There's Something in the Air ...

Not being trained in economics, political science or anthropology, I can speak only as an amateur observer. Still, it's clear that a lot of people are sensing the same thing: There are monumental changes taking place around us.

One hardly knows where to begin, but certainly the radical restructuring of the global finance system is one place. Beyond that, the quasi-nationalization of U.S. and European banks and insurance companies, and perhaps even of the American auto industry, all mean that the economic landscape will appear very different a year from now, or even three months from now. Or sooner.

Massive job layoffs, deep recession in the U.S. and the EU, China's economy hitting the brakes, a dramatic drop in oil prices following an equally dramatic rise ...

On the political side of things, we have nuclear weapons proliferation all but out of control, Russia's reassertion of its old bully-boy ways, India's becoming a major ally (the major ally?) of the U.S. And did I mention China?

These things will make the changes wrought by computer technology and the Internet seem gradual by comparison. The war on terror, which has so preoccupied the U.S. and a few allies over the past few years, will continue to make headlines, but will no longer be a policy obsession. Combating global warming will seem, perhaps to our peril, like a luxury concern that we can deal with when other things settle down.

But, since we're talking about climate change, when you read that Canada, Russia and the U.S. have all taken political and military steps to secure ocean routes through the Arctic, you can figure that even the global transportation system is about to be literally turned upside down. Instead of routing goods through the Panama Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope, ships will be able to go from Japan to the Netherlands directly over the North Pole, cutting travel time by two-thirds. A recent piece in The Atlantic predicts that most of the world's shipping will be reoriented as a consequence.

This assumes that goods will be traveling at all, of course.

Alarmist? I don't think so. But, for all the negative consequences — so, so many people out of work — there will certainly be an upside. I think. Won't there be?

Regardless, we all need to hang on tight, because it's gonna be a wild ride.

My advice: Find what's unchanging, and hold to that. 'Nuff said.