The ‘Conversation’

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long, long time. Finally, after traveling through Cambodia it coalesced into something meaningful. It’s about a ‘Conversation’ that the developed nations of the world and the undeveloped nations of the world are having. And it is a conversation that is going to get more intense in the next two decades. It’s a simple conversation, but one I do not think the developed world understands. I also don’t think the undeveloped world understands it either. Or, rather, neither side understands the stakes, both are in denial about it and it isn’t going away.

I’ve seen 43 independent nations on this planet. The majority of them have been developed countries, or those just on the cusp of developed status when I was there. South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Mexico being the top four in that category. For those of you who’ve been to Mexico and don’t consider it developed, well, visit Ethiopia or Cambodia or India and compare and contrast. Mexicans have it much better than most of the world. The reason immigration is so intense is that America has had so much better. And that is the main point. The conversation is this: there is no way all the inhabitants of this planet are ever going to have a standard of living equivalent to that which we have in the West. It’s not going to happen. And those in the undeveloped world I believe are in just as much denial about it as those of us in the West who aren’t talking about it. I’m not a Malthusian by any means, but I’ve seen enough of the world, enough of the deforestation in place like China, Malaysia, Cambodia to know that there isn’t enough wood. I’ve been to the Middle East and know there isn’t enough oil. I’ve seen countries like Ethiopia where famine is just one poor rainy season away. Too many places on this planet are on the brink of systemic ecological breakdown. China being chief among them. The ecological devastation in China is immense beyond words.

As I said, there is no way all the inhabitants of this planet are ever going to have a standard of living equivalent to that which we have in the West. So something is going to have to give. And I don’t know what that means. Does it mean the West will see a decline in living standards? Will some global cataclysm occur to change the dynamics? I just don’t know. Mind you, I’m not an alarmist. But I know enough about history to realize the worst can happen–and will. Anyway, these thoughts, as I see above, are still ill-formed. But it struck me as I drove across Cambodia that there was no way they would ever have our standard of living and it saddened me. But it also disturbed me on a very deep and profound historical level. I guess you could call it one of those, “what does it all mean,” moments. Color me confused.

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