It’s the economy, stupid!”    James Carville, 1992

 

It seems like half of the economists in the world think we are heading toward a recession.  The other half of the economists think there won’t be a recession, but a “softening”.  Of the first group, half of them think the recession will be a really deep and painful one.

 

[It must be stated here that, among professional futurists, the friendly thinking is that if you want forecasts of the future that will be wrong, ask an economist.]

 

The general tenor of economic thinking today is one of confusion.  Lots of talking but no certainty:

 

-inflation is at a 40 year high

-record low unemployment

-11 million job openings in the US

-price of gas coming down

-consumer spending is strong but consumer sentiment is plunging

-have we been in a recession if the GDP numbers of the last two quarters are down?

 

 

And on and on and on.  MSM endlessly having all the cliched stories about the guy at the pump, the priced out potential home buyer, and the bearer of student debt burden working two jobs.

 

The single, and probably most understandable way to look at all this confusion is that we are one fourth of the way through the most disruptive decade in human history.  The old metrics don’t seem to work. We don’t yet have new metrics or definitions to replace them.  The wisdom of the elders is based upon largely 20th century thinking that doesn’t seem to explain what is going on.  As the poet laureate of my generation stated:

 

“because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is”

                                             -Bob Dylan

 

 

This is understandable.  The 2020s decade is a historic transition from the past to the future.  What was is giving away to what will be.  This means that old ways of thinking are fading, and the new ways are not completely clear, yet.  We don’t have new terms, experiences, correlations to work with as there is never consensus about the future.  Without consensus it is difficult to look into even the near future with much veracity.

 

The other key thing is that in times of such disruption and transformation, big things happen that are simply manifestations of such powerful forces and they take time to assimilate. We are so buffeted by change that we cannot seem to find solid ground upon which to stand. Just think about just some of what has happened in the first 25% of the decade:

 

-A global pandemic that is still ongoing

-A fast recession

-A bear market in equites

-A bull market in equities

-Massive social justice upheavals – #BLM

-A land war in Europe

-The fastest loss of jobs in US history

-The fastest job recovery in US history

-Unprecedented fires / floods/ droughts / heat waves / tornados

-Bear equities market

-Rise and collapse of the crypto market

-The complete recasting of the work/employment landscape

-The beginning of the end of the “social media era”

– A new “pandemic” – monkeypox

-Explosive percentage growth in global EV sales

-Start of space tourism and commercial space flights

-First storming of the Capitol in 200 years – first by US citizens

-Overturning of Roe vs. Wade

-Record number of mass shootings

-Worst inflation in 40 years

 

All just in the last 30 months

 

 

 

In times of massive change, the old no longer seems true and the new has yet to be fully understood.  Think of 1775-1825 and  1875-1925, both 50 year periods when the world completely changed.  Both of these 50 year periods birthed entirely new ways of thinking.  In the first there was the creation of democracy, capitalism and the industrial age.  The second 50 year period gave us the internal combustion engine, electricity, air travel, vaccines, the telephone, the radio, sound recording.

 

I took a look at these two eras in Book 2 of the 2020s series.

 

Given that each of these historic transitions were 50 years in length, it meant that the change was experienced over two or three generations.  The 2020s is one decade, so we are experiencing half of the change of those 50-year eras – together and in one ten year period.

 

  In addition, information only traveled at the speed of horse days, or telegraph in the second era.  This meant that while there was an invention in say the US, it might take years for it to become known, let alone used elsewhere in the world.  Today we get our information via fiber optics that move information at 187,000 mph.  We learn about anything in the world seconds or minutes after it has happened.

 

 

These two realities means that all of us alive today are experiencing and having to process more change than at any other time in human history.

 

So, no wonder we can’t find consensus on the immediate economic future, let alone much else.

 

As you wonder what will happen to the economy, global warming, politics, technology and just about anything else facing into the future, remember the time we are in:  The 2020s:  The Most Disruptive Decade in History

 

 

 

 

[Much of this column was originally published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune that is part of a series on the “loss of paradise” and the need to be preemptive in planning for the future.  This planning must no longer be the propagation of what was, what might have worked in the past, or as named in the last column, legacy thinking. 

 Legacy thinking is really the enemy for looking into the future.  Most people think that today will be like yesterday, that tomorrow will be like today.  Such a perception simply carries forward the thought of yesterday, so that many people cannot see the NOW, which is where the future is born.  If one approaches today or tomorrow with the thoughts of yesterday, one will not see the NOW clearly and therefore will be jolted by the future.

 This is true in the Gulf Coast of Florida, in the plains of the Midwest, in the mountains of the west and of course any urban area built on the ideas of yesterday. 

 This column looks at two of the obvious and big areas of change directly ahead: energy and transportation.  These two sectors together comprise roughly 40% of both the U.S. and global GDP.  By the end of the 2020s the huge changes in both of these sectors will be full blown and will be the new emerging reality.

 Substantially new content has been added to this column from its initial publication]

 

Solar Energy

The vast majority of homes that have solar panels are generally worth more in the U.S. and Florida. Buyers of homes see such installations as being of great value. With the recent run-up in the cost of energy, the sun’s energy is free and, in the Sunshine State, plentiful.

Make sure that any homeowner that wants to install solar panels should be able to do so. If Sarasota can increase the community-wide installation of solar panels, the cost of living goes down. In addition, it has been made clear in the national real estate market that dollars invested in making homes ever more energy efficient or independent disproportionately increase the home value.

Wind power  

We have half a dozen wind chimes around our house and they seem to make their wonderful sounds much of the time. Well, there are now many options for the installation of small wind turbines for home use now on the market. For hundreds up to thousands of dollars, a homeowner call offset much of their energy costs by simply installing a small wind turbine. Again, not just the right thing to do in our climate-crisis state, but also a way to lower living costs.

There should be no restrictions on the installation of any solar or wind energy systems in the Gulf Coast. In addition, rental apartment complexes can do the right thing by using such on-site installations.

