Former Prime Minister discusses changing future

Former U.K. Prime Minister John Major told his audience that today’s world is changing faster than ever, and it is time to start preparing for the future.

Following the reign of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Major served as the U.K. prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party from 1990-1997, inheriting a significant currency crisis and leading the nation through the first Gulf War in 1991. In in the George Herbert Walker Jr. Lecture Tuesday afternoon, Major discussed the major modern social, political and economic trends and their potential effects on the future.

John Major, who served as the U.K.'s prime minister from 1990 to 1997, spoke about the current state of global affairs at Yale Tuesday.
James Lu
John Major, who served as the U.K.'s prime minister from 1990 to 1997, spoke about the current state of global affairs at Yale Tuesday.

“Planning for the world needs to begin now,” Major said, emphasizing the importance of paying attention to long-term trends in order to better the future.

One such trend is the exponential growth of the global population, which Major said has doubled in 41 years and will pass 9 billion by 2050.

He stressed the importance of providing universal necessities for those who are uneducated and live below the poverty line, because they will make up the vast majority of the additional 4 billion people.

“These are not just statistics, they’re people,” he said. “Men, women, children with hopes, fears, ambitions and needs; needs for food, water, clothing, housing, jobs and every basic of life.”

Major touched on the reality of climate change as a result of society’s dependence on fossil fuels and wasteful use of energy. Although overlooked by many nations, a search for alternative means of energy is essential, especially in world where 100 million cars are sold every year and the price of oil is just over $80 per barrel, he said.

Although Major stressed the grim circumstances that humanity faces, he also expressed his excitement about recent medical and technological advancements.

“Fantasy is becoming reality,” he said, adding that things that seemed impossible a decade ago, such as repairing nerve damage in patients with Parkinson’s disease and collecting antigravity matter, are now closer to being achieved.

Major also pointed out the growing role of developing nations in international politics as well as emerging markets, and said he thinks the West’s shrinking pre-eminence is a positive change.

“It is great to have the opportunity to listen to a great leader talk about today’s problems as well as the future,” said former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who introduced Major.

Sophie Nethercut ’14 said she thought Major’s speech promoted a very positive worldview.

“I thought his point on how governments need to collaborate more was a very important statement,” she said.

Major helped set the stage for the “Good Friday Agreement” between Ireland and Northern Ireland during his time as prime minister, and also served during “Black Wednesday,” when the value of the pound plummeted on Sept. 16, 1992.

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