iii) “acceptance and commitment therapy” (ACT).  Each has something to contribute.]

An important lesson came to me via a relatively early book by Albert Ellis—an idea that has been developed further in CBT.  In this recommendation, people are encouraged to put aside the many common thoughts that are unhelpful—thoughts that, typically, either lead to a loss of self-esteem or to unhelpful actions (or lack of action).  (And a first step is, when a thought or habitual action is noticed as being “possibly dodgy,” to challenge that thought.)

Mainly, these are thoughts that lead us to “beat ourselves up” and/or shy away from actions that would be helpful.  Examples are: “I won’t speak up on this issue: people will think I’m stupid”; “I must always make the best decision.  (Otherwise I’m a bad person; or, otherwise people will think badly of me.)”; “There I go, making another mistake, so I must be stupid.”    “My house must always be spic and span”; “I won’t go to this social event: I’m sure to find it disappointing.”

The “cognitive” in CBT refers to challenging, with evidence and reasoning, whether a given thought is true.

On “mindfulness,” it has been aptly defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  By living in the present, one is more stimulated and aware.  (This is not to say that one should be in this state of mind at all times!)

Some people who have written excellent books on CBT and/or mindfulness are: Matthieu Ricard, Sarah Edelman, Jeffrey Brantley, Zindel Segal, Russ Harris, John McQuaid, Eckhart Tolle, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

 

Ethics

This section  (Click here)  consists of an article on ethics that has attracted interest, preceded by a separate Introduction.

 

Climate Change

and Other Critical Issues Facing Humanity

There are a number of global crises that are hitting humankind all at once.  Many of these issues are not being treated, by governments and politicians, with the seriousness that they deserve.  There are even leading politicians who, in the face of a large body of evidence that points strongly to a looming catastrophe, have put aside the science and reduced the whole issue to popularist party politics.  I refer in particular to Mr Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition in the Australian parliament, and his response to the issue of climate change.

When I first gave the above title to this section, I had in mind the two crises that it names: climate change and the linked issue of the future quality of life—quality of life for humans, but very much also for other species, many of which face the likelihood of extinction.  On further reflection however, I place five crises in the top tier of importance.  I shall number them as items 1 to 5, without any implication that this gives the order of importance of the five.  All are of great importance.

1.  Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) (“Anthropogenic” means “caused by humans.”   AGW is commonly referred to as Climate Change).   The science gives a very strong indication that this effect is in train, and will lead to dire consequences if nothing is done.  Yes, some serious sceptics have raised valid points; but even so, the claim that there is no AGW or that nothing much needs to be done could be taken as scientifically responsible only if the sceptics put forward a whole body of theory, along with good evidence, to back their claim—as those that are convinced of AGW have done.  It must be noted that we do not have the luxury of waiting until the answers are known with certainty.  The losses threatened by AGW are so high that we must take very significant measures now.

References:

(1) Brett Harris, Responses to Questions and Objections on Climate Change, viewed 7 December 2009, http://tinyurl.com/BPClimateFAQs (48 pages).  The document outlines scientific responses to questions and objections proposed by climate change sceptics.  It is quite comprehensive and, I believe, does not attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes.  The author, a PhD, is both an economist and a geologist.

(2) Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal, Poles Apart: Beyond the shouting, who’s right about climate change? (Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2009).  Here two intelligent laypersons interviewed, and questioned at length, leading scientists on both sides of the debate; with the result that the two authors present not only their own conclusions, but also how they arrived at those conclusions.  (In a number of cases, the conclusion is of the form that “There is not enough evidence to decide” or “The evidence gives support to the conclusion, but not overwhelming support.”)  When you study the book, make sure you read the final section.

2.  The accelerating extinction of species due to the activities of humans.  There are two main causes of these extinctions, as follows.  (i) AGW.  The expected temperature rise of say 5°C (if we continue “business as usual”) doesn’t sound like much, but the effects are great.  This is because the rise will occur so much more quickly than even in the geological past when ice ages came and went.  The ebb and flow of ice ages did not involve such a high rate of change of temperature, and so ecosystems had a lot more time in which to adapt.  (ii) The second cause, arguably having a bigger impact even than the first, is the destruction (by clearing, and to a lesser extent by polluting) of the habitat needed by species.    Humans have taken over— what fraction?—say 80%, or effectively 90%—of Earth’s land area, and are still clearing.  How much more do we want?    Furthermore, the fraction (80 or 90%) does not tell the full story, because much of the uncleared land is in small pockets, like National Parks.  In the face of global warming, adaptation tends to require animals, and plant species, to move to higher latitudes.  But being trapped in small pockets makes thia response impossible.  Putting the causes (i) and (ii) together, the number of predicted extinctions in the next 100 years is huge compared to anything that has ever happened before in such a short time-span (except perhaps if you go as far back as 65 million years, to the mass extinctions thought to have been due to an asteroid colliding with the Earth).

