Our modern globalised economic world has failed our children terribly. 1.5 million children die of hunger every year around the world, 28% of children in developing countries are malnourished, and millions are without drinking water, or in abject poverty. Why is it that a relentless focus on economic growth has not trickled down in all these decades as promised by economic globalization to those most in need? Even with middle-class citizens, while the modern world may have brought us many comforts, conveniences and toys, it has brought in many new problems and anxieties as well. We asked some parents we knew what hopes and concerns they held for their children’s future. With their children in “good” schools, they had no great concerns about education, health and jobs. Most of them spoke about their children becoming insensitive, often self-centred or keen on music that spoke of anger and violence. Were these just teenage blues, or would they have deeper implications? Are these a sign of things to come or are they exceptions we can ignore?
I browsed the internet to see what the world had to say about the future of our children. There were websites, mostly American, that talked of the problems of poverty, nutrition and basic schooling and giving children an equal playing field, both within and outside the US. Parents’ websites were full of concerns about academic performance of children, and about issues of health, responsibility and violence. There was one website, www.netmums.com, which talked of a survey of more than 2500 mothers on what their top fear for their child’s / children’s future was. Interestingly, crime was the leader as top fear with 57.7% votes. The environment, climate change and fuel shortages got 20.1 %, (which is heartening) and Education got 8.1 % of the votes. All the rest of the options - employment opportunities, relationships, health and the future of the world got less than 5% votes each. The mothers who feared crime the most were not only worried about their children becoming victims, but also about their getting into a violent gang culture. And the concerns in the west about children is a lot more – drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancies, and a whole range of psychological problems
Do we need to take a pause from our busy schedules and think of what really is the future we are creating for our children? In many ways – what was happening to the US and other countries of the west 30 to 50 years ago is happening in India today. More urbanization, more traffic, junk food, consumerism in the cities and more exploitation of the land, natural resources and people of the rural areas, are all India’s problems as well
Our children are already following in the footsteps of children in the west just as Governments of countries of the South are submitting to the US and the world trade treaties to open up our markets to the world. Is there a connection between the two? In this issue, we have Helena Norberg-Hodge sharing her analysis on how economic globalization is inflicting problems on our youth, Satish Kumar connecting the dots between Soil, Soul and Society and many others offering their thoughts on the future of our children. We do hope you enjoy reading them. Please do write back to us with your feedback and responses.