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January 2000
: The Future Of the World


I don’t know about you, but I’m not very excited about this millennium thing. After all, when in my little corner of the world it becomes the year 2000, it will be 5760 (to the Jews), 1420 (to the Muslims), the 16th year in the 78th cycle in the Chinese calendar, 6712 in the Julian calendar, 2525 to the Jains, and to the Hindus merely another turn of the cycle of the Age of Kali.

I’m resisting the thought that something apocalyptic is going to happen—especially since, technically, the year 2000 is the last year of the 20th and not the first year of the 21st, and in geologic time, dates are completely meaningless. But the hoopla surrounding this event does offer us the sobering thought that, while the Earth still has a few billion years still left to run, the next few decades (by whatever calendar you choose to count) will be crucial to the survival of many of the Earth’s species—including us. So, Satya is using Y2K as an opportunity to reflect quite literally on where we are, examine our priorities and suggest ways forward, and look at the bigger picture and speculate on what needs to be done.

Nowhere, surely, is this need for reexamination more pressing than in our relationship with the natural world and the other creatures who share it with us. We may hope the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and that a greater prosperity will fall upon us all. We may hope that human population growth levels off, thereby creating a better quality of life for all the dispossessed and hungry. We may, indeed, hope to live longer and healthier lives, and that the diseases that so curtailed human happiness in the 20th century—polio, cholera, AIDS, cancer, heart disease—are finally defeated.

But none of these concerns can be divorced from the one central concern that must dominate our thinking in the next century: the state of the planet. All other issues, vital though they may be, must be subsidiary to this central concern, if only because this concern has such a huge impact on all of them. There will be no peace among nations until the finite resources of this planet are equitably divided. There will be no greater prosperity for all of us unless the outdated economic models of unfettered growth and expansion are replaced with sustainable models of economic equilibrium, efficiency, and systemic holism.

Satya asked people from the worlds of environmentalism and animal advocacy to speculate on what’s going to happen in the next 20 years. Some folks are optimistic, some are not; some offer concrete proposals, others rallying calls. All know that it’s up to us. Philip Goff and Joanna Underwood examine the future of transportation and use of resources, while Dean Smith and Niall Shanks explore the future of the use of animals in science. David Kidd provides an inspirational and practical guide to how we might solve global warming, while Samantha Knowlden reveals the hidden nonhuman victims of Hurricane Floyd. There are calls to action to help animals from Ingrid Newkirk, Kim Stallwood, and many others; as well as pleas for social and environmental justice from Emily Chan and Carlos Padilla. Ronnie Cummins takes genetic engineering to task, while Kimberly Lucci questions our need for so much stuff.

We hope these voices stir fire in the belly and thought in the mind. Some of what you read may depress you, some will give you hope. I imagine the next 20 years will be an (increasingly warm) stew of both. I’d have to say I’m somewhat pessimistic. But I don’t want to bewail the future, because that’s the easy way out and there’s something comforting and self-serving about such emotional paralysis. Let’s just leave it as this: The next century offers a chance to start again, to make every aspect of our life in the 21st century sustainable, renewable, and re-creative. I think that’s something worth pursuing—no matter what century or millennium we’re in.

Martin Rowe


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