What are the ethics of this?  (I shall put aside, for the purposes of this discussion, the various benefits that humans derive from the diversity of species.)  Taking a very wide view (following the present-day philosopher Peter Singer, as well as other thinkers such as Douglas Hofstadter), I have a suspicion that, in the final resting-place of humanity’s ethical views, we will have a much more compassionate attitude towards other living beings, at least towards sentient animals.  Why?  Do animals have “rights” that matter much?  Well, the “higher” animals, at least, pursue various goals—though their goals are less sophisticated than ours, and they are considerably less aware of their goals than we are of ours. What right have we, first, to reduce their numbers (which is defensible up to a point), and secondly, to knowingly cause species to go extinct (which appears to me to be a considerably more serious matter)?  I can’t justify these claims in terms of widely-held philosophical principles … but what may be needed is a change of heart.

3.  World poverty.  To my mind it is a scandal that the developed nations have not done far more towards eliminating the poverty in the poorer countries.  In the Western world (such as in Australia), it is accepted that transfer payments from the non-poor to the poor—within the one country— should be a significant fraction of gross domestic product (GDP).  But humanity is one: in an important sense national boundaries are artificial.  Why should it not be the case that we redistribute wealth internationally as we do within the nation?

OK, there are some reasons: corrupt governments in some of those countries siphon off the aid from reaching the needy; it is often claimed that many poor societies are not prepared to do their bit towards raising their standard of living; and so on.  And there are complicating factors: Rather than give food, which provides only temporary respite, it is more valuable in the long run to provide appropriate capital goods (wells, computers), better health practices, etc.—and, most importantly, education.  But, having taken on board the above difficulties, we are still left with a striking imbalance when it comes to the transfer payments that we make to the poor, as a percentage of GDP.  The contrast between the 15% (say) that we give within the nation and the 0.4% (say) that we give to the poor elsewhere, is very stark indeed.

4.  The energy shortage, linked to the running-down of fossil fuels.  This problem has been on our radar since 1973!  It hasn’t gone away, but ironically it has been overtaken by an even more urgent problem: global warming.  At last, windmills, solar panels, hybrid cars and more efficient light bulbs are becoming more than a curiosity.  But I would argue for considerably more money to go into research and development, to see how the costs of solar and other alternative energy sources can be brought down.  Also, let’s take the stigma off nuclear power.

5.  Overpopulation—the madness of it.  We know that the present exponential rise can’t go on for too many more decades, yet overpopulation is almost a taboo subject to politicians (except in China).  Not only is the world’s population rising steeply, but, very likely, it is already past what is sustainable.  All of the above problems are strongly exacerbated by overpopulation.  As well as the first three problems listed below.

But what can be done?  What can be done without the strong intervention of the state—essentially the sanctions that were introduced to implement China’s one-child policy—which many citizens in the rest of the world find unaccepable?  Actually (as many have pointed out), there is a way by which considerable progress can be made.  The countries that still have a high birth rate tend strongly to be countries in which the people are poor, and poorly educated, and the women play a subservient role.   Boosting the general education of women is said to be the most effective, non-invasive way of bringing about a drop in the birth rate, for then (as experience in other countries has shown), the women themselves choose not to have large families.  Of course, it makes sense at the same time to encourage gender equality and make available cheap contraceptives.

Incredibly, a couple of presidents of the USA, including George W. Bush, banned American aid agencies from distributing condoms to third-world countries.  This, even in the face of the enormous prevalence of the AIDS virus there!

Personally, I would not be opposed to the introduction of a “one-child” policy (or a “two-children” policy) in countries that are poor and crowded and whose population is not levelling off.  Yes, China has found that there is an emotional cost in terms of having no (or almost no) aunts and uncles, etc.  But look at what overpopulation is doing in terms of:  • pollution,  • the drive to clear what forests remain (and destroy other wildlife habitats such as marshes), • the pressure for higher total energy usage,  • the upward pressure this places on greenhouse gas emissions,  • the increasing pressure on food and water resources, and finally  • making more difficult the task of eliminating world poverty.

Moving now towards the end of this article, I’ll briefly set out the second tier of “crises.”

6.  Food shortages in many countries—which could easily get worse.

7.  Water shortages in many countries—almost certain to get worse.

8.  Pollution.

9.  The debt of many third-world countries.  This was a big talking point about eight years ago.  It was said that the huge debt owed by such countries to other countries could never be repaid, and that before too long it would be necessary for the creditor nations to “forgive” a large part of such debts.  I’m not sure why this problem has gone off the radar.

10.  Predictions that there will be further “global financial crises” like the one of 2008 that is still upon the world.  And that these GFCs may come more frequently, because, while the causes of the present GFC are known, governments have done almost nothing towards preventing a re-occurrence of these causes.

11.  Terrorists and rogue regimes.  Yet, to give some sort of perspective, the average Westerner is hardly affected by these two problems.

12. The aging of the population.  Following the discussion of the first ten items, this problem seems rather minor.

(A note:  Although I have chosen to use the word “crisis,” I do not mean to imply that any of these problems will be with us and then will be over in just a few years.)

 

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