Transportation

In the 2020s, the U.S. will be moving away from internal combustion engine cars to electric ones. While the percentage of EVs as part of the overall cars on the road is still in single digits, it will be well into double digits by the end of the decade.

Currently, the purchase price of EVs is still more than the comparable ICE vehicles, which has slowed growth. A Tesla is still thought of as a luxury purchase, even with the $7,500 federal offset. By 2025 all the major automotive companies will offer multiple models of EVs. There will be more than 20-30 models available and the clear understanding in the automotive industry is that the goal is to make a good number of them affordable and competitively priced to ICE vehicles. I expect to buy an affordable EV in 2025-26.

Bringing down the price, in part, will be innovations and inventions in the battery business. Billions of dollars are going into battery breakthrough technologies driven by the exploding EV market and the need to make variable energy sources more competitive.

Yes, EVs are the right thing to do in our climate crisis. Yes, EVs are desirable in a world of high-priced gas. They are also silent, which means the sounds of distant full-throated ICE engines will lessen. Sometimes it sounds and feels like the arterial streets in Sarasota and Bradenton are places for drag racing.

What will be important is for the  area to begin right now to install universal charging stations for EVs. Right now, there are a number of Tesla charging stations, but they may not be compatible for other EVs. This the industry or government will change as the cost of this charging infrastructure nationally will dictate universal charging station technology. Sarasota, in its new parking garages, has done a good job of installing charging stations, but soon this will need to be scaled up.

“De-ICING”

There are always huge business opportunities that are created whenever there is a massive move to new technology. For example, before PCs and Apples, there was no real need for a “tech support” industry. Millions of people now work support our tech needs around the world.

There are millions of “classic” cars and trucks owned in the U.S.  People have them and collect them for a variety of reasons, but nostalgia and style are key.   A huge business opportunity ahead will be to take Internal Combustion Engine [ICE] vehicles and convert them to electric.  “De-Icing” will allow owners of beloved older ICE cars to power them with the new electric technology.  An added benefit of course is that the older the car, usually the lower the gas mileage, so this De-Icing industry will allow people to lower GHG emissions.  I am convinced this will be a huge business by the end of the decade.

Autonomous Vehicles

Finally, and this is more toward the end of the decade than the move to EVs, is the move to autonomous vehicles, driverless cars and trucks. This is the new world of personal transport. The elimination of the most dangerous part of the driving experience, the driver.

What autonomous vehicles will do is dramatically lessen the number of vehicles on the road.

For example, I live in a developed community of 103 houses. All have two- and three-car garages. By the looks of it, there are probably 200-250 cars, SUVs and pickup trucks in the community. In the autonomous vehicle future, there might be only some 20-25 vehicles needed instead of 10 times that. Why? These vehicles will operate up to 22 hours a day with two hours taken for self-recharging. A car request app will bring a car to your house.

The average American drives their car only 10% of the time. The rest of the time it is parked at home, at work or in a parking lot while shopping. In 10 years, that will be remembered as a huge waste of time and money.

With an ever-increasing number of us working from home and with traffic that didn’t exist 10 years ago, having autonomous cars will allow our communities to have far fewer cars on the road and thus much less time-consuming traffic problems.

So, in summary, the coming energy and transportation trends can truly allow any area to become more livable, lower our costs and increase our time for other things. However, we need to start to think, plan and act on this rapidly approaching future.

 

 

 

[As mentioned in the last column, this column was first published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.  While it is about Sarasota and the Gulf Coast of Florida, the issues are national in scope.  The climate crisis, generational issues and the legacy thinking and legacy economics are relevant in the country and the world.  Sea Level Rise is and will be a huge issue for Florida.  It will also be relevant to the Gulf Coast, the East Coast and much of the sub-continent of Asia.  Elsewhere it will be issues around water, drought and fires.  The generational demographics in America are largely the same as in Florida.  This is the second about the issues.  The next few will be about the trends, technologies and dynamics that can help to shape and redirect our collective futures.]

In my last column I suggested that we may be witnessing the end of “paradise” on the Gulf Coast – and Sarasota in particular – due to lack of foresight, planning and basic short-term greed. Evidently, this is a topic that is top of mind with residents. I received a greater number of supportive and lengthy emails from readers than any column in recent memory.

I wrote back to many of these readers promising to write columns in the future about trends and technologies ahead that could be brought to bear on saving “paradise” from becoming another overpriced, congested, problematic place to live. Better understanding the possibilities and dynamics ahead is essential if we want to keep the paradise many of you feel we are losing.

Housing

The current way that residential housing is viewed in our area will be a dead-end street. The top 10% of the population is being served at the cost of the remaining 90%. This may have been partially intentional to create a moneyed community that brings upscale tastes and desires. The problem with this was mentioned in the last column: creating a service- and tourist-oriented economy relies on housing for workers.

Help wanted signs are still everywhere, but who could fill those jobs if they can’t afford to live here?

Sea-level rise is coming, but when?

The two long-term trends that will affect housing on the Gulf Coast are the climate crisis and demographics. Both are national in scope but will be particularly acute for us living on the west coast of Florida

Florida has consistently been listed as the No. 1 state at risk from the effects of climate change, primarily due to due to sea-level rise (SLR). SLR will start to become a real issue in the region in the 2030s. A good visual of this impending reality is this video that I produced and directed along with Tim Rumage back in October 2016 that we called “Bird’s Eye View” Basically, there will be no Siesta Beach by 2040. It is a scientifically sound statement to say that there will be no beaches on the barrier islands by the 2040s. To be fair, the SLR shown in this video is at the high-end range of forecasts, but the direction is clear: a foot of sea-level rise is coming and only the timing is unknown. By mid-century, the region will largely be without beaches.

Beach replenishment has worked in the past, to restore beach lost due to erosion. That won’t work with SLR. “Beachfront property” will become “waterfront property.” Another way to think of it is that the priciest real estate will become the most discounted. Once the effects of SLR can be seen, there will be far more distressed inventory than buyers available.

Generational demographics

Another huge housing local issue is a demographic one. In the last 15 years the market became largely influenced by the Baby Boomer generation relocating and retiring to luxurious housing.

