Human civilization is evolving. From our nomadic roots, through the agricultural age, the bronze age, the enlightenment, the industrial age, and into what some now describe as the information age. But what comes next? We are not at the end of history, and this current incarnation of capitalism is not the end of history. But where do we go from here?
Throughout most of human history, our species has been expanding it's territory, moving from our original birthplace in northern Africa. Our unique traits eventually gave us the skill-set to make tools from stone, clothes from the fur of other animals, to burn wood for heat, allowing us to expand into less hospitable regions. From the animal-like behavior of hunting and gathering, we learned to cultivate crops and domesticate animals. Instead of just passively responding to our environments, we began to shape it.
Our outward expansion continued and eventually we came to occupy every continent. Newly discovered land has provided an endless expanse of untapped resources. And through this period, the secret to wealth was simply to exploit what was there. Game, fish, timber, and minerals seemed limitless. We conquered the wilderness, bending the will of the earth to suit our own needs. The fate of the planet's many other species now lies in our hands.
The industrial age and the expansion of the capitalist system has been for the most part positive. But few would say that in it's current form it is a perfect system. Among its many criticisms, it currently seems to take more from the earth is able to be replenished. Rainforest is being depleted, as are the oceans fish. Are actions are now even beginning to effect the climate. And in tandem with this growth in industrialism, we are currently undergoing the greatest mass extinction since the fall of the dinosaurs. Is this species loss just one of the costs of progress?
While developing nations such as India and China are now grasping for the same standard of living as the world's richest nations, the truth is that this is unattainable. It would take six planets for everyone on earth to live at the same level as world's richest nations. The current course is unsustainable.
So where do we go from here? My suspicion is that humanity will be shaped as much from outer constraints than from anything else. We are beginning to hit walls of what our planet can bear, in terms of climate and it's other resources. The coming years are going to force us to shift into a more sustainable way of living.