Call it analysis of trends, divination, speculation or anything else for that matter, predicting the future is something that occupies a lot of people’s attention. What we do now depends a great deal on what we imagine the consequences might be. Sometimes our collective imaginations seem woefully lacking. We’re collectively rather good at imagining wonderful things, and loathe to see the dangers. We don’t want to hear what our self indulgence is going to cost, or to believe that we can’t have everything, gift wrapped in plastic.
Who could have predicted that the banking system would go so wildly wrong? I did. I was saying years ago that the levels of personal debt weren’t sustainable, that the mortgage situation wasn’t clever. I didn’t know about the house of cards built on these things, but I can say with confidence it did not take a genius to see where the problems were. It does not take a genius to figure out that you can’t have an economic system based on ideas of perpetual growth when you only have finite resources, yet politics and business run on as though infinite growth is both possible and desirable.
I’ve worked with fortune telling over the years, and the one thing I’ve learned as a certainty is this: We shape the future in the present. Every decision made today informs the options we have tomorrow. Often in ways that we don’t imagine. The smallest choice can have the most enormous fallout. And then there’s all the things we choose not to do, and all their consequences. Each one of us is helping to shape what the future might be, closing down some possibilities, opening up others.
The biggest mistake you can make, as an individual or at more collective levels, is to imagine that what you do now won’t limit what you can do later. The future is not some distant shining thing where it’s all going to be just fine. The future is born of now. What exactly are we shaping? What will this moment give birth to? What will it kill?
If we borrow money, resources, options from the future, we have to pay that back sometime, or our children do. If for the sake of the financial present, we take more than any of us can afford, and we delay fixing expensive problems, we will pay, and pay again, and pay with interest. Debts do not go away if we put our fingers in our ears, close our eyes, sing loudly and pretend we owe nothing. And not just the financial debts that are causing so much difficulty, but our borrowings from the environment, from a planet that is not going to be able to bank us indefinitely if we go on consuming like this.
Every choice we make is an ethical one. Even the small decisions that do not seem important. Every single thing we do has consequences. We are shaping the future, now, with what we do, and decline to do. Frankly that worries me. I see too many individuals, too many politicians and other folks in positions of power, so obsessed with immediate gain that they are blind to longer term costs. We are going to have to pay. Our children and grandchildren are going to have to pay. The planet and every other living thing on it is going to be made to pay for our greed and short term attitudes. We are shaping the future now. And really, we need to get this right.