In the last week or two, what politicians and the media have been discussing is a step way above what we were consumed with a few weeks ago, when everyone was talking about lipstick on pigs and whose campaign was slimier than the other.
Today the one thing on everyone's lips is the credit crunch, and Wall Street and how if we keep spending what we don't have, we're resigned to financial doom.
No, but seriously, while it should be debated and discussed, we do have some other problems that will hurt our pocketbooks and way of life sooner rather than later. They just rarely get discussed much anymore.
So I just thought I'd throw some other thoughts out there in case anyone wants to start a dialogue with, say, their brother-in-law in Congress. Or if your best friend is Oprah or one of the ladies on The View, and you think they might want to take up a crusade...
Our water shortage. A new documentary has been helping spread the word. According to the new film, Flow--for the Love of Water, California will run out of water in about 20 years. New Mexico has ten, hopefully. Beijing is supposed to reach a water crisis point in 2010, and Pakistan is having problems with water shortages right now. And if you're looking for a canary in the coal mine, consider Magoffin County in Kentucky, which has been having water shortage problems due to a drought that has affected the Licking River. They've been using throw away plates and trays in the school cafeterias so workers don't have to wash dishes. This is scary stuff.
Our nation's kids aren't excelling in science and math. The numbers aren't pretty, and they never seem to be, do they? I don't remember in the 1980s when I was roaming my high school's halls ever hearing that we were kicking Finland's butt in math. (No offense to Finland.) At any rate, the average science score of American students lags behind 16 of 30 countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group that represents the world's most affluent nations. In math, we were 23rd out of 30 countries. And, sure, the politicians will give lip-service to this problem, but it doesn't seem like much is being done in Washington. In recent times, Bill Gates has predicted that while the United States is still the innovation center of the world, China may soon overtake us. While this seems like a small problem compared to say, not having enough liquid to drink and bathe in, it isn't exactly something the United States should be proud of.
Long-term care for our elders. We hear a lot about social security and universal health coverage, but not a lot about how the shaky state of our healthcare industry will care for the Baby Boomers as they get older. The elderly population between now and 2030 is expected to double. The last census information (from 2002) I can find shows that people over 55 number around 60 million. So in 22 years, we're looking at 120 million senior citizens needing healthcare, and that's troubling, since so many people seem to be having problems dealing with that issue now. And since it's only going to get worse, unless it's fixed, right now, we're looking at a future perfect storm.
Which is good, since we'll need the water.
Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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