Influenza, wind, & politics: Three predictions for the future

picture of a calm beach

  1. We’re going to make it okay out of the fossil fuel transition; solar and wind technology is improving fast enough that we’re not going to face any kind of peak oil disaster. However, the environmental toll of getting the last fossil fuels out – fracking, deep ocean drilling – is going to be ugly. The places at the bottom of the pyramid, as always, will bear the biggest burden of the environmental damage. The harm to biowealth and human life will be severe. The Niger delta is a preview, as are Bangladesh’s Sundarbans.
  2. We’re going to see more epidemics of infectious disease. The factors that drove Ebola and Zika – changing climate, increase in air travel, disorganized international response – haven’t changed and aren’t going to change any time soon. We’re still at risk for pandemic. The next likely pathogen is influenza. Avian influenza is often fatal but doesn’t spread person-to-person; you only get it from birds. Human influenza is highly contagious, but less deadly. Sooner or later influenza will evolve into a variety that is both contagious and deadly, and it’s going to be very, very bad.
  3. Trump is a symptom of both political systems that don’t work and a world in transformation. Democracies all over the world are seeing an increase in radical candidates who move from fringe to center. Life is changing very, very fast right now. It’s a scary, exciting time to be a person, and an awful lot of people are reacting to that change by clinging frantically to an imaginary past of homogeneity and prosperity. Those people vote. We’re going to see more bizarre, reactionary, candidates from all over the political spectrum because the structures of democracy aren’t responding to anyone’s needs. An example, France. The system isn’t serving anyone. Not the French voters are afraid of minorities and not the French voters who are being stripped of their clothes on beaches. And not the French voters who fear ISIS, which is, rightfully, pretty much all of them.