What will a normal life be like for newborn babies born today? They are expected to live for eighty years on average and perhaps a decade or two longer if they are lucky enough to be born in a developed country and if they live a responsible lifestyle. That life expectancy estimate is based on the continuation of the patterns we have seen developing for the last couple of hundred years, but what will the world look like in eighty years? It seems most writers on the future pick some date like 2020, or sometimes 2050, or when they are being really speculative, 2100. But my contention here is that almost all of these children will see 2020, and most will see 2050; after all they will only be 39 years old by then and hopefully quite a few will see 2100. Newborns will only be 88½. I have several friends who are that old and they lived most of their lives with lower tech medicine and other amenities. It is not outlandish to project out to the year 2100! Some kids in a class of 5th graders are responsibly sentient and should live to see that date.
I have attended many lectures here in Berkeley given by responsible and well informed people from the top ranks of major institutions, like Shell, BP and the US State department, Department of Defense, Google and many others, and all of these guys were warm and fuzzy about the future. They usually said that things were going to be just fine for the foreseeable future, but when I asked them what they meant by the foreseeable future it was generally in the ten to twenty year range. That is out to 2020 or 2030 and they didn’t want to talk about more distant futures because it was too speculative. But wait a minute. What is any more speculative about known oil reserves, or gas, or uranium or atmospheric CO2 or any of the other essentials, when making projections for ten years verses twenty or one hundred?
I have heard each of these people (generalized authorities) say such things as don’t worry we have plenty of oil in the ground, it’s the air and the politics and other stuff above the ground that are the real problems. But, their optimistic analysis and projections get weak even at the ten year projection, noticeably glazed over at the twenty year projection level and totally ridiculous at the year 2100. I would like to see these same highly placed individuals speaking to a class of 4th graders and telling them not to worry, there will be plenty of the essentials throughout their lives. If they were to say that, it should be instantly challenged by every 4th grader by saying, “Sir, what are your proofs for your statements?” It could be respectfully asked, but if the lecturer said not to worry everything will be just fine, his statement should be challenged by a more obstreperous, “What are your proofs for your statements? Sir! We are going to live in this world you are leaving for us, and it appears that you are not going to leave us with anything to live with. Where is the oil, gas and clean air going to come from for the rest of our lives?”
The Earth appears to already be saddled with a population overshoot that can not be sustained for the life expectancy of children born this year. Even the basic necessities of life are already being stressed, and humanity is crawling further out on the limb with every new day, and that new day has even more people. Children now living will see the peak supply of many essential things for modern society and then experience their dwindling away as substitutes are found, and then substitutes for the substitutes. There will come a time when even the wisest and most creative of people will not be able to find a way to keep even the critical things available with substitutes for things we now take for granted. Paul Ehrlich made that claim way back in 1968 and he was right in general, and Thomas Malthus made a similar population claim way, way back in 1800. They were essentially right in theory but their timing was off as to when the tipping point would be reached and deadly problems would ensue. I hope that I too am way off, but it appears the children alive today will see the Doomsday, but many will not survive it.
Newborns might reconstitute a decent future with seeds from the EarthArk.