Never in our history has humanity undergone so much change so quickly. Technological, social and environmental change is as much a part of 21st century life as getting out of bed every day. We follow ancient recipes to brew our morning coffee whilst handheld smart phones connect us with the rest of the world. By breakfast we can learn more than our grandparents could in a lifetime.
But there are those that do their best to resist the dynamic way of life, clinging to the stable established ways of years gone by. They shake their heads at gay marriage, naysay to climate change and prefer fossil fuels over solar for energy. And never have they posed a more serious threat to humanity than now.
I know firsthand that the military is a big fan of keeping old traditions alive. I’ve put up canvas tents older than myself. I’ve drunk from water bottles that have seen more warzones that I have. I’ve followed doctrine that worked against the Boers. I’ve toasted the fallen with port from a crystal decanter that didn’t touch a table. But I’ve also changed tactics so quickly it took everyone by surprise. When it needs to, the military can evolve overnight.
In late 2001 special forces soldiers rolled into Afghanistan in unarmoured vehicles, open topped Land Rovers and Humvees. A few years, and tragically hundreds of lives, later heavily armoured and technologically advanced vehicles roll down Afghan roads specifically designed to protect against Improvised Explosive Devices. Standard operating procedures changed as all sides of the conflict learnt each other’s strengths and evolved to attack their opponents’ exposed weaknesses.
The war in Afghanistan has shown how adept the military is at recognising the need for change, and embracing new ways. Regretfully it is the sharp end of the spear that promotes change faster than peacetime. War, and its inherent loss of life, is a catalyst for change. Maybe we accept a level of carnage from our air-conditioned homes. Maybe we are willing to bear the loss of a jungle or two, and are happy to exchange a reef and a frog species for a new smartphone and out-of-season fruit and veg. But in the absence of a warzone are we turning a blind eye to fatal danger?
The truth is all of our lives are at risk. The danger is just a real as a muzzle pointed at you, just sold in a different way. It is easy to be aware of your own mortality when someone is using bullets and explosives to end your life; it is much more difficult when the energy you buy and the medicine you take are the means to your end. And it is even more difficult when the global elite profit from your autonomy.
It is easy to blame the man behind the trigger for the death of a soldier. It is much harder to trace the cancer to GMO corn and the avalanches to a 0.1 degree rise in temperature. We are the generation that exist at a crucial moment in the human story, and it is up to us to protect our future.
To resist change is to invite disaster, but to accept it blindly is just as dangerous. We must find a medium where the change we seek embraces our strengths, and defends against our weaknesses. Because a V-shaped hull and a bullet-proof vest won’t save us from Mother Nature.