Not the end of the world
It is not the end of the world. I imagine that there were many times back in history when people thought it was the end of the world. But as you see, it has not happened yet.
I read an interesting article in Newsweek magazine that got me writing this. The piece was titled ``A roadmap for the planet: How we live today is clearly unsustainable. Why history proves that this is completely irrelevant.”
According to the author Bjorn Lomborg, ``In virtually every developed country, the air is more breathable and the water is more drinkable than they were 40 years ago.”
And while sustainability has always been questioned, Lomborg found that in fact, by any measure, humans have left a legacy of increased opportunity for their descendants.
I think he makes a very good point. Did we think we were going to survive the two World Wars? Did our parents think that the Korean War (1950-1953) was ever going to end?
This gets one thinking about today’s situation in Korea. There are tons of news reports about how soaring inflation and rising interest rates are weighing down on Korean individuals and households.
The Bank of Korea (BOK) had targeted 3 percent as inflation for this year and it has not been that. It has been a ``full” percentage point higher throughout this year. So let’s see: From 3 percent to 4 percent. Is that really that unbearable?
But in keeping with economic theories, the BOK was ``forced” to push up its base interest rate from 3 percent to 3.25 percent, designed to keep inflation down. At 3.25 percent, I really don’t blink.
Yet, the media for one is making it out as if the economy is on the verge of collapse. I would look at high unemployment, especially among youth, and the aging population, much more closely to check on Korea’s economic health. And of course we are.
What is quite curious is that while the BOK was pushing up the interest rate in an effort to keep inflation down, the President and senior government officials got down and heavy recently to address the issue of under-consumption.
While the workshop, lasting for a full two days, should have been closed to the public, they decided that they were having healthy and productive discussions and released the contents.
There was that idea about closing down some of the cafeterias in government buildings so that civil servants can make better use of street-side restaurants and keep them from bankruptcy.
Then there was that suggestion to reorganize students’ vacation time so that they will be able to experience and explore more leisure with their parents. This on top of the oncoming five-day school week.
The thing is that giving public officials more time and opportunity to mingle with lay folks and allowing students to engage in recreation more productively is fine. In fact, quite good. But is this the kind of ideas that have to come from the very top government officials concerned about increasing consumption?
They could certainly have kept everything behind closed doors and devised strategies to say the same thing but differently. You know, window-dressing. After all, government officials in Gwacheon (a government complex on the outskirts of Seoul) would be delighted at the idea of having to walk 10 minutes to mingle with the crowd everyday while certainly spending much more meal money.
What all this is about is that even the President and ministers are probably not too serious about trying to increase consumption although they decided to spend two full days talking about it on our budget.
If they had spent the time figuring out ways of pumping up the economy as a whole and put more money in the pockets of workers, more consumption would happen automatically. No need to close down the cafeteria. No need for two-day workshops.
I know for a fact that the government and legislators are working in the right direction. Really. So the problem is actually getting fixed. We just don’t know when things will begin to happen.
Remember in the late 1990s when the Asian financial crisis jacked up interest rates to the 30 percent range? We thought it was going to be the end of the world but it did not happen.
As we live life, we run into all sorts of problems but most of us manage to find solutions and move on. We usually do not go to the President or the government and ask for their help. We actually know why. We know they never have the answers. We don’t want them to sit down for a couple of days and come up with ridiculous ideas on how to solve problems that are managing themselves.
Seriously, we need to lighten up. There are people with serious problems that need dire solutions and they will somehow find them. Things are never as bad as they seem.
As Lomborg rightly points out, in accordance with history, getting too bogged down about the problems at hand makes it difficult to find smarter ways of getting through them.
As history has proven over centuries all over the world, humans have somehow managed to leave their children a better world. Why would you want to believe that you are the generation that is going to lead us all to Armageddon? I certainly don’t.
Jake J. Nho is currently working on a book about simple things in life that we experience but often ignore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.