The question I have always had about this trend is simple: who is going to buy these homes when the Boomers die?

The largest generation in our country’s history are the Boomers. They are the drivers of the local real estate economy. The smallest generation was GenX, born 1965-1980. Their numbers are so low that there will not be enough of them to buy all the Boomer housing. So the demand for second homes and retirement homes will trend down from the mid-2020s to 2040.

Millennials are now the largest generation in our country’s history. They are also the largest generation in the workforce. Born from 1981-1997, the oldest of the generation is in their early 40s, some 20-30 years away from retirement. This translates into the 2050s as the time when this generation will be retiring. Right at the time when the beaches will have gone.

What we know about the Millennial generation is that, at this stage, they are much less affluent than the Boomers were at their age. We have all experienced or read about this generation living at home well into their 20s. “Late to launch” is a phrase that has been used to describe this delayed entrance into independent lifestyle. So they are late in developing financial wealth.

 

On top of that is the reality of massive amounts of student loan debt this generation carries. More than a trillion dollars of it is currently on the books. While there are discussions to have the government forgive all federal college loans, this is not certain and does not cover all the debt.

Millennials are having fewer children and have shown to be more frugal – out of necessity – than the Boomers were at their age. These two dynamics suggest that when the Millennials retire, they will not be interested in 3,000-plus square-foot homes with luxury amenities, exactly what has and is being built on the Gulf Coast today.

Possible timeline

Currently, the overarching residential real estate market story of our region is how expensive everything has become, from buying a huge luxury home to renting a one-bedroom apartment. People can’t afford to move here. There is no comparative price advantage, something Sarasota had in its favor until recently.

So, the next few years will see a lessening of relocation here due to the cost of living. The end of the Boomer generation will continue to move here for retirement, but only the affluent.

The 2030s will see the Boomers dying off but not being replaced by the GenX retirees as there will be so few of them comparatively. At this same time the clear and unmistakable effect of SLR will become reality. Beachfront property will begin its rapid decline in value. If, as forecasted, hurricanes become ever more powerful due to the climate crisis, there will be even less attraction to move to the region.

 

The 2040s real estate market here will be unprecedented in several ways. First, the effects of global warming and SLR will be real and profound. Second, the number of retirees will be at a historical low. Third, the Millennials will most likely have a much lower incidence of second home purchases than the Boomers or the Silent Generation before them.

So, what is going on in real estate development in the region now? High-end, expensive, large houses and condos in an effort to bring to market what the market has said it wants this past decade. Exactly the housing stock that is counter to all the trends discussed in this column.

Maybe, just maybe, there will be some effort in the next few years to create housing stock that will serve the 90% of the population that is now not being served. It is this type of housing that will become more attractive through time due to the climate and demographic trends discussed here. Or, we keep doing what we have been doing and hurtle down a one-way street to somewhere other than paradise.

In future columns I will write about certain trends in technology, housing, transportation and new ways of thinking in hopes that future thinking may take hold as we look ahead to truly disruptive times.

 

[First, an apology for tbe length of time between posts.  I have been taking a break from all forms of writing the past two months.  Back now.]

This column and the next column were initially published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune where I write a column every two weeks in the Business Weekly section [yes I took a break there as well].  I live in Sarasota FL, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, so the particulars of these columns are about this city and region.  However, while there are local and regional particulars, probably every state and many smaller cities have undergone a unique and , in some cases disruptive series of changes due to how people reacted to COVID.

The trends are about real estate, working from home, the national lack of affordable housing, the huge run-up in housing prices and rents and now, historic inflation.  People reacted to COVID by fleeing the congested urban areas for less congestion -risk of disease- better climate and more space.  Florida was one of the big recipients of this relocation.  The county in which I live had the fifth highest number of out of state relocations in 2020-2021 in Florida, so these trends have had a huge effect.

When I moved from Chicago to Sarasota in 2016, I was struck by how much less the cost of living was in Sarasota.  There was free parking everywhere and traffic congestion only around a narrow rush hour in the evening.  Except for the price of gas, the cost of living is now at or higher than in Chicago.  There is traffic outside of rush hour.  And there are help wanted/now hiring signs in practically every retail and service establishments.

So this column, and the one that will follow are specific to the city and region in which I live, but there are now hundreds of communities in the country that are dealing with similar issues.

Finally, there is a loose, smiling reference about living in Sarasota, that I have heard for decades; that it is ‘living in paradise’ due to the wonderful weather.  That is what is behind the paradise references .

 

‘Gulf Coast Alert:  It’s Getting Hard ‘Living in Paradise”

Sarasota has undergone a transformation this century. Boomers flooding into the area for pre- and actual retirement. Beaches getting nationally and globally ranked. Cities being named in national top 10 lists. Downtown Sarasota has been transformed from what it was even 10 years ago into the beginning of a pedestrian lifestyle.

COVID-19 accelerated changes that were totally unexpected. Vast numbers of Americans left congested cities for more room and to be closer to the outdoors. Millions moved from colder to warmer states. The digital nomad trend benefited areas that had affordable real estate, good climate and amenities.

 From Tampa down to Naples, all were near the top of the Florida and national lists for greatest influx of people relocating due to the pandemic. This resulted in a breathless rise in residential real estate values up and down the coast. It was recently reported that the average home sale in Sarasota County had reached $500,000, up substantially from 2020.

The rental market exploded as well, with rents up almost 50% in the area.

Layer on dynamics like historically high inflation resulting from the now-waning pandemic buying spree, supply-chain problems and the  war in Ukraine and the problems begin to become very clear. It is increasingly expensive to live here.

One of the key problems is that Sarasota specifically, and the Gulf Coast generally, are becoming relatively expensive to live compared to both elsewhere and our recent past. I have spoken to senior executives on the Gulf Coast who all say that affordability has become the key issue when trying to recruit top talent from out of state. They tell me that when the chosen applicant shows interest in a job, the company brings them down to the area to close the deal, at which time the potential hire explains that they cannot afford to make the move unless the compensation package is increased significantly.

