Bryden Allen's Website

Our Five Serious Current Problems

When I first started writing the next two webpages, I started by giving the various processes, which would lead to the following 5 problems. I thought this was the correct procedure - to first show how that these processes would lead to these problems. But after I had read these processes, I quickly changed my mind. There are many such processes. And the degree to which any process will be the cause of which problem, is always very much open to doubt. Very few people will be prepared to read about these processes: which they most definitely do not wish to hear about; and which are still open to doubt.
            So my best options seemed to be to give these five major problems first. The important feature about these problems is that they can all actually be accurately measured. And then they can be compared precisely with the situation in previous decades. So people can then see that these problems are serious and they are all getting progressively worse.
            The way that these problems can be measured is quite complex. So I have written a whole large set of webpages called Measures of a Good Society. And in these webpages, all the other important measurements of national importance are given as well. Unfortunately these various different measurements usually give rise to completely different estimates of the success of a country. All the different measurements will support the very different view-points of individual people. So to say ‘what is a “good” society’ is an exceedingly difficult issue.


The five major long-term problems, which I then wish to consider, are the following.


1)         Growing Wealth Inequality
            The problem of wealth inequalities in different countries has been studied many times. The latest article I have read on this subject was in the New Scientist (issue 21/4/2012). The accepted view is that strong wealth inequality results in: much higher levels of poverty; more people who are unable to support themselves (and hence must rely on welfare at the state’s expense); increased crime levels; dangerous social unrest; the mental health of both the rich and the poor is strongly affected; the poor often attack the rich – so life is more dangerous.  One of the first people to point out all these problems was Thomas More in his “Utopia” book.
            If it is of any comfort to you, most previous ages have suffered from much more wealth inequality than we do at the moment. Thus the wealth inequalities before the 19th century were appalling. And all people suffered accordingly. Then equality conditions grew a little better during the 19th century. (People then were probably remembering the French Revolution. So people knew that bad wealth inequalities could lead to exceedingly bloody revolutions - where the rich people got their heads chopped off). Equality conditions improved a little more after the First World War. And then equality conditions improved significantly further after the Second World War. So equality conditions were good - from about 1950 to 1980. But, since then, equality conditions have gradually started to get worse again. But our current equality conditions now are still a hell of a lot better than in any time before the 20th century started. But our equality conditions will continue to deteriorate unless we all take strong positive actions to reverse this process.
            The extreme form of wealth inequality shows itself in mounting debt. And this is happening all over the world. This occurs both for individuals and for nations. However sometimes a nation manages to hide this growing debt by selling off a lot of its assets. So in Australia we are selling off our infrastructure in terms of our energy system and Telstra. But even worse than this we are selling off our land to overseas buyers. These actions will all lead to terrible future problems.
            Thus the continuous increase of wealth inequalities is a very serious problem indeed. (My next webpage will explain why this is all happening.)


2)         The Growing Inequality between the Young and the Old Generations
            This problem is strongly related to the wealth problem given above. The rich people always tend to be the older people because they have had more time to accumulate wealth. In contrast, the young people usually start with nothing. So the older people should always have more wealth than the young. And this is a good thing because the old people need to use this accumulated wealth to look after the expenses of their retirement.
            But this wealth inequality between the old and young must be kept in balance. When I was young (and I only had an average income), I could buy an adequate home for my family reasonably easily. But this situation is definitely not true now. Young people find it very hard even to leave home – let alone to buy a house. The old people are now too rich and the young people are now too poor. (This disparity is usually measured in terms of the ratio between - the value of an average home, to the average income of a young person.)
            This situation means that our young people lose their independence. Thus young people now often have to stay at home and accept any job whether they like it or not. And these jobs might be those horrible jobs – which I have already listed on page 13 of  “A Special Period to stop Climate Change - book”(pdf). And our children now have to delay their having children till much later in life. This is not a healthy thing to do at all. This never happened when I was young.


