MASTERS OF OUR FATE?

The fishing industry in Norway. Climatic hazards in Australia. The value of UK exports to the USA. Road and rail transport… A few issues to challenge the little grey cells of politicians, scientists, economists and geographers – now… and then. For these were subjects which I had to address in my 1967 Geography A’ Level exams.

What has changed in half a century? Very little it seems as far as those issues are concerned. But other things have changed: population, pollutants, plastics, pandemics; plus communications and connections – for better or worse.

For all our advances, we still face variations of the same half-century-old concerns. In reality such mind-challenges have occurred throughout the history of human beings. Are we any better at problem-solving than we were? Do we have more capable leaders than in the past? Is every generation limited in what it can achieve? Are we, as Winston Churchill said in a speech in 1941, ‘Masters of our fate and captains of our souls’?

A Geography exam today might modify its questions to ask how the fishing industry in waters around western Europe and Scandinavia might be supported and fish stocks managed responsibly. It might request an analysis of how bush fires in Australia – and elsewhere – might be prevented or managed better. And which countries the UK should trade with, and how.

The world faces daily dilemmas. Much wisdom, in addition to research, knowledge and experience, is needed. History demonstrates that kingdoms and politicians rise and fall. We may do the best we can while we can and, if we have any sense – and humility, ask the one whose world we inhabit, for wisdom.

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