We are rapidly developing a dual market, where the rich are fine and everyone else is beginning to struggle. This is both a global and national phenomenon, but the statistics and trends suggest that on the Gulf Coast of Florida the situation is worse than most other U.S. locations.

My grandparents moved from Ontario to Sarasota around 1900. My father was born here in 1913 and he and his four siblings grew up here. My father was the only sibling who left, getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida during the Depression. He then moved to Chicago where he had an illustrious academic career at the University of Chicago, largely being acknowledged as having created the field of adult education. So I am a third-generation resident of Sarasota, though most of my life I lived elsewhere.

I mention this because, as a child, my parents and I traveled down to Florida to “visit the family” in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, much of what Sarasota was can still be seen on “north U.S. 41” as one drives from downtown to the airport. It was a quiet fishing and resort community with motels instead of convention hotels, with ranch homes instead of condo high-rises. In the 1990s, my parents had retired to Plymouth Harbor, in their 70s, and soon they were having major health problems. As an only child I was down here several times a year during that decade. At that time, the only residential high rises were on the harbor, facing Marina Jack, which was a moderate family restaurant at the time.

 

So, for me, the clear demarcation line was the beginning of the new century, 2000. I have spoken to many lifelong residents of the area who wistfully speak of how the beaches weren’t crowded, the traffic was minimal and the living was easy and inexpensive. Until this century.

 

There are many stories about really wonderful, places, mostly vacation destinations, where the affluent visited, fell in love and bought second homes to spend more than vacation time. This resulted in the explosion in real estate values, higher-priced restaurants and ever more costly services. This meant that the ski bums and beach bums who lived for the lifestyle and worked to serve the new visitors could no longer live in-market. The Colorado ski towns solved this by creating low-cost dorms and cheap dormitory-type housing miles down the road. Affordable housing is something that politicians and developers only gave lip service to. The NIMBY dynamic (Not In My Back Yard) was joined by NOMBL from developers (Not On My Bottom Line). One of the most erudite and knowledgeable people on affordable housing in our area is Jon Thaxton, a senior VP at the Gulf Coast Foundation. He recently gave a talk on affordable housing and there were two quotes worth noting:

“Affordable housing has graduated from a moral dilemma to an existential threat to our economy.”

And: “There is no quick fix. It took Sarasota 30 years to get in this hole and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”

Ten years ago I found myself speaking of this as a possible future for our area. It is common now to go to a restaurant and see vacant seating areas and be told there would be a wait, simply because the restaurant does not have enough staff. Walk into most retail establishments and there are never enough people working.

Now this is a huge national trend, often referred to as the “great resignation.” As this column is being written, it was just reported that 5.9 million people left their jobs in April and at the same time there were 11 million job openings, a 2-1 ratio.

Folks, we live in a bifurcated economy; the affluent and those who are struggling. Sarasota – the Gulf Coast town I know best – is not a well-balanced market. It is a high-priced real-estate market, heavy on service industry jobs that don’t pay enough for workers to live here.This could have been foreseen, and avoided.

Yes, a lot of the developments mentioned in this column are trends, dynamics and macro forces that were not our doing and to which we must respond. But a lot of the problem can be laid at the feet of business owners, politicians and real estate developers and the zoning variances that were allowed. In addition, the development of the future by the area’s leaders was to create affluent retirement communities and high-end tourist hotels and restaurants, with visions of money and profit. I am sure some investigative reporter can uncover numerous cases where the authorities did not force the building of affordable housing that was required or at the least, clearly needed.

 

Rapidly escalating real estate valuations drove interest in the Gulf Coast. It has now become one of the main inhibitors to what used to be called “living in paradise.

 

 

 

 

This was my Earth Day column in 2021

NOTE:  12 years ago I wrote the column below.  I did it because I was getting pitched about Earth Day ideas I should write about.  As in people wanted to tout what they were going to do for Earth Day.  I simply lost it.  Don’t talk to me about Earth Day, Earth Month, Earth Year or even Earth Decade.  I wrote, for the first time, that we should commit to the reality of the Earth Century.

I then developed this thinking to make Earth Century one of the Five Contexts of the Shift Age in “Entering the Shift Age” 

So, if you care about the climate catastrophe make it  a century long commitment.  The next decade is critical, but Earth Day will be just another day in the Earth Century.

Earth Century

I have been writing this blog for more than five years. Particularly in the first three years, I wrote a number of columns on energy, peak oil, electric cars, alternative and renewable forms of energy and conservation. I wrote early and often about how humanity, and the United States in particular, would in the future need to completely alter its view of energy and the use of resources.

One consequence of those columns was that I was increasingly regarded as a “thought shaper” in the world of energy, the environment and all things “green.” This resulted in me being invited to attend and speak at conferences about the energy and green future of America. In addition, people and companies began sending me press releases about new and innovative products, new research and new conferences. This in and of itself was good, as it helped me stay current on innovation in the area of energy and sustainability.

Unfortunately, two other things occurred in relation to this ever-increasing in-bound flow of PR and news items. First, the awareness of my blog increased the amount of less-than-relevant information I received when the “greenmailing” of America exploded. Second, entities felt that they could earn points by making announcement on or around Earth Day.

Now, I am the first person to say that anything that creates alternative and renewable sources of energy, increases sustainability, changes thinking on use of resources and opens up thinking for this new century on how we will manage to all live on Spaceship Earth should be embraced. However, starting somewhere in mid-March, I began to get an increasing number of emails touting new announcements tied into Earth Day. Would I like to interview so and so in preparation for Earth Day? Would I like to consider writing about this LEED-certified new building technique for Earth Day?  Would I like to profile this new energy company that will be revealing a new method of utilizing algae for Earth Day? Enough, people! No! No! No!