3)         Less Spare-Time
            When I was young we had ample spare-time. And yet this was a time when most women weren’t working and we had to do all the building associated with the destruction associated with the Second World War. We should have plenty of spare-time now. The reasons for this situation are given in the next section. But the facts are quite clear – in general most people are working harder and longer now than previously.
            This is not a healthy situation. We don’t get outside and have enough exercise. Children don’t have enough time to play by themselves. Our social life suffers. I can see this situation occurring with my own eyes. All the clubs and societies I belong to are not getting new members. And no new clubs are starting up as well. It is all very sad. (Again the reasons this is occurring and how it can be measured are given in this website.)


4)         Our Degree of Global Dependence
            The heading I would like to put here is “Our Degree of Self-Sufficiency”. This is a subject I am very passionate about. My “Green Living” book is mostly about how this goal can be achieved. But unfortunately self-sufficient is a complex subject and it applies at many levels of society. So self-sufficiency is very hard to measure.
            But it is possible to measure “Our Degree of Global Dependence”. So this is why this my heading is as it is. The simplest measure of this dependence is the amount of global trade. And this quantity has certainly increased at an unprecedented rate over the past 50 years. But not all this trade equates to dependence. The global trade in luxury goods does not matter at all. Historically there has always been a significant trade in these items. Thus silk, gold spices, perfumes and jewels are all well-known old luxury trade goods. But these items don’t matter. If our rich people wish to flaunt these goods, let them – sensible people should have better jobs to do.
            But now we have a huge global trade in our basic essential food. This is a terribly dangerous situation. So – what will happen if we have: a global recession, a bad epidemic or a serious war. These events have always occurred in the past. So we must expect these events to occur again in the future. And, if these events occur again in our current world, then many, many people will simply starve.
            There are many other essential goods, which we buy from overseas and we are dependent on i.e. steel, cement, medicines, computers etc. But nothing else of course is as important as our food. (We in Australia are fortunate because we certainly do have the capacity to feed ourselves. But perhaps we always ought to remember that India and China are physically situated quite close to us. And we now have no powerful allies of ours lying between these nations and us. And these highly populated nations do not have enough land to feed themselves. So, in times of mass starvation, these nations might take into theirs heads to take some of our land. After all, we ourselves pinched this land from its indigenous people only 200 years ago. We ought to remember these facts.)


5)         Pollution
            Our various kinds of pollution are all continuing to increase over the world. And most of these pollutions can be accurately measured. Our emitted CO2 pollution, of course, is our major problem. But also our over-fishing is destroying our fish populations in all our oceans. Our excessive desire for coal, oil and gas is polluting the lands close to these areas. Our over-use of fertilizers is polluting our rivers. And our worst pollution is caused by human expansion into our remaining wild lands. Our world doesn’t seem to be capable of controlling these various forms of pollution at all.
            These various kinds of pollution can be measured in terms of an individual’s or a nation’s footprint. This measurement is again discussed in my appendix on the subject.



So now I have described what I believe to be the 5 most serious growing problems in the world. But, of course, there are also two very important measures, which we can all look at with glowing pride. The first measure is Economic Growth, and we can be proud of how this measure has continued to grow at a quite remarkable rate for the last half century. And this growth is reflected both in our nation’s GDP and in the average income of each person. So this is good.
            The other important measure is our total wealth. And again this measure applies to both the world, our nation and to the people in our country. And this wealth in general has increased over the past 50 years. So again we can be proud of this result. But the position has started to change over the last 10 years. I describe this problem further in my Measures of a Good Society webpages.
            What we would all like to do, of course, is to use some of our unnecessary economic growth and wealth to rectify the 5 bad measures I have just listed above. But this action is far harder to do than you might realise. This reason will be described in the last webpage of this set. I am afraid this whole set of webpages is about a very difficult problem indeed. This is why this total problem is never discussed - and this is why our 5 individual problems have continued to get worse.


Please go to my How Our Problems Evolve and get Worse.



You might now also like to look back at:

either my "Home Page" (which introduces this whole website and lists all my webpages).


Updated on 14/11/2016.