Reflections on a Changing World and the Challenges Ahead

Glendale was host to a unique conference on social issues and progressive politics last weekend where a number of very serious and pressing challenges facing Armenia’s, Americans and the general world population were discussed. The conference, called "Armenia’s and Progressive Politics," set a welcomed precedent for our community because it’s time Glendale starts talking more about the serious issues of our day.

The world (and yes that means America too) has been changing in a number of very profound ways.

I walked out of that conference on Sunday asking myself, "Damn, what’s going to happen in the next five years? What will life in America, Armenia, and the rest of the planet be like during these coming years?"

I don’t think many people of my generation bother asking that question, mainly because my generation grew up in a fantasy. For my generation, America was always this unshakable super nation, safe from the rest of the world’s problems. Here the good times roll and things always stay the same.

This collective delusion is somewhat understandable. While the world was crumbling in the 90s–with the fall of the Soviet Union, the First Iraq War, and a series of bloody ethnic conflicts in far away places along Europe’s Periphery–America appeared to stand strong. The American dream was being vindicated after the bloody mess of Vietnam. It was the fifties all over again. The economy boomed, energy was cheap, life was easy, and our way of life was apparently making America, and the world a better place.

It has been business as usual for some time now in the US. But this is not the case anymore. The times, as they say, are changing. Actually, it’s more like we are finally realizing that the times have been changing. It’s unfortunate that we ignored this for so long. While the seeds for planetary catastrophe were being sown, this generation was living a perpetual shopping spree at the Americana. We have been distracted for decades, buying things we didn’t know we needed until well-placed ads in our diluted media told us how we couldn’t live without them.

I don’t know what to expect right now. I don’t know whether to be worried, or excited. On the one hand the world is standing on the cusp of history. An amazing opportunity to revolutionize the way in which we interact with the world around us has been presented to our generation and this is a very gripping feeling. After having spent generations exploiting, ignoring and destroying our environment, we now have a chance to right the wrongs and lay the foundations for a better future. This isn’t to say that we didn’t have this opportunity before, but it’s a funny thing how mankind thinks and acts.

People wake up to challenges only when there is no other choice. Only when inaction equates immediate defeat or downfall, do we rise above our differences and decisively act for the common good.

But could we be too late? Could decades of ignorance and complete disregard for the obvious warnings have secured our destruction as a species? What lies ahead, I can’t even imagine.

For Americans, the last few years have been turbulent, to say the least (Although one may very easily argue that we have had it good compared to much of the world, especially those countries we showered with carpet bombs).

The legitimacy of our constitutional order has been called into question, as an unpopular president has encroached on our civil liberties at home, and committed our soldiers to illegal wars abroad. Our economy is on the brink of a major catastrophe as we scramble to figure out what the hell we will do without cheap oil. We are still trying to make sense of a credit and housing crisis that sent thousands into homelessness, supposedly by surprise. Unemployment is rising, opportunities for education and employment are shrinking and the costs of our basic necessities are rising at double digits on an almost weekly basis. The price of Oil will probably hit 140 dollars a barrel before you finish reading this article.

One of the most critical environmental issues that our society will face relates to water use and waste. The Governor recently declared that California is suffering a terrible drought and that we need to resort to emergency measures to cut use and find alternate sources.

Meanwhile, the specter of a global food crisis that is toppling governmen’s and leaving thousands throughout the world hopeless, hungry and dead is now threatening our shores.

The world cannot handle the monumental load we have subjected it to for so long. There are too many people living unsustainably on this planet and this is very taxing on global resources and the very fabric of human’society.

But can we face the challenges to our planet when its most powerful nation constantly refuses to implement revolutionary energy saving technologies? Can we actually see a better future when the world’s most populous nations continue to ravish their environmen’s and drain all planetary resources as they seek to attain the exported version of the American Dream?

I don’t think so.

At times, with all that is going, the outlook isn’t so fare. But I also see some light at the end of this polluted, and overpopulated tunnel.

Hope isn’t a bad thing after all. Maybe we should all be looking at these seemingly insurmountable challenges as opportunities–opportunities to reinvent and redesign our way of life.

All around I see the makings of a movement centered on a global, yet local effort to solve our pressing ecological challenges. People, and ironically enough businesses, are starting to be more environmentally conscious. New technologies for harnessing energy are being developed and implemented in America, China, India, and Europe. Breakthrough advances in Nano technology, for example are promising to revolutionize the way we harness the power of the sun, and power our cities, while new more efficient engineering methods are being developed to build homes, communities, and cities in accordance with the laws of nature. Policy too is slowly starting to shift toward the environmentally friendly as well. Local governmen’s are going green at an exponential rate, with metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago passing groundbreaking laws and implementing revolutionary design codes. States like California are paving the way for a nationwide cut in carbon emissions, while the first African-American presidential candidate, Barack Obama, having defied all odds to clinch his party’s nomination, is promising real hope for a better, brighter, greener future, and truly more American future.

One thing is pretty clear, if we don’t transform our behavior in how we relate to the each other, the planet and its resources, we will not survive as a civilization past this century.


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