Don’t you get it, folks? Step outside your obsessive promotion and your completely antiquated view of Earth Day as a meaningful event. It is no longer about you and the cool stuff you are doing for Earth Day. Earth Day was a brilliant concept to raise awareness about all things environmental.  When it first occurred in 1970, I embraced it as a way to highlight the need for us to change our thinking about the environment and the planet. Flowing from the first Whole Earth photograph and the catalogue of the same name, it was a wonderful event to support. However, it is time to retire Earth Day, for it has served its purpose.

Don’t tell me what you are going to do or announce on Earth Day. Commit to doing it every day, every week, every month, and every year. It is no longer a Day. This is Earth Decade, as it will be between now and 2020 when we will either alter our direction or suffer dire consequences. This 10-year period is incredibly critical to changing thinking, behavior, policy and creating breakthrough innovation in the areas of energy and sustainability.  Send me a press release on what you are committing to do for the next 10 years. Now that would be something of interest.

In a column dated 01-01-10, I called 2010-2020 the Transformation Decade.  That column took off, and I have since delivered numerous speeches on the topic. The definition of transformation is “a change in nature, character, shape or form.” This is the decade when humanity and most of its institutions will change in nature, character, shape and form.

All aspects of energy use and resource use will be transformed in this decade. We will also create a new long-term view of human life on Spaceship Earth. In many ways – as I often speak about – 2010-2020 will be the first full decade of human thought about the 21st century, as we have powered into this 21st century with 20th century legacy thinking.

The 21st century will be the Earth Century. It will be during this century that humanity faces the reality of whether it wants to destroy itself and much of what exists on this magnificent planet or not. Assuming we make essential course corrections, future historians will write about the Earth Century as a turning point in human history.

So folks, stop getting excited about Earth Day. Retire that thinking and refocus on the next 90 years of the Earth Century.

 

 

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I appreciate all readers of this blog.  Week in and week out -for now 16 years I often get thoughtful  comments from many of you and even some emails saying simply that you enjoy the column.  Many of you remember various forecasts and predictions I make in this space and call me out about them.

Well, this is a bit of an accountability column for my regular readers.  A look back to some of the larger forecasts I have made here in the past two years.  All are under the umbrella of the 2020s being the most disruptive decade in history

Just about two years ago I noted that this book was the first of a series of short, high-level books about the 2020s.  In this first book I stated that the 2020s would have more change than any other 30-50 year period in history.  Well, we are now 20% through the decade.  What has happened in these short 27 months?

-a global pandemic rivaling the Spanish Flu epidemic of 100 years ago, millions dead globally

-a pandemic triggered global recession

-the “great resignation”

-global demonstrations in support of #BlackLivesMatter

-a storming of the Capitol, first time in 200 years, and by citizens

-first time defeat of an incumbent president this century

-unprecedented supply-chain disruption

-rise of crypto and digital currencies

-ongoing massive floods, storms and fires due to the climate crisis

-another huge failure to face the climate crisis at COP26 in Glasgow

-the beginning of private space travel

-explosive growth in the sales of EVs

-huge bull market in equities

-significant inflation

-a land war in Europe

-a huge move from the physical to the screen reality.

-massive amounts of personal transformation resulting from the pandemic and lockdowns

This list is just some of the changes that have occurred since the decade began. 

I have written in this space since the pandemic first began that “going back” or “returning to normal” is simply impossible in this decade.  There is no “new normal” – though the media absolutely loves that phrase- as the change is constant and will continue to accelerate.  No pause, no time-out, no return to what was.

Accept this and you will have solved the single greatest issue of the 2020s: that of fully adapting to new realities across the board. 

Stand in change as change is the only constant in the universe.  Resistance is futile and is of high risk.

In the last two years, I have advised companies that it is of greater risk to not  change than to  change. Status Quo is a path to failure. Historically, times of great change have been the same times that great opportunities occur.  Think of the Belle Epoque that occurred in the U.S. and Europe between the 1870s and WWI.  This was the age of great wealth and fortunes, of robber barons and entirely new industries.  The internal combustion engine, fossil fuels, railroads, electricity, air travel, telegraph, radio and rapid urbanization triggered massive changes and also massive new wealth as the Industrial Age matured. 

We are now in another critical transition from the past of the 20th century to the realities of the 21st century.  Entire new markets, industries and companies will be formed this decade that will set up humanity’s future for the next several decades.

Some of the greatest fortunes in history will be created in the next 10-15 years.

What will be some of the major changes between now and 2030?  Here is a short list:

-massive breakthroughs in medical science and health care

-transformative change in K-12 and Higher Ed to update them for the 21st Century

-the end of media as it has been, into its’ next technological evolution of full emersion

-massive global move to EVs and to a lesser degree Autonomous Vehicles

-brainwave-computer interface

-full integration of Technological Intelligence into one’s daily life.

Enough for now.  Understand that this time of passage, the 2020s into the 20320s is one of the most important transitions in history.  In less than 20 years, we will have largely moved from the pre-2000 reality to the new reality of the late 2030s.

An evolutionary next step for humanity.

 

We see the need to stand up – for the planet, for freedom, for the Ukrainians- both for our own integrity and the reality that transformative changes can occur when there are massive numbers of global citizens who are loud, collaborative and collective  in action.

Russia and the Ukraine War

This column suggests to buy 10% less gasoline until Russia leaves Ukraine is a next step for the collective and collaborative WE.  Russia is committing atrocities in Ukraine and fuels it through the oil they sell which is 10% of the global supply.   Collectively and collaboratively humanity can reduce gasoline consumption by 10% without politicians or national leaders.  WE just buy less and live a lifestyle of living with less and by so doing, affect geo-politics.  We will have to do this regularly to face the climate crisis.  We are demand!

If tens or hundreds of millions of people around the world let it be known – and have it amplified by the global media entities- that we will use less gasoline until Russia leaves Ukraine, it will make national leaders follow.  If the world shows that it doesn’t need Russian oil, and WE trigger a 10% lessening of global demand, we will feel empowered and leaders around the world will take note.

In addition, if the only way to get rid of Putin is to have him be taken down by an insider group at the highest level of government and influence, then the sight of half a billion people buying less gas will give more impetus to this group to remove Putin.

