The Last Happy Decade

I like to end a year on a note of hope and accomplishment. This year, I cannot do that. I have to look at where we are really going and what is actually going to happen, given what we as a species and civilization are doing, today.

First, I want to reflect on this decade and the decades before. By and large, we have had 40 years of general happiness. Sure, some were depressed, there were wars and terrorist attacks that caused injury and harm to some, but the vast majority of people in the world became educated, bought houses, had kids, grew careers, retired and lived happy lives. The 2020s will be very similar. As climate change increases, more people will feel the effects, more will flee rising waters and storms and droughts, but I expect that most people on earth, will have another happy decade, thanks to technological effects in health and work. Most people will have kids, will buy iPhones, climb careers, and travel more than ever. I suspect this will be their last decade to do that.

I suspect that in a sense, as I reaching fifty, so will the world reach the end of our happy days. In 2030s, the effect of climate change will pit world powers in a fight for resources to such a degree, that open war between major powers will be unavoidable. We will see changes in climate change that will affect not a minority, but the majority. The 2030s I suspect will feel like the 1940s, where man fights man for survival.

Of course, this will be nothing compared to 2040s. War requires resources and ordinance and progress, and that progress will be in direct opposition to what is required for the planet to survive. In the 2040s, we will see that man is not the most brutal force, nature is. The 2040s will be cataclysmic. I don’t expect a lot of us to survive 2040s. With luck, the earth will be habitable, but in all likelihood, runaway effects of melting ice caps and permafrost will ensure that it will not. Some humans will survive, thanks to the work of NASA and ESA today. Their work to create habitable environments on the moon and on Mars is what will allow a few to survive.

I think humans will live on, but in 40 years, new humans being born will not know what it is like to go hiking without a suit. Generations to come, will not know what it is like to breathe fresh air, what it is like to feel the water on your body in a fresh stream, what it is like to catch a wave or enjoy the summer breeze and warm sun on the skin.

This is the legacy of Millenials and Babyboomers and the Greatest Generation. Some saw our effects and tried to stop this future, but the majority did not want to believe it, did not want to feel left out, did not want an end to this consumerist culture. They refused to put an end to the destructive “American Dream” that required a house with a yard and a car to get to that house for every family member. We wanted the lavish vacations, second homes, the plethora of gifts on Christmas. We had that for 40 years, and that 40 years of decadence is going to be our demise and the demise of our children.

The majority of the world has been poor these 40 years. Most of the progress has gone to the few and the few in a few countries are responsible for the death and carnage that will reach every corner of the world. This extinction will be slow and it will be televised.

And what does this mean for the Jewish people? Our religion, our ingenuity, our military, our Nobel prizes, and startups will not spare us. Models unambiguously show that when polar ice caps melt, most of Israel will be underwater. The projected sea-level rise will cause waters to reach the Judean hills, leaving Jerusalem and West Bank above water. The fight for water with our neighbors will intensify, the fight between Russia, Iran, the US, and China will not leave us unscathed, the 30s will be tough for Israel and the antisemitism which rises with instability will only climb. There is no way to curb that any more than there is any way to curb sea level rise without reduction of CO2. We will see strife, we will see war, we will see attacks, but ultimately, our fate is tied to that of the rest of the world. Some of us, the elite will survive, will be part of those who live on Mars or Moon, or inhabitable habitats, but most of us will be swept up by the same consequences as the rest of the world. We were chosen to have the commandments, but we were never absolved of suffering.

To stop this, we must stop eating meat, revamp the way we use energy, reduce deforestation, reduce our carbon output by 7% every year. But we are not doing that. We eat more meat, deforestation is accelerating, carbon output is increasing and the international efforts to stop it are a joke. We’re like a plane on an aircraft carrier, being catapulted into a brick wall, and we knowingly get into the cockpit and hit start, with a steak in our mouths and cigar in our hands.

This is how I enter the 2020s: the last 10 happy years of career, of family, of friends and travel, before we set it all on fire.

Enjoy the 20s haverim, it is all we have.

About the Author
Sam Livin was born in Soviet Union and grew up in San Diego. In 2012, he travelled the world photographing Jewish communities publishing a book called "Your Story Our Sipur." Today he continues to write about Israel and Judaism as he lives and studies business and ecology in Tel Aviv.
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