Humanity stands at a frightening precipice
The challenges we face are urgent and seemingly overwhelming. To respond to them effectively will require understanding, ingenuity, and common sense, as well as a citizenry with sufficient numbers of ethical leaders, flexible thinkers, and dedicated implementers.
At no other time have such complex scientific and ethical issues confronted both citizens and policy-makers. Decisions made by this generation of leaders will have far-reaching effects.
In spite of a proliferation of tools, technologies, and cultural advances, we are plagued by vast global problems—environmental, economic, and social—that cross boundaries, and which cannot be solved by using narrow economic models.
From impending changes in the equilibrium of our ecosystems to the breakdown of global public health, threats of pandemics, water wars, to bizarre and unexpected ramifications: Giant toxic dust clouds, antibiotic resistance, decreased pollination due to bee colony disorder, overflowing landfills, depleted fisheries, ground water contamination, endangered rain forests, coral reefs and wetlands, and endless other imbalances will continue to worsen and encroach on the lives of hundreds of millions.
7 billion people share this world
Two billion of our fellows live in unrelenting poverty, and the number continues to grow in spite of attempts both to promote globalization and open markets, and the efforts of countless charitable groups who work on-site.
And even taking into account the growing numbers of the middle class in certain regions, this has not helped uplift the billions at the bottom.
Millions of activists in NGOs, non-profit foundations, and grassroots organizations, work their hearts out to provide struggling communities with the most basic staples of life: water, food, sanitation, clothing, shelter, basic health care, energy.
And other societal needs are "hungry" for investment: education, family support, childcare, opportunities for innovation, mental health, etc.
Too many of these front-line workers are having to cope with crisis after crisis: earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, famine, drought, collective violence—that only threaten to get much worse with climate changes that are already underway and are far from reaching their peak of severity.
The urban sprawl found in the highly populated cities of Asia, Africa, and Latin America is a breeding ground for despair. For example, 17 million people live in Lagos, Nigeria, most in squalid, unsanitary conditions packed together like sardines with no way out.
What Does Not Work
There are ongoing economic debates about issues such as: globalization, industrialization, "free" markets, regulation, privitization, protectionism, corporatism, consumerism, debt, role of government, corruption, and so on.
Within poor nations, many uneven strides are being made. We find a growing middle class in many “developing” nations, such as the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia. But civil society can come crashing down due to any unexpected natural disaster or political or economic upheaval
However, during the past decade, many Millennium Goal indicators have gone backward as the Western nations, particularly the U.S., have been inadequately providing investment and aid.
Opening up markets has of course had some positive outcomes, helping to undo entrenched and stifling barriers to human ingenuity and practical action. It has helped to spur a growing middle class in many nations.
However, market economies are much less effective in repressive, corrupt, or unstable societies.