Corporations and the Invasion of Ukraine.

In moments of historic and moral moments, corporations increasingly realize they have to take a stand.  I wrote about this here relative to the restriction of voting rights.  Corporations used to hide behind statements that they don’t get involved in political or moral issues.  No longer.  Not in this century.

Except for a few corporations that have a moral center, that understand they are major stakeholders within society, most corporations are reactive to their customer base but fearful of taking stands on controversial issues.  In the time since the above linked column on corporations, many of the corporations who said they would no longer make political contributions to legislators who vote to restrict voting have gone back to making them.  Moral hypocrisy.

Who can make corporations take a stand?  US!  WE!  The growing list of companies who are leaving Russia or ceasing to do business there includes many companies who immediately took steps to do so.  It also includes companies that did nothing at first, perhaps then had a mealy-mouthed response, and then finally gave into people/customer pressure.  Yes WE can!

We are the demand.  We are their customers.  We make them take a stand, or we stop being their customers.  This collective, collaborative power needs to be used to move to #humanityfirst

China, Russia and Taiwan

 China and Russia have been stated close allies.  Putin flew to Beijing for the opening Olympic ceremony.  While there, he evidently promised Xi that he would not invade Ukraine until after the Olympics.  Once the games were over, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Russia is a nation that has a declining population, a now declining economy and has thus doubled down on military power as the source of its’ influence – along with oil.  This monolithic dark, iron curtain era threat of military might has been shown to be a joke by the Ukrainian military.  Ukraine has been winning the ground war in terms of military engagement.  This has resulted in Russia committing the war crimes we have all seen in recent days with the bombing of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings and now the theater.  Can’t beat the armed forces, well, let’s kill a lot of civilians to demoralize the country.

Tell me, do you see a demoralized Ukraine or one that has united around this invasion to become ever more vigilant in defense of their freedoms.  Putin has united the Ukrainians!

The world opinion has now turned against Russia and Putin’s folly.  Ghastly images of women and children injured by dumb bombs is not the way to win friends and gain allies.  NATO is now united and stronger than ever. Europeans have risen up when confronted with the unthinkable for the 21st century: a land war in Europe.  Sanctions are evidently having effect in Russia.  The world sees a bully exposed, a country in decline and complete immorality.  Even the United States Senate, that model of do-nothing partisanship has been moved to bipartisan action.

Thank you Mr. Putin for uniting humanity!

Russia thrives on instability.  China, with its’ deep integration into the global economy, thrives on stability.

So President Xi, how do you feel now about standing with Russia?

The idea behind tens of millions of people buying less gas until Russia leaves Ukraine – if amplified by global media- will be noticed by Xi and the Chinese Communist Party.   Xi has made it clear that it is his, and therefore China’s intention to retake Taiwan and make it part of China. Hmmm, a bully dictatorship attacks a functioning democracy, where have we seen this?  Oh yes, the Ukrainian War.  Not working out so well for the dictator.

What about WE making commitments to not buy anything with the “Made in China” tag if China invades Taiwan?  I will do that.  Will you?

What if China provides military or economic support to Russia?  Would you commit to not buying anything made in China as much as possible?  I will.

This is a defining historical hinge moment when WE the people, we global citizens can act with collective power to influence the reshaping of the geo-political landscape.

Yes WE can!

The 2020s is a key moment in history.  It is a transition from what was to what will be. From the past to the future.  From a hierarchical, centralized past, to a decentralized, distributed future.  WE must lead to the future we want.

Change often starts at the edges and moves to the center.  Guerilla forces live and thrive in the mountains and then move to the cities.  A Greta Thunberg changes the world by her one girl demonstrations and actions, far more than some national leader using the total cop-out phrase of “being carbon neutral by 2050” [I promise a column on that soon as it is so antithetical to facing the climate crisis and is a cover for the ignorant or the non-caring.]

So… you have the power…..together we have the power…. Our leaders will follow us…. It is finally time for bringing our leaders with us, not letting them divide us.

Let us take it and rise to this historical occasion!

Let’s own the power of all of us publicly standing up for Ukraine and cutting our use of gas so that the world will not need oil from Russia.

All the talk is about Supply!  Supply!  Supply!  Oh, what will happen when the supply of Russian oil is cut off?  We need to replace the supply, quick, maybe from the Middle East, maybe from South America!  Oil is going to $200 as barrel, maybe $300!

Not if we, WE, decide to lower demand, one by one by one into the millions and then tens of millions, demand will go down.  As stated in the prior column, watching the suffering in Ukraine brings tears to my eyes.  Seeing the bravery of the Ukrainians is simply amazing and inspiring.

All praise to the Allies coming together.  Great for NATO becoming ever more resolute.  We now have an international war taking place in Ukraine.  The free world, democracies, are aligning against the short, bully, out of touch Putin.

In times of war, the call is always for more drilling, for opening up oil and gas fields.  The calls from those within the petroleum industry and the politicians that take their money, are always in times of international tension around the global supply of oil.  In times of challenge?  Drill baby drill!  While that may feel good and with comes with a macho swagger, why not do the obvious other thing, cut demand? 

We know why.  Simply put, the carbon combustion complex is not constitutionally receptive to people – us- who are beginning to exercise our muscles to lessen our carbon footprints.  It is great to see the actions that Shell and BP have taken to uncouple from Russian oil.  It is great to see the rapidly growing list of American companies that are stopping doing business in Russia. 

Corporate America is doing its’ part or will be shamed into doing so.  Is it not time for us, global citizens, individuals who can collaborate in great numbers to tell the world that we will make this commitment to buy less gas to support freedom?

 

What to Do

This starts in America because, as detailed here, our country is only at 3-5% daily use of Russian oil, not the 40% of Europe.  So the goal – scaled to millions- is to offset the supply loss.  If we in America can show other countries – and more importantly their citizens- that higher prices for gas is a price we are willing to pay to end the suffering we see on TV, we may well change history at this critical time.  More on that in a future column.

