Unique Times — and the Future
In various contexts throughout this volume [GeoDestinies] it is pointed out that we now live in unique times, unlike any in the past, and unlike what any will be in the future. Yet many people in developed countries do not realize the unique years we have had since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This fact, as a framework to understand the present and what lies ahead cannot be overemphasized.We have developed technology by which we have exploited the Earth’s resources to a degree never before seen and which, in the case of non-renewable resources – fossil fuels, and metals as well as nonmetals, can never be repeated. We have drawn both from the past, and also mortgaged the next few centuries at least by degrading the vital renewable resources of soil and freshwater, which are not renewable within the span of several lifetimes. This is in contrast to many centuries of history when, lacking technology of today, things changed very slowly.All this has resulted in a seismic difference in prospects for future generations. We, in these industrial centuries, and those seeking now to industrialize, have left very little for those who will exist for the duration of the presumably million years of life of a typical mammalian species. We have done all this for enjoying (for some of us) a brief degree of affluence beyond anything ever before seen, and almost certainly will not happen again.