Its the darkest of ironies that at precisely the historical moment that the human race need as many people as possible to parse complex problems –climate change, energy crises, lock-jawed governing bodies, and brand new forms of systemic poverty– being a grad student has become something akin to a feudal apprenticeship. You are at a severe disadvantage if you do not have some source of external income and/or a profound gift for writing grants and selling yourself as a professional scholar. It means that the young scions of families that have benefited the most from corporate welfare and oligarchy are the ones that will graduate into the positions of power charged with nothing less than saving our planetary civilization. It means that the large corporate and nonprofit entities that have amassed enormous war chests will be funding and directing the research of those few graduate students that don’t have a personal stake in maintaining an unsustainable status quo.
In fact I can’t say that we’re not screwed – god knows what unforeseen dangers are lurking in our little corner of the universe. The sun could explode, or the planet could implode. The Yellowstone caldera is overdue for a cataclysmic eruption. All hell could break lose.
And if you’re conversant with Buddhist thinking, you know that all things are impermanent.
That said, I also know that we’re remarkably resilient and we can probably survive more than we know. The real question (as in the global warming controversies) is this: is there something we can do now to avert a catastrophe, and should we be doing it? Those who once denied “global warming” (I prefer climate change), faced with incontrovertible evidence that Something Is Up, are now acknowledging that point but arguing that there’s nothing we can do about it (i.e., we shouldn’t do anything to disturb tourism on Amity Island, even as Bruce the shark cruises the waters, looking for hors d’oeuvres.)