“We do not have the ability to look more than two weeks into the future.”
As my professor quoted this statement made by a professor at Virginia Tech and we began to discuss the idea of how we should view the future, it began to bother me more and more. Here, I must note that we were not talking about our future as much in terms of what we will personally be doing in ten years (career, family, etc.), but more in terms of how our actions as a world population today will affect the world population ten years from now. For example, on September 23rd, humanity will have used all the resources generated by nature this year. What is now being referred to as “Earth Overshoot Day” marks the day when we begin living beyond our ecological means and utilizing resources faster than the earth can replenish them. In our current state, we require the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles…but we only have one. Continuing at this rate, how much worse will it be in the future? (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=overshoot)
Our class seemed to be divided equally between those who thought that to focus too intently on the future is just too daunting, and those who thought that we must focus on the future as a basis for our actions in the present. While I could definitely relate to and in fact, agree with the notion that we must live in the present, appreciating what we have and not miss what is right in front of us. I was somewhat disheartened by a response of many people that sometimes we are just too busy to look more into the future. It bothered me to think that we allow ourselves to become so consumed with our present that we often neglect what effects our actions may have on future generations. I began to wonder – is it that we don’t have the ability to look far into the future, or simply that we just chose not to?
It is also important to think about this in terms of our status as upper-middle class citizens of America. We are the blessed who are able to sit in a classroom and discuss these issues. Shouldn’t that translate into some sort of responsibility to look towards our future more than others? There are millions of people who cannot look into the future more than a few hours, let alone two weeks. These are the people who have a disease that makes living to the next day a miracle. These are the people who do not know where their next meal will be coming from. They are the ones who truly do not have the ability to plan for the years to come…because they are not eve sure if they will come. We are the blessed who (apart from events that only God can know) are somewhat confident in our existence ten years down the road. We plan for our personal future by investing money, going to college and getting married. So how can we say that it is just too hard to look too far into our global future? We not only have the ability…we have the responsibility.
I think of issues like global warming and the over-consumption of natural resources. I think of preventable and treatable disease like HIV/AIDS and malaria. I think of all these things that, while they are such huge issues, truly are preventable and manageable. How can I sit back and contemplate my own future without first contemplating the future of the world I am a part of? Maybe it will become more personal when we realize that our global actions today will have a direct influence on world we give to our children and grandchildren. So I will continue to focus on my life day by day. I will strive to live in a way that is thankful and appreciative of the life God has blessed me with at this present moment. But I will also remember that with this “charmed life” comes responsibility and what I choose to do with this present moment I am blessed to have, will determine the future of our world.