The last several years have been hard on optimists. After experiencing the ongoing trauma of imminent financial crises, catastrophic weather events, erratic global socio-political dynamics, and heartbreaking acts of terrorism and violence, we’re in desperate need of a pendulum swing in 2013.
I’m hopeful that 2013 will bring not only a shift away from the threat of fiscal Armageddon that has paralyzed our economy for the last 5 years, but also a new ethic of sustainability that will be woven into the fabric of our future growth.
Economists predict that 2013 will bring measurable growth in the developed world (with the year starting out slowly but picking up pace in the 3rd and 4th quarters), and fairly aggressive growth in the developing world (with China and India leading the charge, and Indonesia and Philippines following suit).
In the building sector, there is light on the horizon. Greg Ip, economics editor for The Economist, affirms that “bargain-spotting investors have cleared out much of the supply of vacant homes. With supply shrinking, new houses are at least being built: construction rose steadily through 2012. House prices are also rising on a year-on-year basis for the first time since 2007.” According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, house prices are expected to rise 3% in 2013 and the number of new-home mortgages is expected to reach its highest point since 2000.
In addition to continued growth in the housing market, we can expect progress in the solar industry (which experienced 86% growth in 2011); renewable energy storage systems (such as flow batteries which use liquid electrolytes to store energy in chemical form); information technology and digital data that enable smart buildings to optimize their own performance; wearable technologies that improve occupant comfort; ‘benign’ and ‘conflict free’ products that use sustainable materials from acceptable suppliers (such as the new computer chip from Intel that uses no minerals from war-ravaged countries); anything that enhances energy efficiency and building performance; and innovative ‘biomimicry’ products (like algae that purifies wastewater and generates reusable heat in the process).
I also anticipate that we’ll see advances in ‘smart-city platforms’, in which citizens help municipalities develop optimization programs for essential infrastructure components, including smart grids, public transportation routing and traffic flows, and real-time automated pricing systems for road traffic.
The Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that we’ll also see a continued transformation in consumer values. Obsession with being rich is ebbing. Health, safety, and sustainability are on the rise.
Unfortunately, I suspect that our political system will remain in gridlock, with bitter ideological swagger preventing the development of coherent policies that can encourage growth and tackle the soaring national debt.
And, climate scientists predict that 2013 will be the hottest year since the beginning of the 20th century, with more planetary warming, extreme weather events, ecosystem failure, and habitat uncertainty on the horizon.
Progress requires reinvention. We must navigate the minefield of our fractured economy and bruised social consciousness to craft forward-thinking approaches in which investment in research, innovation, and sustainability enable us to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
Today’s pressing issues—including the fiscal cliff, gun control, and mental health—demand earnest discussion. Finding viable solutions to these complex conundrums require a collaborative approach, with all parties vested in success rather than politics.
The holidays are a time for making wishes, so in the spirit of the season, I wish that we all take time during this holiday break to reflect on how we can influence a healthy, effective, and balanced national discussion about transforming our policies and methodologies so that we can appropriately respond to a changing climate and culture.
I wish that leaders like Governors Cuomo (D-NY) and Christie (R-NJ) come together in 2013 to facilitate a discussion about how to rebuild their ravaged states and develop comprehensive plans to prevent widespread disaster caused by inevitable future super storms and rising sea levels.
I wish that members of Congress find the courage and political will to break the zeitgeist of holding our country hostage with their increasingly partisan tactics, start listening to our rising voices, and assume their proper roles of watchful guardians of American people, rather than beating their chests and posturing for the sake of electoral advantage.
I wish that the holiday break allows the families that lost homes, livelihoods, and loved ones in Sandy Hook, as well as the rest of the country, essential catharsis and healing.
And, I wish that you and your families have a safe, joyful, and sustainable holiday season.
What is your holiday wish? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.
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