Some obvious suggestions on how easy it will be for you to commit to buy 10% less gas in the months ahead:

-choose to take one less air trip in the next month if you are a frequent flyer, and if an infrequent flyer, cancel one round trip sometime this year.  Air travel is carbon intensive so a secondary benefit

-work from home one additional day a week – lose the commute.  Make this a company culture thing as collaboration will increase participation.  Lobby the C-suite

-think of all the things that helped get us through the Oil Embargo in the 1970s: carpooling, taking public transportation, turning down/up the thermostat a degree or two

-bike to work and for small errands – “we bike for Ukraine”

If you are reading this, you are probably well aware of the climate crisis. Since we are committing to specifically buy less gas, here are a couple of links and sites that will give you ideas and options on how to lower your usage.

https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/auto-loans/5-easy-ways-to-save-money-on-gas

https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/save-money/how-to-save-on-gas/

 

WWII Redux?

As an aging boomer, I had parents that were of the “great generation”.  The ones that spent their early adult years navigating the Great Depression and then WWII. As a young boy I learned about the incredible hardships of the first and the incredible commitments during the latter.  Since I was born a few years after the end, these hardship experiences were fresh in my parents minds and I learned of them early. 

The rationing, the denial of access to goods, the willingness to go without so that we could support “our boys overseas” was what won the war.  A saying I learned as a boy, that most millennials have not heard was:  “WWII was won on the factory floors of Detroit” https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2380893/Rosie-Riveters-WWII-Detroit-factory-Willow-Run-risk-demolition.html

https://www.history.com/news/wwii-detroit-auto-factories-retooled-homefront

 

The Invasion of Ukraine is a defining historical moment.  It can be the trigger for tens of millions of people to encircle the world to collaborate for freedom, for the future

As I have written and spoken for more than a decade, we have entered the global stage of humanity.  This means that fundamental changes are occurring and the ability of nation states to solve global problems – look only to the failures of COP1-26 – is simply not up to the task.  Nationalism seems to prevent the ability to see the global common good, or at least to see what all humanity needs and to take us thereThat is one of the reasons that this moment, this invasion of Ukraine can unite well beyond national boundaries.  We the people of the world, in this decade, have within us the ability to create the future we want.  If you want freedom.  If you want to support the victims in Ukraine.  If you want to bring Russia down for this massive war crime……commit to buy 10% less gas until Russia leaves Ukraine.

Please use this hash tag and work to spread the word on this.  #10%less4Ukraine

 

I commit to spending 10% less on gasoline until the Russians leave Ukraine.

We are all living with the horrific and unnecessary suffering going on now in Ukraine.  The top to bottom tragedy is caused by one man.  A short man who is a dictator and who dreams of a long-ago evil empire and its’ rebirth is now inflicting incalculable damage, death, trauma, and sorrow on the 40+ million citizens of Ukraine.

Yes, we will give, and perhaps give deeply, to lessen the humanitarian crisis of millions of refugees and to support the courageous effort to fight the Russians in country.  Generous donations of money, food, clothing, and, on the parts of governments, weapons and money. A majority of those reading these words will most likely write checks to tax deductible charity organizations who are doing the good work necessary to help humanity in the face of raw evil.  Bravo!

Watching the suffering, the urge to act becomes overwhelming, but what to do?

The single act that seems to make sense is to buy less gas.

Why?

The Russian economy generates some 40% of all revenues from fossil fuels.  It exports oil and gas. Take that away and the country will collapse more quickly than otherwise. The largest customer is the EU where some 40% of oil and gas used is from Russia.  The simple reason that the West – the Allies on the side of Ukraine in the war with Russia – have not stopped buying oil from Russia is that it would be a huge economic and social disruption for the EU zone, and would fuel negative economics situations across the continent.

John McCain famously said “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country”. 

 If the countries aligning against Russia stop buying gas, what can Russia do?  Most likely sell to China, but right now, China is very sensitive to being seen as supporting Putin, so they will think twice about a globally unpopular act.  More on that in a future column.

The United States imports oil from Russia. This is approximately some 3-5% of our country’s consumption. 

President Biden is trying to work in close consort with our allies in NATO so all nations are united and will stand firm against the little dictator.  Biden is well aware that the United States can more easily absorb the negative fall-out from refusing to buy Russian oil than our European allies.  That said, he could move to cease oil purchases for the United States, and set an example for other nations to follow-up.

In Washington, politicians from both parties are clamoring to stop buying Russian oil.  This reaction is the right one, but, none of these politicians has addressed the obvious solution to take to minimize the increase in the price of gas, which of course no one wants. 

Okay, we want to lessen the supply by 5%.  What to do?  Lessen demand by the same or greater percentage. 

Let’s lead the way.

The general math is simple, 3-5% of U.S. oil comes from Russia.  If the country can dampen demand by that same percentage, there will less upward pressure on pricing.

If I am the only one cutting my gas purchases by 10%, nothing happens.  If everyone reading this column buys less gas, nothing happens.  However, if millions or tens of millions of people all commit to buying 10% less fuel, a difference can be made.   This is simple supply and demand.  Americans commit to lessen demand and therefore have taken action on fighting both Russia and inflation.

We are all armchair quarterbacks in some sense, and I am sure that Putin’s war is in this category.  We all have developing opinions about the war. How about  actually taking an action that forces us to make some minor sacrifice to align opinion with action? Actions speak louder than words.  Those that take action distinguish themselves from those that just opine, as actions have consequences and opinions only make the one expressing them feel good.

“Do or do not, there is no try”  Joda

Even if all of us who choose to buy 10% less gasoline do not lessen demand by a nation-wide 5%, the effort will have profound global effect.  The story of Americans willingly driving less to defeat Russia will attract more of us doing so. The effort will spread to other countries.  The world will see that citizens are stepping up around the world.  At this time in history, the real truth is that the change needed for our species to evolve must come from us, the people, humans.  More on that in a subsequent column.

Imagine the coverage that would be given to a global effort by individuals to buy less gas.  Images of people at gas pumps NOT filling up but only to 90% of the gas tank.  People say they are biking to work or shopping to do their part.  All nationalities doing this.

