Friends of mine, well-educated and sophisticated, say that they don’t want to read newspapers, watch the TV news, or be exposed to any kind of news, on social media or otherwise. Too depressing, they say, and there seem to be no solutions to problems. Maybe problems will go away by themselves if we ignore them long enough. I tell them that the news is always a mixture of good and bad and to read for the good stuff.
I point out that on some levels we’ve got it pretty good: longer life spans, expanding economies here and abroad, low unemployment, declining crime rates, absence of major armed conflicts in the world, etc. But. no, they say, still too many problems. When they talk like this, I know that they just don’t like the 21st century. The fear is that new challenges are too great for what used to work. Many are at a loss as to what to do. I can understand how they feel.
But because I’m an optimist, I say that situations demand new thinking and new perspectives and that human beings are infinitely creative. We need to start thinking “outside the box.” When I start talking like this people immediately say “pie in the sky.” But better to look at things creatively. Why keep doing the same old thing and hoping for different results? That, by the way, is one definition of insanity.
Let’s talk about problems, at least one of which may not yet be on your radar. The main purpose of this outline is not to lay out rationales but to get people thinking and maybe reading the papers again.
• Take global climate change. Recent media reports say that “There are signs record-setting heat waves are beginning anew this summer—signaling perhaps that these exceptional and widespread heat spells are now the norm.” You wouldn’t know it from our unusual cool wet spring here in Colorado (an indication of climate change), but California is already burning up. Climate change is not fake news. There’s too much science proving it. The creative solution is the Green New Deal, which says that if we are going to rescue the planet from a climate catastrophe we need to immediately stop using fossil fuels. Now, not tomorrow. No more cars, coal-burning power plants, etc. No time to waste. The Green New Deal says that we implement programs to retrain workers for the new Green Economy. Very expensive, but a hotter planet would be even more expensive.
• The Central American asylum seekers. We implement an efficient guestworker program to bring people in to do work Americans will not do. Then they go home, where U.S. troops have cleaned out the murderous gangs and made it safe for them to return. Big job, but we can do it. What is true about this problem is that Mexico cannot solve it. The Mexicans don’t want President Donald Trump’s tariffs, and they will do their best to keep out the migrants, but ultimately they will fail, the same way we have failed. The root cause of the problem can only be addressed in Central America.
• Our dangerous rivalry with China. The way we ignore this one is like the ostrich with his head buried in the sand. The Chinese are extending their tentacles all over the world. A war with China is inevitable if we and the Chinese continue on our present course. We need to address this soon because nobody else will. The bone of contention is China’s relentless pursuit of resources to fuel its economy.
Vast Siberia, rich in oil and mineral wealth, is right next door. A plausible scenario is that China will take Siberia from a weakened Russia and be in a much stronger position to make a serious bid for world domination. We simply cannot allow this because we cannot exist in a Chinese-dominated world. The key is to end our rivalry with the Russians, bring them back to the West, make a deal with them, recognize their sphere of influence over eastern Ukraine and former Soviet republics in return for extending NATO eastward all the way to the Amur River, the border between China and Siberia.
Sounds like a stretch, but I can see Fort Carson troops there already.
Joe Barrera, Ph.D., is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.