The Irresistible Waves of Change
By Bill Moore
I am in Carlsbad, New Mexico as I write this a couple days after the elections here in the United States. Carlsbad is in the southeast corner of the state and sits along what once was the shoreline of an ancient tropical sea. The remnants of a prehistoric reef rises a few miles to my west, and it is in that enormous column of limestone that time and nature created the vast cavern system that my wife and I will be exploring as tourists later this morning.
This our first trip to Carlsbad Caverns and we are looking forward to the experience. I decided when planning my trip to San Antonio, Texas for the 2004 Fuel Cell Seminar to swing out into the great open vastness of the American West for a couple days of needed rest and relaxation, either to celebrate a return to sanity in American politics or to lick our wounds in the wake of defeat. Sadly, for America and the rest of the World, the latter turned out to be the case.
Traveling across the vast, open expanses of this incredibly rich and blessed land has enormous restorative value. Driving along I-10 west of Kerrville, the land is sprawling and densely covered with scrub oak forest. Further west we passed mile after mile of giant, gleaming white wind turbines, literally hundreds of them just east of Fort Stockton, Texas. Then as the sun was setting, I stood atop the remains of that ancient reef where the U.S. Park Service's visitor's center is located and inhaled the sweet, crisp late November afternoon air and took in a panorama that stretched 100 miles all around me. I know it was a hundred miles because I could see the pale purple rumple on the horizon to my south that is the Apache Mountains in west Texas. They are a 105 miles to the south of Carlsbad Cavern National Park.
So, here surrounded by such humbling magnificence, I can take a longer view of events that will inexorably rush over us in the next four years like the irresistible tides that once pounded this two hundred and fifty million year-old reef.
Here are some to watch for in the next four years.
Climate change wave: No, the doomsday scenario depicted in "Day After Tomorrow" will not occur within the next four years, but international pressure for action will, starting with Tony Blair's promise to use his influence to convince the Bush Administration to take the threat seriously. He will find the White House continuing to pay only lip service to the issue, which it still doesn't see as a legitimate concern, but climate events like the killer heatwave of 2003 in Europe and the salvo of hurricanes that slashed Florida in 2004 will gradually erode the naysayers' confidence in their own form of uniformitarism.
Technology wave: America's "Bushness-as-usual" approach will continue to erode the nation's technological leadership in a wide range of areas from sustainable technologies to medical research. Instead of tackling the real threats to mankind including oil depletion, climate change and a growing fresh water crisis, not to mention resource depletion and AIDS, the focus will continue to be on "Fortress America" and wealth-robbing, productivity-sapping dead-ends like missile defense and nuclear bunker buster bombs. Meanwhile, the number of scientific research papers flowing out of China and elsewhere will turn into a flood, buoyed by 8-12 percent annual economic growth and far more pragmatic political leadership educated into the "36 Strategies". America will find itself loosing more jobs and buying more technology from overseas.
Political wave: Nations will grudgingly continue to do business with America, but it will be for only mercenary gains as the US increasingly finds itself isolated from the rest of the world, where Asia and Europe jostle for global political leadership. As a result, the dollar's value will continue to erode while the Euro and the Yuan continue to gain strength.
Monetary wave: America's 50-plus years of world dominance through the use of the dollar as the medium of exchange in international oil transactions will come under serious threat as more and more oil producers are tempted to shift to the Euro. While Iraq's efforts to convert to the Euro were soundly punished by America and its "Coalition of the Willing", sometime during the next four years, other nations will attempt to dump the dollar in favor of the Euro, possibly starting with Russia, who finds both Europe and Asia competing for its vast oil and gas reserves.
Oil wave: The Bush Administration will continue to believe it can drill and militarily dominate its way out of a growing gap between production and demand, fast-tracking more exploration off-shore and on. Meanwhile, only token efforts will be made to conserve by promoting more fuel efficient technologies and alternative fuels. Oil imports will approach 65% and oil will hit $100 a barrel, sinking the US economy even deeper into an economic quagmire that no amount of deficit spending and tax cuts will cure.
Credibility wave: With virtually no credibility remaining, few nations will take American initiatives or pronouncements seriously. Viewed as an increasingly militaristic, ideologically-driven rogue state, the US will find that it has fewer and fewer allies in its faltering "War on Terror".
Ethics wave: Momentarily overshadowed by the presidential elections, investigations into a growing list of political, military and financial scandals will continue to inexorably dog the American president and his supporters. With the majority of large circulation newspapers having supported Kerry, they have burned their bridges with the Bush Administration and now are free to finally begin exercising their Fourth Estate rights to finally hold this president accountable. And the first place they may start is the emerging electronic voting scandal where all the exit polls showed Kerry winning by a wide margin in the key battle ground states.
Now, I admit that my perspective is colored by a sense of disappointment in the outcome of yet another bitterly divisive election in which the incumbent won by the narrowest margin since 1916. For me, the only consolation is that the current Administration will get "Four and No More." And in the greater scheme of things, I think the world will manage to muddle its way through them despite a lack of enlightened United States leadership. But the cost will be another four lost years of America attempting to solve the wrong problems for the wrong reasons with the wrong tools.
I hate to say this, but my country, at least the vast center section that one pundit now refers to as "Jesusland", is a nation in denial. We are an illiterate, out-of-touch people living in a fictitious "Disneyland" of our own invention. We are preoccupied with preserving the status quo, even as it becomes increasingly anachronistic and destructive.
So, to Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa I say, please get on with the job of tackling the big issues confronting our world. Continue to be the world leaders in sustainable energy, fuel-efficient vehicles, carbon dioxide-reduction technologies, and a host of other initiatives to make the world a cleaner, safer, more equitable place to live. Just because half of America has decided to take another four year hiatus from reality, doesn't mean you should.
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