It's forecasting time again, this year with an added meteorological spin -- and let's hope I'm not tempting more weird weather with that expression. Seeing Sandy's damage to so many homes, including my own, got me thinking back over the many years I have been warning that extreme weather would be hitting a neighborhood near me, and near you, and near everyone who inhabits this abused planet.
Amid all the memories of hauling two gallon jugs of deeply discounted spring water (kudos to Wal-Mart for not price gouging) after we had exhausted the supplies waiting in our bathtubs, I've been rethinking my ongoing prediction about global water shortages starting in the 1990s when I first heard Dutch Prince Willem-Alexander explaining his belief that a clean-water crisis was inevitable. Environmental experts are now calling it peak water, the point at which the demand for water outstrips supply. It's already happening somewhere near you, because modern urban living, factories and intensive farming are thirsty, and populations are huge and growing.
This spells disaster in arid areas such as the Mediterranean, the American West, India and southern Africa. Even parts of rain-sodden England have declared drought. When there's not enough surface water in rivers and lakes, people pump up groundwater from aquifers, but even they have their limits. Some run dry, while many get contaminated by seawater seeping into the caverns, ruining what is left of nature's reservoir--a big problem because more than half of the world lives within about 40 miles of a coast. Discussions about how to get clean water and how much it should cost is the new normal.
On water as on many other things, by the way, the Dutch have been ahead of the curve for most of modern history. Watch their new purple government, since the sound of the year, co- (as in collaboration and co-creation), is a vital "next" wherever extremism, brinkmanship and denial have pushed adversaries to slug it out on a crumbling cliff.
The Going Native trend is another key theme for 2013. It's important in my life, too, as evidenced by our household decor, my collection of American Indian jewelry and my obsession with Novica.com. For years, I have been drawn to local artisans on my trips abroad, triggered by my first trip to southern Africa in the mid-1990s. As the world and my life were becoming increasingly anywhere-and-everywhere virtual, I found myself attracted to people, places and especially artistic expressions that felt organically connected to the authenticity of a disappearing past or a more vibrant, turned-on now. When our breakneck progress threatens to break the connections with our deep heritage, creative types and pioneering thinkers especially reconnect with native culture for inspiration; it has happened regularly every generation for the past century, and it will happen at a quickening pace in the near future.
Think of the connections with native cultures as a way to (re)connect with ground-zero reality. With much of reality TV being less than real, people's sense of what is fake has sharpened. An original work of art is authentic and the copy is a fake. (So does this mean the Kardashians will be the new authentics in the great entertainment fake?)
What's real to some young men in your local area and maybe even in your home recently was No Shave November. It's no coincidence that we're seeing such gestures of defiant maleness at a time when dads have become the new moms. A five-year mancession has changed the dynamics in every room in the house. In 40 percent of American families, women earn more than their male partners, and they're heading toward the majority in that classification soon. I've got an ongoing interest in gender roles and will be watching this trend as closely as I did the hairy young men traipsing through my kitchen last month.
There is a lot to ponder as we sum up what to expect in the near future. Collectively, we're obsessing about guns, superstorms, a crisis in Gaza and fiscal cliffs, to name just three on an endless list. Individually, we have our own obsessions; for me, it's maintaining semi-wellness despite the steroids I've been taking for several months.
All these collective and individual obsessions are fatiguing, so the mind and mood of the new normal is also about simple pleasures (a great walk with the dogs, baking a holiday pie) and immediate connectivity (today I'm collaborating with Bath, England; Charlottesville, Va.; a team on the Acela speeding toward D.C.; and Tucson, Ariz., all from my seat over Wisconsin headed to the Twin Cities), which makes virtuality a new reality. Add to these many new ideas about the real world we'll live in for the next future, and I'll happily restate an older thought that still resonates from predictions past: We'll do our best to thrive at hope's edge.
This is the final post in a series of 14 expanding on Salzman's forecasts for 2013 in her annual trends report, a program of global communications group Havas Worldwide. This year's book, What's Next? What to Expect in 2013, was published on 12/12/12 and is available at 120MBooks.com. Salzman is CEO of Havas PR North America and an internationally respected trendspotter.