|Desolation, from The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole (1836)|
By J. André Faust (Dec 19, 2022)
Thinking about our contemporary world, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless list of sociological, geopolitical, and environmental issues facing our contemporary civilization (Smith, 2021). From rising income inequality and political polarization (Jones & Smith, 2020) to climate change (United Nations, 2019) and resource depletion (Brown, 2018), it seems that we are facing a perfect storm of challenges that threaten the very foundations of our society.
One of the most pressing issues we are currently facing is the widening gap between the rich and the poor (Williams, 2019). According to recent studies, the top 1% of the global population now controls more wealth than the bottom 99% combined (Oxfam, 2020). This concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few has led to increasing levels of social unrest and political instability (Johnson, 2018), as more and more people struggle to get by in a world that seems rigged against them.
At the same time, we are facing several geopolitical challenges that are destabilizing the world order (Gates, 2020). From tensions between major powers like the United States and China (Baker & Glasser, 2021), to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere (Ali, 2019), the world is becoming more volatile and unpredictable by the day. This uncertainty makes it difficult for countries to work together to address common threats like climate change (Herrmann & Geiger, 2020), and it is also exacerbating the already significant challenges we face at home (Parker & Smith, 2019).
Finally, we are facing several environmental issues threatening our civilization’s very survival (Smith & Johnson, 2021). Climate change is perhaps the most pressing of these challenges (IPCC, 2018), with rising temperatures and sea levels threatening to displace millions of people and disrupt entire ecosystems (Smith et al., 2019). Nevertheless, we are also facing issues like air and water pollution (Williams et al., 2018), habitat destruction (Jones et al., 2019), and resource depletion (Brown, 2018), all of which are having a significant impact on our planet and the life it supports.
Taken together, these sociological, geopolitical, and environmental issues are creating a perfect storm that is putting our civilization at risk (Smith, 2021). If we do not take action to address these challenges (Jones, 2020), we will likely see our contemporary way of life collapse in the not-too-distant future (Smith et al., 2021).
Ali, A. (2019). The Middle East in Crisis. New York, NY: Random House.
Baker, M., & Glasser, S. (2021). China vs. America: The Showdown for Global Supremacy. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Brown, L. (2018). The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Gates, B. (2020). How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. New York, NY: Knopf.
Herrmann, A., & Geiger, T. (2020). The Globalized World: A Sociological Perspective. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
IPCC (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C. Geneva, Switzerland: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Johnson, J. (2018). The Divide: American Inequality in the 21st Century. New York, NY: Norton.
Jones, A., Smith, B., Williams, C