The Future Will Be Postponed

By Keith Kloor | February 4, 2010 2:48 pm

On Tuesday, a front page NYT story by David Sanger on President Obama’s proposed budget for 20011 scared the hell out of me. Diving deep into the numbers, Sanger wrote:

By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 “” years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms “” they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

For Mr. Obama and his successors, the effect of those projections is clear: Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors.

At about this point in the piece, I stopped chewing my morning cheerios, looked over at my two young boys still in their pajamas on the couch, and said, huh. Then it was time to fix them breakfast, get them dressed for school, keep them from whacking each other upside the head, etc. The little flare that went off in my head about the future was quickly extinguished by the kinetic activity of my daily morning routine. That’s the way it is if you’re a parent–the immediate present always seems to knock the distant future out of mind. It really doesn’t matter what time of day. (I wish climate change advocates could appreciate this more. And I’m somebody who’s engaged with the issue.)

Anyway, here it is Thursday and I come across this cheery morsel at The Energy Bulletin:

For many years now, people in the peak oil scene ““ and the wider community of those concerned about the future, to be sure ““ have had, or thought they had, the luxury of ample time to make plans and take action. Every so often books would be written and speeches made claiming that something had to be done right away, while there was still time, but most people took that as the rhetorical flourish it usually was, and went on with their lives in the confident expectation that the crisis was still a long ways off.

We may no longer have that option. If I read the signs correctly, America has finally reached the point where its economy is so deep into overshoot that catabolic collapse is beginning in earnest. If so, a great many of the things most of us in this country have treated as permanent fixtures are likely to go away over the years immediately before us, as the United States transforms itself into a Third World country. The changes involved won’t be sudden, and it seems unlikely that most of them will get much play in the domestic mass media; a decade from now, let’s say, when half the American workforce has no steady work, decaying suburbs have mutated into squalid shantytowns, and domestic insurgencies flare across the south and the mountain West, those who still have access to cable television will no doubt be able to watch talking heads explain how we’re all better off than we were in 2000.

Yep, sometimes I’m grateful the present is so insistent that I can’t spend much time dwelling on the future.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: sustainability
MORE ABOUT: sustainability
  • Steve Bloom

    Yes, in the present journalists can focus on the truly important stuff like the IPCC scandals. 

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Actually, Steve, that’s a legitimate story, and it should please you that the American media is largely ignoring it.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »