Present day dark ages

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Some of us may remember our history lessons that referred to the dark ages as the period between 400 and 800 A.D. This period was marked by a decline in

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Some of us may remember our history lessons that referred to the dark ages as the period between 400 and 800 A.D. This period was marked by a decline in
population, trade and learning, combined with an increase in local wars, immigration, and intolerance to “foreign” people. Might some of these characteristics apply to our world today?
The daily news is filled with horror stories of conflicts around the globe, and of major immigration movements to Western Europe, Canada and the U.S.A. We also hear of resentment against these immigrants, and with Donald Trump as
president of the U.S.A., we face possible trade wars and reduced trade among nations. Further, we see a decline in support for science that points to climate change and water pollution. To this, we can add calls from corporations for relaxed health and safety standards. On the medical front, there haven’t been new antibiotics developed for over 30 years because Big Pharma doesn’t see increased profits in new products that replace older, but very profitable, medicines. Additionally, in the industrialized first world countries, birth rates are declining, people are living longer and the wealthy accumulate more wealth while the majority of the population faces stagnation and decline in living standards.
But what about all the progress we’ve made? Progress depends on a forward-looking, tolerant and open society. Without tolerance, civility and modest skepticism about one’s own self-assurance and political quick fixes, inevitable limitations become major obstacles to real progress that can be felt by all of humanity. Our fantastic communication tools are used to exchange insults, fake news and cyber spying – not the promise of easy access to education, dissemination of ideas and honest dialogue. Add to this that instant communication applications (apps) are contributing to a decline in real literacy rates.
However, there is one bright spot; our modern technology and science allow us to see current and future problems in a way that was impossible in 400 A.D. and we have a greater understanding of the risks the world is facing. Educational levels among ordinary inhabitants of this planet are higher. Will we use our understanding and appreciation of current threats to correct our situation before it is too late? Or will our prejudices and narrow views prevent needed corrective action? We don’t have much time to act; current scientific estimates give 50 years before the carbon dioxide problem becomes irreversible, but only 20 years to fix problems of water pollution, and shortage and decline of fish stocks. Beyond these problems, economic imbalances and political disruption can hit at any time and most nations are not prepared to deal with them.
Future prospects of avoiding a new “dark age” are grim, but not impossible. We can take action in ensuring our politicians are aware of the situation and are
prepared to adopt corrective policies and enact appropriate legislation.