Instead of hiding under the covers, seek solutions

British prime minister Theresa May with MP Priti Patel

Instead of hiding under the covers every time someone outlines threats to the future, we should take inspiration from how our forefathers addressed the challenges of the past, writes Joe Gill

Global food prices fell to a two-year low last week. And oil prices are 50% below the levels they reached back in 2014. Both of these data points run counter to conventional wisdoms by the headless chicken brigade of so-called analysts, politicians, and media commentators who have been highly vocal about how the world is running out of fuel and food.

Over the past 10 years, there have been repeated efforts to convince the public that food and oil resources globally were falling short of demand.

Rising populations and depleting natural resources would lead to inexorable inflation in the price of food and oil, a major threat to the world economy apparently.

This thesis fits neatly into the playbook about the world being destroyed by mankind.

It’s a dystopian vision that runs hand in hand with the view about religion being a bogus concept.

This view of the globe is a convenient set of supposed truths for well-heeled materialists enjoying the benefits of relative wealth in western society.

This perspective looks on in horror as hordes of people emerge from developing economies because better health systems and diets support falling infant mortality rates.

The temerity to actually raise their GDP at the same time and improve the economic wealth of their people is even more offensive.

All those additional people will add more unreasonable demand on the world’s resources, apparently.

In times past, disease and wars conveniently saw off these challenges to the planet.

Bouts of pestilence and world wars killed millions of consumers and polluters, leaving the planet better placed to support the privileged few.

Imperial Britain and the empires created out of continental Europe, Russia and even America were satisfied with such a world where the pesky colonies could be kept under tight control.

At this point, you may be detecting a caustic perspective about some of the headlines apparently telling us facts about how the world works.

It may have been triggered by the British MP Priti Patel when she argued last week that a dubious report about a no-deal Brexit creating food shortages in Ireland be used as a piece of leverage against Ireland and the EU in future negotiations.

It takes a particular form of genius to think that conflating a threat to food supplies in Ireland with a desire for the delights of imperial Britain is a constructive piece of political discourse.

Ms Patel is certainly off this Irishman’s Christmas card list.

What is happening, in reality, is that scientific and political progress has lifted millions of people out of poverty across the world while the average age of human beings has risen dramatically in the last 50 years.

Does this put pressure on everything from health services to the environment? It certainly does. However, instead of interpreting that as a pathway to self-destruction, consider the ability of human beings to solve great challenges.

The Americans decided to become energy self-sufficient a decade ago and weed themselves off the yoke of politically sensitive Opec. It worked.

Electric cars will transform ground transport, remove a large consumer of fuel and help the climate because of the hard work of propulsion technologists in China, Europe, and the US.

Medical inventions are curing patients and extending lives to an accelerating degree as the human genome project and big-data computing collide.

Instead of hiding under the covers every time someone outlines threats to the future, we should take inspiration from how our forefathers addressed the challenges of the past.

There are babies being born today that will invent systems and machines that we cannot even imagine which can tackle the greatest hurdles now facing the world, including the need for ample supplies of energy and food to support a growing and more prosperous world.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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