One of the only ways this war ends is if Putin is removed or killed by high-level government and military officials in Russia.  The signs that this war will be seen in the eyes of history as Putin’s folly and the collapse of Mother Russia are clear and present.  If those in any level of command within Russia see that the citizens of the world are for the defeat and humiliation of Russia, it might be the extra push needed to take down Putin and end the war.

It is time for people around the world to lead the change we want.  We see this in the climate crisis, when a teenager is the one speaking the truth.  “Blah, blah, blah”  says  Greta Thunberg to all the nation states who participated in a complete failure called COP26.  Nation states all talked about being ‘carbon-neutral by 2050’ but take no action today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year to address the single most urgent challenge facing humanity. 

Covid lockdown in 2020

As I have written, the global COVID-19 lockdown was historically unprecedented.  For the very first time in history, 3-4 billion people did the same thing at one time; we went into self-quarantine.  What happened?  The air became breathable, the canals and streams became clear, the plants grew more quickly ,and the animals came back out to what had been their natural habitats.

 

By locking down to slow the spread of a pandemic, we showed that we had been at cause for global environmental degradation.  When a majority of people stop being such active participants in the carbon combustion complex, global eco-systems regenerate.  Part of this complex of course is the consumption of gasoline for transport.  We stopped driving.  We stopped driving and the price of gasoline collapsed due to minimal demand. The above photo was taken in Florida during the first lock-down.  $1.79/gallon gas, 50% of what it was when Russia invaded Ukraine.

 

I will buy 10% less gasoline until Russia stops their war against Ukraine.

 

Will you?

 

[If you agree with this idea – and are willing to use 10% less gas until the Russians leave Ukraine or put down their arms- PLEASE share widely.]

 

In my last column, I explained why one of the forecasts from “A Look Into 2022 – A Split Screen Year” – the ascendent strength of Labor and employees this decade -was, in fact happening.  I mentioned in that column that what has been called “the Great Resignation” would be looked back upon as the clear demarcation of the beginning of this trend.

The numerical reality of the changing workplace and the changing employment marketplace is truly unprecedented.  Since April 2021, through the fourth quarter of 2021 there have regularly been 400-500,000 resignations in the U.S. on a monthly basis.  When this happened last April, it was a huge historical milestone.  That milestone has been surpassed many times since then.

The pandemic has clearly affected us in many ways.  One of the most noticeable ways is how much people have changed how they think about work.  After one has spent months working from home, being more productive, having more time with loved ones, having more personal time, it becomes difficult to go back to the pre-COVID workplace.

The last full year pre-COVID was 2019.  That year was the record year in U.S. history for length of commute time.  The average commute distance for Americans that year was 27.6 minutes one way, or almost an hour a day!   Five hours a week. In addition, the cost of gas, auto maintenance, parking to do this average commute can be more than $100 a week.

The world has changed.  The view of work has been transformed. The old, 20th century model of commuting to an office five days a week is not coming back as the norm, rather the exception.

There is not one person I have interacted with since the first lockdown who has not had some significant change in how they view work, their life, how they work, where they can work remotely from, and how work and personal and family have been rebalanced.  When death has been at the door, the pleasures of one’s home become ever more important

A fundamental change has occurred, and the sooner employers and companies understand this, the better off they will be.

I dare forecast that the decade of the 2020s will see a complete reinvention of work.  One where the workers, the employees will gain more power and that will alter the power dynamic relating to the employers. This power will only partially be gained in the old ways of union strikes and stop work actions.    It will be gained as ever more people work from home, chose to become independent contractors and indeed become digital nomads.  Talent will have increasing leverage in the area of employment negotiations.

For the last decade, I have consistently spoken and written about how, in the Shift Age, the Physical Reality will give way to the Screen Reality.  Since March 2020, it has.  We are all on screens ever more.  We like to be working on our screens, living in a nice place, with family nearby.  All of this had taken root, not to fully change back in the near future.

Companies going forward will have fewer employees, more technology and more training.  In addition, the corporate world will start to more fully embrace the dynamic of the creative class, and will increase the number of contract workers, the number of which will ebb and flow.  The creative class will become ever more important as Technological Intelligence [often maligned as AI] begins to rapidly eviscerate high percentages of repetitive jobs.  By their very nature, creatives will be more independent and will demand flexibility in the workplace.  Employees will continue to have ever more power in the classic worker/employer dynamic.  How we “did” it in the past will have declining power of argument as we move forward in the 2020s.

Women are lagging men in returning to the workplace.  Women have taken on more of the home schooling, childcare aspect of the lockdown, so until they have new, affordable, safe childcare, pre-approved Pre-K and the certainty that the children will be going back to the physical school, they will not return to the workforce.

It is estimated that by 2030 there may well be one billion people working as digital nomads globally.  This entire movement of “have laptop and phone, work from nice places” really went into high gear during the time of the pandemic.

This in fact is significant for Sarasota County in particular, where I live.  Since the beginning of COVID two years ago, the county has been one of the top counties in Florida, and therefore in the entire country, to move to for digital nomads.  There is more than anecdotal evidence that people have left congested cities where they had to live to be close to work, to move to nicer places to live such as Sarasota and Manatee Counties where they now work remotely.

This is an entirely new economic development strategy for areas in the country that have nice weather, proximity to outdoors and a good quality of life; to invite people who can work remotely to do so and move here.  Clearly the booming residential real estate market locally is evidence that this is happening.  The economic development model from the last century is to lure companies to move and bring all their employees with them.  This usually meant that some special tax incentives had to be offered to lure a company to relocate.  Now, such locations can avoid giving out any tax incentives and reap the benefit of the increase in wealth and population.

 

The workplace has dramatically changed in the last two years, never to return to the old, CO2 intensive, political, costly daily commute and old office models of 2019.  These changes will only lead to more changes, in such a way that the workplace of 2025 will be vastly different that in 2019.

 

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In times of global uncertainty and disruption it takes a futurist to provide context and understanding.

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