Do you realize that now – right now – is perhaps the most fascinating, exciting, and important time to be a human in our entire existence as a species?

Of all the billions of people who have lived before us over the last few hundred millennia, we 21st century humans have by far the most power, leisure, knowledge, opportunity, and mental capacity. We are inundated with new technology that makes our lives easier and more productive, incredible entertainment and information at our fingertips at all time, beautiful architecture and art, and unprecedented connectivity to our friends and family around the world.

Now is an incredibly fascinating and fortunate time to be alive for the vast majority of us. We don’t have to deal with plagues, tribal warfare, infant death, torture, slavery, genocide and bigotry to nearly the same extent as in times before us. All of these remain challenges, yes, but are unquestionably at their lowest points in our history.

But despite our generational privilege, we also face deep, wicked problems that can’t be ignored. There are consequences to our incredible power, leisure, knowledge, and opportunity. Our lifestyles have caused us to live outside the limits of what our planet can sustain. And not all of us share these incredible fortunes equally or responsibly.

Many of us feel crippling fear in the face of these challenges.

Several of our species’ deepest problems – climate change, ecosystem collapse, viral epidemics, and nuclear proliferation – have the potential to cause utter catastrophe the likes of which we have never seen. These challenges could literally destroy us all, some at any moment with a blink of an eye. Uncertainty for our well-being and even our survival is greater now than ever.

And many of the eternal problems we’ve faced for millennia – poverty, hatred, oppression, greed, cruelty, addiction – are now more impossible to ignore than ever. We are bombarded with images from around the world showing suffering and despair all around us. We see gruesome murders, hear of genocide and ecological destruction from every corner of the globe as they happen.

All the while, a select few of us experience unparalleled health, safety, luxury, and technological capability. Now more than ever we can observe with our own eyes the disparities between the haves and the have nots.

The call to action is so loud because the inequities are so stark and apparent. And further, we are simply more capable than ever of addressing these issues. We have the awareness, economic resources, and technological prowess to usher in prosperity and opportunity to billions like never before.

This is the great question of our time. There is more possibility to do bad now than ever.  There is also more ability to do good now than ever. Which will we choose? How will our generation be remembered?

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Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA with his partner Sara, child Owen, and cat Winnie.


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