‘Global Trends’ — The Next 20 Years Don’t Look So Good

April 8, 2021

If the wordage, ‘Before Times,’ has become a catch-pin for life prior to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, from all indications it could also come to include the period in the next generation or so. The twin beasts of the T-Rump and the coronavirus coming together have fostered a grim future, at least according to US intelligence forecasts.

The National Intelligence Council released its ‘Global Trends 2040‘ today, an estimate the NIC has published every four years since 1997, calling COVID ‘“the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II.”
And the one for our near-close look forward creates a dark window for tomorrow:

Intro to the document (pdf) is not very uplifting:

In this more contested world, communities are increasingly fractured as people seek security with
like-minded groups based on established and newly prominent identities; states of all types and
in all regions are struggling to meet the needs and expectations of more connected, more urban,
and more empowered populations; and the international system is more competitive — shaped
in part by challenges from a rising China — and at greater risk of conflict as states and nonstate
actors exploit new sources of power and erode longstanding norms and institutions that have
provided some stability in past decades.
These dynamics are not fixed in perpetuity, however, and we envision a variety of plausible scenarios for the world of 2040—from a democratic renaissance to a transformation in global cooperation spurred by shared tragedy — depending on how these dynamics interact and human choices along the way.

That last part the real meat of the issue. And the addition of climate change just quickens the shit:

After several decades of extraordinary gains in human development, many countries are likely to struggle to build on and even sustain these successes because moving beyond the basics in education and healthcare is harder, especially with larger populations and tighter resources.
In addition, the physical effects of more extreme weather events, hotter temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and rising sea levels will touch all countries but disproportionately will hurt the developing world and poorer regions.
The pace and reach of technological developments during this period are likely to increase and accelerate, transforming and improving a range of human experiences and capabilities while also creating new tensions and disruptions within and between societies, industries, and states.
During the next two decades, several global economic trends, including rising sovereign debt, new employment disruptions, a more complex and fragmented trading environment, and the rise of powerful companies, are likely to shape conditions within and between states.

Pretty much helter-skelter — more from The Washington Post this morning:

In language that will resonate with just about anyone who has tread water in the past year, the authors write of a “looming disequilibrium between existing and future challenges and the ability of institutions and systems to respond.”

Within societies, fragmentation is increasing — political, cultural, economic — and “large segments of the global population are becoming wary of institutions and governments that they see as unwilling or unable to address their needs,” the report says.

The effects of the pandemic will linger, and could shape future generations’ expectations of their governments, particularly as a warming world leads to new human conflicts, including, in the most dire scenario, global food shortages that spawn mass violence.

“The international system — including the organizations, alliances, rules, and norms — is poorly set up to address the compounding global challenges facing populations,” the authors write.

But the pandemic may offer lessons on how not to repeat recent history.
The authors note that although European countries restricted travel and exports of medical supplies early in the crisis, the European Union has now rallied around an economic rescue package.
That “could bolster the European integration projecting going forward.”

“Covid-19 could also lead to redirection of national budgets toward pandemic response and economic recovery,” they add, “diverting funds from defense expenditures, foreign aid, and infrastructure programs in some countries, at least in the near term.”

A mess, to say the least.
And, of course, the fuel, the match, the horror for that ‘most significant, singular global disruption:’

T-Rump and COVID combo — the world may never recover.

(Illustration: ‘Tower of Babel,’ a 1928 woodcut by M. C. Escher, found here).

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