It seems like only yesterday that the doom and gloom brigade
was warning the world to stock up on gold bullion and K-rations for Y2K, when
all of the world’s computer and banking systems were supposed to simultaneously
crash. Everything from the phone service to the electrical grid was supposed to
collapse, creating a chain reaction throughout the world.
As everyone who woke up with a situation normal hangover on
Jan. 1, 2000 knows, Y2K was a non-event. Most critical computer systems were
easily fixed, while others harmlessly turned over to “00” without melting down
or malfunctioning. A post-apocalyptic world where the survivors drive around
the desert looking for fuel and eat dog food never materialized, to the
everlasting disappointment of the world’s survivalists and Mel Gibson.
We’re now six years into this new Millennium, and humanity
churns on as divided and thoughtless as ever. The Y2K scare did not teach us a
lesson about fear mongering, or on the importance of focusing on all the right
details. To whit, we still know more about the lives of most celebrities than
we do about the lives of a billion people subsisting on less than $1 a day.
Thanks to the ineptitude of our mass media you can still find
people out there who think Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was
responsible for 9/11, that democracy is flourishing in Afghanistan as well as
the opium, that Iran should be next, that Israel is always right, that global
trade will soften China, that global climate change is a myth, that the global
economy is working just dandy for everybody. Thanks to the media, we can spend
hours upon hours watching news and wind up less informed than we were before we
turned on the television.
Despite the dominance of right wing voices in Canadian media
— both national newspapers, numerous radio stations, and the whole
CanWest empire — there is still a myth that the left wing somehow
dominates the nightly news and cannot be trusted.
In a nod to Stephen Colbert (It’s French, bitch), the concept
of “truthiness” now firmly outweighs the concept of truth. The only real truism
in journalism used to be that you were entitled to your own opinion but not to
your own facts. Lately even that simple rule has been turned on its head.
People lie and distort freely, while the media presents all sides equally
— true or not — to create a veneer of balance.
The real truth of the matter is that things are getting quite
serious in this century.
Although war is increasingly ineffective as means to solve
issues (I dare you to name three necessary and effective wars since 1945, where
there is a clear winner and good outcome) it remains a primary tool of
international coercion for most world powers.
And while we focus on war and celebrities (though not
necessarily in that order), we’re missing the best opportunity to unite the
planet since the moon landing.
Scientists are warning us that climate change has the potential
to wipe out billions of people by the end of the 20
water levels rise, glaciers melt, crops die, deserts grow, and people succumb
to thirst, hunger and disease. Even the Pentagon expects that the great wars of
this century will be the result of climate change and pressure on natural
The evidence is all around us that things are happening, but we
still give skeptics equal time in the climate change debate.
Despite the mounting proof, and the fact that most people are
now tuning out the skeptics, nobody is asking us to do anything about it. I personally
believe that millions of Canadians — and maybe hundreds of millions
of people around the world – would be more than willing to make a few
hard sacrifices to ensure there’s still a world left for future generations. My
generation had no great war to fight, so the least we can do is buy compact
fluorescent bulbs, backpack groceries and ride our bikes to work.
The whole idea that children are the future is also a cop-out,
when it’s really us that create the future that our children will be living in.
Every choice we make, good or bad, is part of that future.
It may seem like a bleak assessment of where we are as a
species, but it’s not exactly hopeless providing you believe in evolution.
After all, biologists have figured out that it’s not always the strongest that
survives, or even the smartest — it’s usually the species that is
most adaptive to change.
I have a feeling that 2007 is going to be an interesting year.