A New Ethic for Humankind by Fred G. Thompson - HTML preview
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This chapter will tell of a number of people who were concerned about the way the world was and is unfolding in its track to the future. They are the ‘‘Cassandras’’ foretelling the future.
According to Homer’s Illiad, Cassandra was a beau- tiful young woman, blessed with the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo, who was infatuated with her. Unfortu- nately, because she shunned Apollo, at the last minute he added a twist to her gift. Cassandra was doomed to tell the truth, but never to be believed. As Laura Fitton says in her internet article: ‘‘... we call a 'Cassandra' someone whose true words are ignored, since Cassandra’s doom was to predict what others refused to believe.’’
Some of these Cassandras that I have found of interest are described below.
One of the early Cassandras was Rachel Carson born in Pennsylvania in 1907. She was a writer, scientist and ecologist who worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other government agencies. She retired from the government in 1952 to devote full time to writing. Two of her outstanding books were ‘‘The Sea Around Us’’ 1) in 1951, and ‘‘Silent Spring’’ 2) in 1962. The first book is a lyrical account of the beauties of the sea. However in her ‘‘Silent Spring’’ book in 1962 she ex- posed the hazards of the pesticide DDT, and eloquently questioned humanity’s faith in technological progress and helped set the stage for the environmental movement. Her efforts succeeded in making significant changes and reductions in the widespread use of this pesticide.
However since that time, the banning of DDT has been questioned because of the benefits it provides in the control of malaria.
Jonas and Jonathan Salk
A report in 1982 to the United Nations by Jonas Salk and his son Jonathan 3) took a look at population growth over the long term future and identified the period before the start of the decline in growth as Epoch A and that after as Epoch B. The shift from Epoch A to Epoch B would, they said, require a tremendous shift in world attitudes, in fact it would require an evolutionary change. It would require attitudes to change from one of competition to one of cooperation. How, then, would society and particularly the economic world deal with that? It would indeed require a New Ethic for humankind. A profound observa- tion for its time.
A book that caused a lot of people to be introduced to the futures movement was Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, published in 1971 4)
Toffler is essentially a journalist, writing for many well-known periodicals, has been an editor of Fortune, has taught ‘‘sociology of the future’’ at the New School for Social Research, and the author of several books on socio- political topics.
Future Shock was a runaway best seller and a good read even for today. He defines ‘‘future shock’’ as ‘‘the distress, both physical and psychological, that arises from an overload of the human organism’s physical adaptive systems and its decision-making processes.’’ Another way of saying this is that future shock is the reaction to the rapidity of change, in both experiences and information
What Toffler missed about the future is as notable as what he includes. Much of what he foresees has indeed come to pass but what of those topics he has not been able to see from his perch in the 1970s. For one thing he makes only a passing reference to terrorism which is so much on the minds of politicians and the general public today. Along with this is the lack of reference to the rise and power of Muslin states and the passions of “tribalism”. The phenomenon of, and therefore the impact of, the Internet and all its ramifications was not mentioned.
Toffler says quite a bit about the future of controlling the weather, even in the global sense. He describes how some researchers have shown the likelihood of being able to plan the weather for different global regions and the possible cooperation of the various nations involved. Instead, we have the grim reality of humans NOT being able to control the weather but being the contributor to the uncontrollable global warming that endangers all life on the planet. Quite a change! Now that’s genuine future shock!
What in some sense is tragic, is that the ending statements of the book are just as relevant today as they were then. So little real progress has been made in the last 35 years. Here is a quote from the last few pages:
‘‘Our first and most pressing need therefore is, before we can begin to gently guide our evolution- ary destiny, before we can build a humane future, is to halt the runaway acceleration that is subjecting multitudes to threat of future shock."