Video: James Martin on the challenges of the 21st century

“At the start of the 21st century, humankind finds itself on a non-sustainable course – a course that, unless it is changed, will lead to catastrophes of awesome consequences. At the same time, we are unlocking formidable new capabilities that could lead to much more exciting lives and glorious civilizations.

“This could be humanity’s last century, or it could be the century in which civilization sets sail towards a far more spectacular future. Decisions that will lead to these wildly different conclusions have to be made soon. They depend upon our being able to understand the options of the 21st century, think logically about our future, and collectively take rational action.

“We live on a small, beautiful and totally isolated planet, but its population is becoming too large, and growing rapidly in its desire to consume products that need resources beyond what the earth can provide. Technology is becoming powerful enough to wreck the planet. We are traveling at breakneck speed into an age of extremes – extremes in wealth and poverty, extremes in technology and the experiments that scientists want to perform, extreme forces of globalism, weapons of mass destruction and terrorists acting in the name of religion. If we are to survive decently, we have to learn how to manage this situation.

“The message of this book is vitally important. We have reached a situation where grand-scale decisions have to be made”

  • Excerpts from James Martin’s 2007 book and documentary (preview). Martin is founder of the Oxford Martin School (previously the 21st Century School).