When I was in my 20’s (some 30 years ago), I imagined what life would be like in the 21st century. I can remember visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, California when I was young and experiencing an attraction called the Carousel of Progress, which showed all of the wondrous things to come. The 21st century we are experiencing has little in common with the future that was imagined back then.
There have been advances, such as with computers and smart phones. Thirty years ago, wristwatch televisions were talked about as something that everyone would have in the 21st century. The smart phone is pretty close to what was described, with nearly everyone having a phone that they can be reached on, anytime and just about anywhere. One can access the Internet and watch video content in the palm of your hand. I can remember getting my first cell phone in the 1980’s and being afraid to give anyone my number because of the high prices to make or receive calls. Now, I can take my smart phone and call anywhere in the world for pennies.
Computers have advanced in a similar fashion. In the late 1970’s, I was drawing stick figures on the simple computer monitor of the day. Today, I have a wide-screen, high definition computer monitor that allows me to watch the evening news from Seattle, Washington on my computer located in Central California. Who needs a TV antenna?
Unfortunately, not everything in our society has advanced. With the exception of the photovoltaic solar cells on my roof, I am still connected to a power grid that is fed by wires that are strung across the landscape. Our society’s power, for the most part, is still being generated by burning coal, oil, natural gas and by nuclear fission. The effects of the pollution produced by this way of life are becoming clear to those who are willing to pay attention.
As oil and natural gas have become harder to find and extract, new methods have been devised to pull every last amount of these fuels from the ground. Huge amounts of hazardous chemicals are being pumped into the ground and ground water has been irreparably harmed in the process. The Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico poured millions of gallons of crude oil into the ocean. The effect of that spill was experienced over thousands of square miles.
We continue to travel around in vehicles that are very similar to what we used over 100 years ago. Our transportation still burns fuel that is produced from petroleum and these vehicles continue to dump pollution into the atmosphere. There are no signs that this will ever change, at least not until our fuel sources run out. China was recently in the news as schools had to be closed because of extreme air pollution.
In 2011 in Japan, a nuclear power plant was destroyed by a large earthquake and tsunami. Radioactive pollution continues to pour into the Pacific Ocean from that crippled plant. Some estimates suggest that, within 6 years, there will be high levels of radioactivity in the ocean water along the west coast of North America, which happens to be where I call home.
Last week, a huge typhoon ripped through the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan was described as the largest storm ever recorded. The typhoon was huge, 300 to 500 miles in diameter with winds over 200 MPH.
There is a definite trend in the Earth’s climate. Storms are becoming more and more severe. Droughts are lasting longer and are more severe. I have seen a noticeable shift in the climate in just the last 10 years. Where I live, many rely on ground water extracted from wells. A number of wells in my area have gone dry and I can see a serious water crisis happening here in the near future. The speed at which the Earth’s climate is changing makes it clear that this is not a natural occurrence.
This year, Australia took Japan to court at the International Court of Justice in The Hague because of Japan’s killing of whales in the Antarctic Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Between 1988 and 2011, Japan has killed more than 10,000 whales in the Antarctic Ocean south of Australia, all in the name of scientific research. What Japan is actually doing is killing whales for commercial purposes, disguised as a scientific research operation. An article in the Japan Times paints a grim picture of the possible outcome of this court proceeding at the ICJ. The ICJ could very likely legalize Japan’s charade. Why are things like this still happening in the 21st century?
The 21st century is turning out to bear little resemblance to what we envisioned 30 years ago. It seems that most people either don’t realize what is going on or they just don’t care. Such a shame.