I Fear for Generation Next: Climate Change, World Debt & Rising Health Care Costs


The next generation doesn’t have it easy. The world is changing…and rapidly. What we’re about to experience globally is nothing like we’ve experienced in the last century. Enormous shifts are happening that will instigate fundamental changes to policy, jobs and technology.

The freedom that previous generations have had to build and to innovate will become lost to the future decision makers. Instead, the next generation will be overwhelmed with responding to the growing issues that are creeping to the forefront today:

  • Impending world economic crises
  • Effects of global warming
  • Impact of an aging population

This Generation is to Blame

I write this post not as a pundit who understands the intricacies of these issues and their implications, because clearly I do not have this benefit, but as a parent, who has seen my own generation and previous generations contribute to many of these unfortunate events and is saddened by what it means for my children. I write as a consumer who has seen decades of recklessness and irresponsibility and have done little to affect this.

I write as a bystander who heard the message of the real dangers we were to face in this lifetime, and witnessed as we reluctantly relented to change. We dragged our heels, albeit in the right direction. This older generation is to blame for the impending fallout not only because of our contributions but also because we weren’t doing enough to mitigate the negative effects. We are to blame because we were too selfish to recognize that while the fallout of 80 years later would not impact us, it would impact our children and grand-children.

And now that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of this next generation.

I read this post recently: “Map – These are the Cities that Climate Change will Hit First.” It spoke of Climate Departure, the first time when…

the moment when average temperatures, either in a specific location or worldwide, become so impacted by climate change that the old climate is left behind. It’s a sort of tipping point.

The map shows the earliest instance of Climate Departure will be in 2023. Cities like Kingston, Jamaica, and many bordering Caribbean countries will experience this earlier than most. Other affected regions include Lagos and other countries in Western Africa. However, larger centres like Singapore, parts of India and China are not that far behind.

Those countries that are going to be affected by this unprecedented climate are also those deemed “that have the least capacity to respond”. Lagos, is the largest African city of 21 million and currently prone to excessive flooding. Climate departure will hit Lagos by 2029.

Experts predict that (under the current greenhouse emission levels) most of the world’s population will feel the effects of Climate departure by 2047.

Species will be forced to adapt, move or die out

It may not be the end of the world but this radical shift means that the world as we know it will experience a massive upheaval. As Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science’s global ecology department has put it:

….we are pushing the ecosystems of the world out of the environment in which they evolved into wholly new conditions that they may not be able to cope with. Extinctions are likely to result.

The effect on the species raises much graver concerns: the risk on our food and water supply; the potential of wider spread of disease; health endangerment; security concerns that come with civil outbreaks. These are realities that much of the world is unwilling to face.

The hope is to mitigate the effects of C02 emissions to slow down Climate Departure. While this may mean delaying Climate departure by, on average, 15-20 years, countries like Kingston and Lagos will feel the impact only 5 years later than expected.

Demand for transportation increases

As the Chinese economy continues to dominate, the demand for transportation will have a rippling effect globally. A recent article indicated, that the global demand for cars was largely influenced by China:

the global car market would expand in the next few years, mainly because of growth of demand in China where sales were expected to double by 2019.

This hurtling demand puts much more pressure on carmakers to ensure dependence on gas is lessened. The question is whether mindsets will be as quick to change. In all likelihood, probably not.

The Global Economic Crisis: two steps forward…. one step back

Europe is a classic example of a stubborn political mindset that has turned a blind eye to the compounding issues imposed by the monetary unions, and had not felt the urgency to make drastic changes to fiscal policy until was too late. This has led to a massive competitive imbalance among the debt-ridden economies like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, relying on the surplus nations like Germany to compensate. It’s this imbalance that requires radical reform among those economies that have largely relied on monetary unions to dictate their fates.

The US counterparts fare no better. This headline made me chuckle: U.S. Politics 2013 Style: “Let’s Kill The Economy”. To me this is an example of a system that has a huge communication issue, deep-rooted in years of dichotomies. Killing the Affordable Health Care Act by taking the government hostage is a last-ditch effort among “backward thinking idealogues”, as Senator Elizabeth Warren put it, who cannot cope with the realities of democracy.

The demands of the rising unemployment, student debt, an aging population and disparities in access to health care require a new order.

The next generation will be, by all accounts, constrained with their own financial woes. This article, A Million Millions: The Student Debt Crisis in America, states that student debt in the US is now a “staggering” 1 trillion dollars. Here’s how it breaks down:

Thirty-seven million people in the U.S. have student loans, and the average student loan debt is $24,301. Of those who graduated in 2013, the average loan debt is over $35,000. The trend is steady and consistent–education is getting more and more expensive. Student loan debt in the U.S. even exceeds overall credit card debt.

In both the European and US situations, governments have no choice but to change their thinking in order to come to urgent resolution.

The Aging Boomers

If the Tea Party continues its attempts to manipulate the system to crush the Affordable Health Care Act, it will cripple access from a growing population of Boomers. Here are the facts according to a study by Concordia University:

With another American turning 50 years old every 7.5 seconds, by 2015 Baby Boomers will represent 45% of the US population. The average American over the age of 65 has multiple chronic conditions:

  • Hypertension 72%
  • Arthritis 51%
  • Heart Disease 31%
  • Cancer 24%
  • Diabetes 20%

This group accounts for 1/3 of all health care spending, 1/3 of prescription drug use and 40% of doctor visits.

Canada fares no better. The reality rings true all over the world,

Should baby boomers be feeling guilty now that everyone else seems to have finally clued in to the developed world’s worst-kept secret: There are lots of us, we didn’t have enough children of our own to replenish the taxpayer base, and we didn’t contribute enough in taxes to cover our future health needs as increasingly frail citizens.

The result:

Our children and theirs are going to be saddled with an expensive burden they can ill afford as droves of silver-haired boomers leave the workforce and consume a disproportionate share of public health resources in their senior years.

Where does this leave us?

While I worry for the next generation, I also know that extensive measures are being put in motion to alleviate some of this burden. Economies are learning quickly, especially in Europe, that integration helps heal some of the wounds. Realization of fiscal reform is taking hold.

The US is feeling its own civil strife and the results of the lockdown will determine whether there is opportunity to reach some political common ground or face dissension from the voting public.

Dependency on oil and gas in today’s world will need to be re-evaluated now.
Sustainability is no longer a buzz word. This next generation understands and is more attuned to its moral obligation to fix the economic disparities that exist today. This includes gender disparity.

And while the world awaits for the inevitability of climate change, rest assured there will be a rallying cry, however late, to attempt to delay these effects and prepare for substantive change.

As long as this generation is alive, it’s in our best interest to finally take responsibility…. for future generations.

photo credit: UBC News via photopin

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