Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Below the Buzz, Real Threats Continue Uncomprehended

While the mainstage drama plays out of who's up and who's down, riveting all attention, fundamental challenges to the country and to civilization continue inexorably, under the social media radar.

The newly aggressive attack on humanity's sustaining environment, let alone the neglect of ongoing destruction, continues at a startling pace.  All appearances suggest that the servants (and often former company execs) of fossil fuel corporations now in power in this administration are taking full advantage of the anti-president's total vengeance on the previous President.

It's not clear if opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas of the Arctic as well as both coasts of the United States to new oil drilling will actually result in more drilling.  It depends on the economics and the adherence to market forces by these companies, but we may have passed--or nearly passed--the point at which alternative energy is cheap enough to speak for itself.  That's probably what's behind Monday's conspicuous failure of the administration to privilege fossil fuels.

Still, as the effects of global heating continue to show up in extreme weather around the world, the health of the oceans is a deep concern.  The extreme depletion of oxygen alone threatens marine life, which in turn threatens human existence. But that's not all--half the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean.  Spaceship Earth may be running out of air.  (Here's the latest report, and a summary.)

Meanwhile our society is threatened by another continuing phenomenon that is equally invisible, even though (like "climate change") it's well known as a buzzy combination of words: "income inequality."

What that really means is that the proportion of people able to make a living gets smaller continuously.  For millions of people it is a daily crisis, and for millions of others, it's coming.  The replacement of full time work in one category after another is one conspicuous reason, as described in this dramatic Politico report, "The Real Future of Work."

Medical transcriptionists in Pittsburgh learn they've been
outsourced--the incident that begins the Politico report on
threatening trends in the jobs future--and present.
Despite glowing unemployment numbers, the crisis is expressed in other numbers, such as: "The percentage of families with more debt than savings is higher now than at any point since 1962, while the median American family’s net worth is lower than it’s been in nearly a quarter-century."

But statistics aren't really necessary.  Anyone who did any socializing over the holidays is likely to have heard stories and looked into the faces the stories are about: entire professions and job categories are dying as full time, well-paid occupations (thanks in part to the Internet and failure to respond to this growing crisis) while those whose jobs have not yet been made obsolete are working harder, for longer hours and less pay.

Here's where the anger should be (one place anyway), and it probably is, however diverted and distracted.  It's certainly one place the fear is.

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