Looking for Balance in the 21st century
As we race forward into the 21st century, the human race’s unlimited ability to prosper will soon be increasingly testing the Earth’s limited ability to support that prosperity. Over the past 50 years, the global middle class—defined here as those who are able to spend a third or more of their income for non-necessities—has tripled from 15% of the world’s population in the 1950’s to over 50% of the world’s population in 2012. During the same period of time, more wealth was created than had ever been created throughout the entire history of the human race. Incredibly, in the coming decades, these numbers have the probability of doubling again. By 2050 we will be looking at over nine billion of us. Over 70% should be enjoying a global middle class life style or better. At a minimum, there will be a broader distribution of wealth and power than ever before. Forever more, we will not only be looking for the proper balance between our individual wants and needs, but for the proper balance between our aspirations and the limitations of our only home, the Planet Earth.
And how do we find that balance if people and nations continue to put self-interests first? The United Nations is one example of a global community trying to balance development while limiting the demands of increased consumption on the Earth’s finite resources. But we cannot wait for a global bureaucracy to solve this problem. The power to balance growth with resource sustainability resides within the personal choices of each of us.
Up until now, most of us have been focused primarily on what’s right for ourselves and what’s right for the other people involved in our lives. Little consideration was needed for the people that lived on the other side of the globe. Today we live in an increasingly interconnected world and sometimes our need to specialize in our local tasks makes us shortsighted about what is going on in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, our personal goals can blind us into the “us versus them” situations that often end with tragic consequences.
As we rush into this new century together, we are going to need to look at all aspects of the issues we face—not just the tradeoffs between “limited and unlimited” but at the very essence of the differences between “you, me and we.” The viewpoints offered here cover a broad range of human issues where there is no single answer. Liberal and conservative political opinions are a common example, especially in America. Both views are relevant. Different people can have different opinions and still be decent people. These differences are traditionally regarded as dualities—or more colloquially as “issues”—because they represent contrasting, yet acceptable aspects of the human experience. But to many individuals, their views are often framed in black and white. Yet when we look at populations as a whole, we see many shades of grey. People can be liberal is some areas of their lives and conservative in others. Normally, we have the ability to be flexible in our views but more often than not, we aren’t. Too many of us go about looking for the information that supports our views, and wind up refuting anything that contests them.
But recognizing that there are lots of changes going on in our world—like the relentless competition for natural resources, trade, profits and global growth—means that we should be reviewing our positions more frequently. We all have the ability to look at both sides of our issues and learn not only what other people are thinking but why they think their way. “Two Views” gives us a convenient introspective and meditative tool for a better understanding of the elements of global citizenship that our dominant species needs, as it only has a single home to share. This better understanding of divergent views will put us in a better position to see not only what’s in our own personal best interest, but what’s in the best interest of all of Earth’s life.