Thursday, December 31, 2009

The end of the decade

There is no real reason to mark the end of the "noughties". Key events in our lives are better marked by generations, periods of 25 - 35 years. And it may be that the period from the end of the oil price crisis of 1973 through to now marks one of those defining eras. It was the era that saw a huge explosion in the wealth of sportsmen, entertainers, businessmen (by "men" of course I include women). The era of gigantic building projects typified by the Burj Tower in Dubai (and for Londoners Canary Wharf and the "Gherkin"). The era in which all the world's culture was made available to a large percentage of the worlds population through the Internet and relatively cheap personal computing. The era of cheap air travel, global television, global branding. The era in which the nation-state rivalries typified by the NATO/Warsaw Pact stand-off gave way to the loose alliance of democracies and populist states versus terrorist states and organisations. The era in which for the first time science could tell a convincing story about the origin and nature of the Universe on both the largest and the smallest scale. And above all the era in which the human race grasped for the first time that the resources of the Earth are finite and that our industrial activities can damage the biosphere - but sadly not the era in which the human race agreed to do very much about the destruction of its heritage.

It may be that our children will look back on this time as some sort of Golden Age of stability and good living. If some of the dire forecasts about climate change turn out to be true and we see the Mediterranean basin becoming an outpost of the Sahara, huge numbers of people homeless through rising sea levels and major changes in world agriculture, then they may conclude that we were the luckiest generation of all time.
[yeah, that's right, go out on a high note. Gloomy sod :Ed]

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