Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
August 28th, 2006

A Walk on the Beach

As a futurist I spend a lot of time looking for patterns — pattern recognition — and forces that may develop into trends.  This is just the way I look at the world, trying to connect the dots into patterns and directions that suggest the future.  However, in some cases it doesn’t take a futurist to spot linkage between certain developments.  Let me take you back a few days to a walk on the beach.

I was in Sarasota, Florida to take care of some stuff regarding  my condo and to do a lot of writing and reading.  As I always like to do when doing intensive writing and reading, I took a break to go for a long walk on the beach.  Getting out of the car at the beach, I was hit with a powerful smell of dead fish, and, within a couple of minutes, was also suffering from shallow coughing.  The telltale signs of a ‘red tide’.  For those of you that don’t know the term, a red tide is when there is a sudden bloom of algae in the ocean.  The amount of algae explodes in quantity, sucking up all the oxygen from the water.  The two immediate results are the death due to lack of oxygen of all flora and fauna in the water, and production of a mildly noxious gas that irritates the human respiratory system.  So the result is a beach that at waters edge is littered with endless dead fish and mounds of seaweed and very few people.  The lifeguards were wearing some sort of gas mask apparatus through which to breathe.

Now red tides regularly occur from time to time.  As the local paper reported however, this red tide comes closely on the heels of a much larger one last year that covered 2,000 square miles and killed off most of the fish in Sarasota Bay.  This is provoking alarm as the frequency seems to be increasing.  While state officials, probably with an eye on tourism, say they don’t have enough information to determine an upward trend of red tides, scientists looking at the same data the state is looking at concluded that these red tide blooms are 10 to 15 times worse than 50 years ago.

While on the beach I recalled a New York Times article I had read on the plane concerning a troubling ‘dead zone’ off the coast of Oregon.  Evidently this is the fifth straight year that a dead zone has appeared of this coast, but this year it is by the biggest, covering 1,200 square miles.  Further the oxygen levels have been startling low.  This of course means no fish can live in this zone.  Dead zones occur in various places around the world, but five straight years off the Oregon coast is something new.  Scientists say this has been predicted in models run to predict the effects of global warming.

This line of thinking made me remember a story on the news earlier that week about the number of brush and forest fires in the United States and that the occurrence of these fires in recent years seems to be increasing. As of this writing there have been over 78,000 fires and over 7,000,000 acres burned this year alone. Thinking of heat made me think of the two weeks I spent in Germany this summer when temperatures hit record high levels.  Of course, upon returning to the US, I got to experience the record heat waves that were occurring across the country in early August.

It doesn’t take much to connect these dots.  Global warming is the catch phrase that immediately comes to mind — thanks for recent amplification to Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth”  But global warming is just a catch phrase for the larger issue of humanity’s mindless trashing of the planet through overpopulation, rampant development, careless pollution and a crack head-like addiction to petroleum.  Its not just about fuel efficient cars, as almost every aspect of our economic society is based on cheap petroleum that is no longer cheap. 

It is very clear to me that we are approaching two tipping points.  One is the tipping point that I believe could occur in the next few decades when, if we don’t act with urgency to save the planet for continued human occupancy, we will no longer be able to do so as the aggregated damage caused hits a critical point of no return.  The second tipping point is that of awareness, desire and commitment to save ourselves and what remains of biodiversity on this planet.  Interaction with readers here at www.evolutionshift.com, elsewhere in the blogosphere and everywhere I look tells me that this tipping point is fast approaching.  Hopefully it will happen in time to prevent the other one from ever happening.

If we all want to continue to have nice days at the beach, we will all have to get to work — and soon.


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

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