Global Threats, Global Futures
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Global Threats, Global Futures

Living with Declining Living Standards

Thayer Scudder

Global threats can be expected to cause a global environmental crisis and declining living standards for most people. Threats analyzed include poverty, cultural, economic, political and religious fundamentalism, consumption, population increase and degradation of the global ecosystem. Chapters on the United States, China and Zambia illustrate difficulties that high, middle and low income countries face in addressing such threats. The final chapter examines the type of transformational change required just to reduce the rate and magnitude of future decline.
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Chapter 4: United States

Thayer Scudder


INTRODUCTION For the first time in human history, threats such as global warming have arisen that require global attention. The United States and China must take the lead as the leading old and new industrial countries. The United States remains the world’s only super power, with China expected to reach super power status by mid-century. China also is leading lateindustrializing countries such as India and Brazil to embrace equally destructive forms of capitalism. The United States’ and China’s role in degrading the globe’s natural resources is just one reason requiring their primary involvement. The characteristics of their institutions and citizens also mean that they have the potential to provide the necessary leadership. No other country rivals the United States’ scientific and technological capacity and the drive of its citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are immigrants, to experiment with new ideas and to develop new enterprises. In China, science and technology were the keys to the four modernizations that were emphasized by Premier Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s. By 2008 China had become ‘the world’s fastest-growing supporter of scientific R&D’ with a budget surpassed only by that of the United States and Japan.1 As for China’s citizens, once their initiative was released by Deng’s support for the household responsibility system (Chapter 5), the rural and small-town majority set a record yet to be surpassed in moving household economies in a single generation from subsistence agriculture to cash cropping and industry. Since the 1970s both science communities have been...

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