Which of the challenges of the 21st century so far has proved most significant and will have the greatest impact on the future?

In President Clinton’s 1999 State of the Union address he looked ahead to the turn of the millennium and gave the American people an important message. He said, “My fellow Americans, this is our moment. Let us lift our eyes as one nation, and from the mountaintop of this American Century, look ahead to the next one.” A new century was ahead that promised unknown challenges and an uncertain future. These included a contested election, hurricane Katrina, financial meltdown, war, terrorism, etc.

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Personally, I think the greatest domestic challenge of the 21st century in America is the rapid decay in moral and ethical understanding in our younger adult, youth and youngster generations.

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The greatest challenge we have had is the development and sustainment of a world economic. We seem to be struggling with international finance and banking structures here at home. We need to find ways to not be so susceptible to economic downturns.
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I would agree that the financial crisis has been the most significant event so far. And, since there are no obvious or easy answers to the crisis (which is now even worse in Europe than in the U. S.), it is frightening to think what might happen in the long run.  Most advanced countries have over-spent or over-promised so much that it is difficult to see how the future can be very bright, as least in the short term. Economic instability, if it worsens and/or continues long enough, might easily lead to social and even military conflict.

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Either the worldwide economic changes or the changing climate could be a very legitimate candidate for the title of "the most significant" change so far. I'm not really sure it makes much difference. The bigger concern in my mind is the second part of the original question - "which change will have the greatest impact on the future?" We need to deal with the changes that have occurred, and we need to find ways to live with the effects of those changes and the ones that are undoubtedly still coming.

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I'm going to go with economics as well, but I don't think it's the shift to China that needs to worry us.  What is more important is the ability to innovate and move the economy forward in a way that will preserve our "social contract."  It used to be that a person who worked hard could get ahead, even if they had little education.  But now, those types of jobs are gone and so people can work hard but have no way of really getting ahead.  We need to find some way to ensure that anyone who is willing to work hard can at least have a decent life.

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We have weathered economic storms and armed conflict before, and corruption and deadlock in politics are nothing new.  I think my vote for the most serious challenge with the most significant long term effects would be Climate Change.  Despite a mountain of scientific evidence and specific suggestions for what we could do about it, humans have shown a stubborn intransigence to taking any appropriate action to limit carbon output or even to change daily habits of consumption.  We are already seeing the effects in more violent weather patterns, disappearing glaciers, receding sea ice, higher sea levels, more intensive storm systems, and more extremes in precipitation and drought patterns.  The new normal is a climate that is more hostile to us on planet Earth.

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This question is, of course, a matter of opinion. So, I am sure that there will be many good answers. In my opinion, the greatest impact so far in the 21st century is the financial crash 2008. There are three reasons for this.

First, I believe that 2008 was just the beginning. The economic problems are not finished and there is very little in the world that is going well in terms of the economy that it will be very difficult for the United States to get out of this mess. In short, I do not see a catalyst for the economy to pick up. Stagnation is the new normal.

Second, the economic trouble of the West show that there is a shift taking place. For example, western countries are by and large debtor nations, whereas Asian countries are creditor nations. Historically speaking power goes where the money is and the money is in places like China. So, we are seeing a shift of power right before our eyes.

Third, the economic problems in America also shows great domestic problems. In a word, there is much greed on all levels. For instance, the House and Senate should not be able to trade stocks, because they have so much sensitive information. It really is akin to insider trading, but they do not do anything to fix this problem. Also the banks, which were too big to fail, are now even bigger! Also all this printing of money and lack of jobs point to stagflation.

It is important to keep in mind that from a historical perspective, debt and the lack of jobs create great social unrest, which can lead to greater problems.

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