World Future Fund has spent the last 15 years studying global trends. We have created a set of almost 300 indicators to track those trends, particularly in the fields of the environment, the global economy, social policy relating to issues such as poverty, and even in areas such as the study of religion and religious history. One of the things we've done - which is different from what other organizations have done - is to have tried to track these trends as far back into the past as possible. In other words, for deforestation, we're not just tracking what happened in the last two years, we're going back and looking at the original levels of the world's forests, and where they are today, and we do that with a series of other issues. Another thing we do that's radically different from other organizations is to track political history in terms of the history of political theory, as far back into the past as possible, and put the current structure of history in the context of world history, and in the context of accepted political theories around the world.
When looking at the world, and when looking at the present in terms of this point of view, important things are visible. And things are visible that present a radically different point of view from the current conventional wisdoms in a number of different areas. We first have to think in terms of time. Natural history is a process of billions of years, billions of years. Human beings have been on this planet - we believe, and there's some uncertainty to it, depending on who you listen to - for about 40,000 years. By contrast, the dinosaurs were on here for about 61 million years, so we have shall we say a bit of a ways to go to catch up even with the dinosaurs here. Human history as we know it, in any kind of seriously recorded form, really goes back to the foundation of the old Kingdom in ancient Egypt, about 3000 BC. But in terms of looking at the world today, this is the kind of frame of reference that we need to have. It's a frame of reference of time that puts things in perspective. Now, when we look at the current, so-called "world order" (and there's a real question as to whether it's really very orderly), we need to ask, what is the future? That's the obvious question; what's the future of the current world order? And looking at it in terms of the trends we follow, it is readily apparent that, in its current form, it doesn't have a future.
Now, I want to make it clear this isn't saying that it's doomed, that there is no future. I want to make it clear that's not what we're saying. There is a very viable future out there for the world, but there is no viable future without drastic change. We are where we are to a large extent because of Faustian bargains we've made. We have taken out mortgages against the future in a whole series of different areas, particularly in the environmental area, and these mortgages are going to have to be paid back. So, the huge levels of self-congratulation about technology, and so on and so forth that we see in terms of human pride, these need to be put in perspective because this is an unresolved situation. We also need to talk about the morality of a system that would be based on borrowing from the future. The morality of any system is the continuation of generations. One leading philosopher of modern times said that in the long run, we're all dead. Well, that was completely immoral philosophy. Life is a chain of generations. It's a chain of generations going on into the future, and back into the past. So a moral system is a system that is sustainable into the future, which the current system is virtually not. It is virtually impossible that this system is going to continue into the future.
Now, before we get into the details of the environmental systems and the various environmental threats that we face - many of which are quite widely known anyway - we need to look at a subject that very few people really want to look at, particularly in America, which is the issue of political philosophy. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a conventional wisdom that American-style democracy, of course, is going to be the ultimate form of government, and one individual got so carried away, he even wrote a book and said that history was now over, because America had either won the Cold War, or the Soviet Union had lost the Cold War. And that's an interesting analysis as to whether America won the Cold War, or whether you had two rather deeply troubled systems, and one of them fell apart before the other one did. So, that's something that needs to be kept in mind, because the roots of the American political system are a lot more fragile when you look back in time, and as America would like people to believe - or powerful forces in America would like people to believe - the roots of American democracy are very shallow.
You're talking about something that was around for about 200 years. And, more troubling when you go back into the the classical roots of the system on which this was built, the classical systems of democracy in ancient Greece and Athens, you see very serious problems that ended up causing these systems to self-destruct. Now, it will be argued that classical Greece and classical Rome were not true democracies, that they had slavery, so on and so forth, which is true. But it is also true that the political structures of America, and of modern parliamentary democracy, are based on neoclassical models, and are heavily influenced by the structure of ancient Greece and Rome.
So, what happened in ancient Greece and Rome is highly relevant to what is going to happen in the future today. And it is also important to look at the overall structure of political theory. Democracy is the exception, it is not the rule. In evaluating the experience of totalitarianism in the 20th century, it is necessary to also go back into the past to analyze that. Now, some people would like to believe that totalitarianism of the 20th century is just some crazy thing that came up, and we had these people - Hitler, Stalin, Mau - and they were all crazy people who just popped up. This is absolute nonsense. Totalitarianism is very ancient. In fact, it's older in many ways, more widespread than democracy. So, the manifestation of totalitarian systems of government, particularly in the 1930s in Europe, and later in the 1940s in the 1950s in Asia, it is something that had very, very deep roots. And it's very important to understand that, if you're going to understand where the future might lead. Because what we have in today's world is a contradiction between science and politics. We have a series of very severe problems in the environmental and economic fields, and we have a political structure that is increasingly disconnected from these problems, and is doing a very, very poor job of dealing with these problems. So, these are incompatible trends. These are trends that cannot continue.
Now, what we also have - and probably is the dominant theme of today's world - the issue of debt and deception. Every page in history has some unique trends. And probably the most unique trend of our age is this enormous level of debt being built up in terms of, particularly environmental debt, in terms of borrowing from the future. And how that will be paid back is a very critical issue. Now, the other issue that is taking place is deception. It's, "things really aren't all that bad," or, "reelect me, I'm doing a great job," and let's just not talk about the tough measures that might have to be taken to clean up the mess that the current political class has produced. And you don't just want to be totally negative about everybody in politics, and so on. It is a difficult business, but we do have to draw some markers as to what these people are doing, and what they're not doing.