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Thom Hartmann: As World Population Reaches 7 Billion, What Will Save Us From Ourselves?

There is a way to heal our broken world -- but it won't come from new technologies, a new leader or political party, the Rapture, or space aliens.

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On the other hand, Jefferson was a member of the land-owning elite, what we would today call the very wealthy. Translated into today's dollars, nearly every signer of the Declaration of Independence was a millionaire or multimillionaire. Einstein was never truly poor, and he lived a life ranging from comfortable to wealthy. And even Edison, penniless when he ran away from home at age 15, entered a world with a total population that was a fifth of what it is today, rich with cheap natural resources, and almost limitless opportunity for ambitious white young men who spoke American English. If any of them were to be born into the modern-day sewers of Bogotá, they might end up being hunted for sport -- but it's unlikely that they'd ever have access to the resources necessary to create lasting and meaningful changes in the world.

True Change Is Not a Simple Process

There is no shortage of do-this-and-everything-will-be-okay solutions proffered in books and the press. The more commonly touted include worldwide birth control, strong controls on corporate exploiters and polluters, $5-per-gallon (or more) taxes on gasoline and oil products, doubling or tripling of the cost of water and electricity by increased taxation, worldwide destruction of weapons of war, more money for environmental remediation, and the creation and the empowerment of new political parties not beholden to corporate powers.

The idea of cultural change is often unpalatable because any sort of real, individual, personal change in beliefs and behaviors is so difficult as to be one of the rarest events we ever experience in our own lives or witness among those we know. It's easy to send $10 off to the Sierra Club; it's infinitely more difficult to reconsider beliefs and behaviors held since childhood and then change your way of life to one based on that new understanding, new viewpoint, or new story. But if such deep change is what we really need, I see no point in pretending that something simpler will do it.

The Something-Will-Save-Us Viewpoint

We are members of a culture that asserts that humans are at the top of a pyramid of creation and evolution. In our modern techno naiveté, we reveal our fatal belief that anything we have done-for better or worse-can also be undone. We tend to think that every problem, including manmade ones, has a solution.

In the deus ex machina ending in Greek plays, the hero inevitably finds himself in an impossible situation. To close the show, a platform is cranked down from the ceiling with a god on it, who waves his staff and makes everything well again. Similarly, we have faith that somehow things will turn out okay. "Don't worry," our sitcom culture tells us, "human ingenuity will save us."

We envision that our salvation will come from new technologies, or perhaps the rise of a new leader or political party, or the return/appearance of ancient founders of our largest religions. The more esoteric among us suggest that people from outer space will show up and either share their planet-saving technology or take us to a less polluted and more paradisiacal planet. The Christian "rapture" envisions the world's "good people" being removed from this mess we've created and relocated to a paradise created just for them. Among the New Age movement, a popular notion is that just in the nick of time the Ancient Ones, now available only in channeled form through our mediums and psychics, will make themselves known and tell us how to solve our problems. And, of course, there is no shortage of "just follow me, worship me, do as I say, and you'll be happy forever" gurus.