What future are we creating?

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Tony Robertson University of Stirling, UK

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As I write this editorial on the morning of 14 November 2023, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza enters its 39th day. Lack of power, medical consumables, oxygen, food and water, not to mention the daily bombardments and fighting, have meant most of the hospitals in Gaza City and northern Gaza are no longer functioning. For example, in the Shifa Hospital, as of midnight, between 12 and 13 November, ‘600–650 inpatients, 200-500 staff, and 1,500 internally displaced persons were believed to have remained in the hospital. Among the patients at heightened risk of death were reportedly 36 babies in incubators and a number of kidney dialysis patients’ (OCHA, 2023a). The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the hospital as ‘nearly a cemetery’ (Slow, 2023). Some 11,000 people have been reported dead in Gaza since the conflict started, with over 27,000 injuries, reflecting 0.5% and 1.2% of the total population of 2.3 million. Further, 70% of Gazans, some 1.6 million people, have been internally displaced (OCHA, 2023b). Housing, food, water, sanitation, education and health are all severely impacted in this humanitarian crisis. Who knows what the situation will be like by the time you read this and when our January issue is published. What is happening in Gaza is heartbreaking, but also should not distract us from the other major conflicts and atrocities taking place in the likes of Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Ukraine (to name just a few). As we start to face up to the reality of climate change, conflicts over finite resources and inhabitable land will only escalate.

It is hard to focus on the day-to-day tasks when so much trauma happens around us, although for many, myself included, we are sheltered from the worst of what is happening and will happen in the future. And the privileged position we find ourselves in, largely through dumb luck being born in the ‘right’ country and having been given the tools to succeed in our societies, must not be squandered. As academics, researchers, policy makers, practitioners and community members, it is our role and duty to create and promote a positive vision for the future, supported by evidence that shows the positive and negative influences of social circumstances across people’s lives and those that can be transferred between generations. Our January issue starts off with reflections on the role of the Society for Longitudinal Studies, LLCS and the wider academic field, led by a summary of the conversation that took place at the 2022 conference in Ohio with Rick Settersten, Dale Dannefer, Glen Elder, Jeylan Mortimer and Jessica Kelley reflecting on the work we do studying social change in people’s lives (Settersten et al, 2024). A reply follows by past SLLS president Dario Spini and current president Susan Morton on the role of SLLS in such uncertain times (Spini and Morton, 2024). We continue to make new inroads in our understandings, but we stand on the shoulders of others who have come before us laying the foundations for the work and thoughts we have. Like sampling records, we reimagine, re-envision and remix what has come before to create something new and unique, but grounded in knowledge from our teachers. A form of cultural archivism, a repository of knowledge found in the everyday that we reference to validate our thoughts and ideas about the world and pass onto the next generation.

Sometimes the drivers of social change will be as extreme as wars and conflicts such as those explored in this issue by Wong and Edwards (2024) looking at the life circumstances of refugees. Others, will be more ‘subtle’, such as advantage/disadvantage and inequality explored by Liew (2024) on cognition and Peri-Rotem (2024) on fertility outcomes. Living in an age of extremes and facing the climate emergency means people must face up to the reality of a less bright future for their children than they have experienced. Perhaps all generations have had this fear of what the future holds, but mainly hoping it will be a better place for their children to grow up in. Sligo et al (2024) explore the decision to have children or not in teenagers in the 1980s in New Zealand. The children born from this cohort form the generation now faced with these tough decisions factoring in the type of future their children will be faced with.

While many of the exposures and impacts across the life course can be similar across groups in society, we must also not forget the individual context in which our lives occur (of course shaped by the interactions with people and systems). It is in this vein that Russo and Kelly explore the concept of the ‘lifeworld’ (in the context of health and disease):

The basic idea is that each and every one of us inhabits our own lifeworld. It is deeply subjective in the sense that it is constituted of the assumptions, understandings and taken-for-granted aspects of our everyday existence. It is the seat of our sense of self, and the ideas we have about who and what we are, and who and what others are. We anticipate the actions of others and we anticipate the effects that our actions will have on others in our lifeworld. But the lifeworld also consists of the things we do, the actions we take, the practices in which we engage on a day-to-day basis. It is what we do, and our bodies are like a book in which we inscribe all the many things we do and we experience. (Russo and Kelly, 2024)

Funding

The author received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

References

  • Liew, H. (2024) Explaining disparities in cognitive functioning: a test of competing hypotheses, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 4568. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16836624887393

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  • OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) (2023a) Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel: Flash Update #38, ReliefWeb, 13 November, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-38, (Accessed: 14 Nov 2023).

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  • OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) (2023b) Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – reported impact, 13 November 2023 at 23:59, ReliefWeb, 13 November, updated 14 November, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-reported-impact-13-november-2023-2359, (Accessed: 14 Nov 2023).

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  • Peri-Rotem, N. (2024) Education, health indicators and fertility outcomes: a longitudinal analysis of couples in Britain, Longitudinal and Life Course, 15(1): 109132. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16822409446639

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  • Russo, F. and Kelly, M.P. (2024) The ‘lifeworld’ of health and disease and the design of public health interventions, Longitudinal and Life Course, 15(1): 2544. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16835353334712

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  • Settersten, R.A. Jr, Dannefer, D., Elder, G.H. Jr, Mortimer, J.T. and Kelley, J. (2024) Studying social change in human lives: a conversation, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 518. doi: 10.1332/17579597Y2023D000000005

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  • Sligo, J.L., Hohmann-Marriott, B.E., McAnally, H.M. and Hancox, R.J. (2024) Impact of New Zealand teenagers’ fertility intentions on childbearing, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 89108. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16783960472524

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  • Slow, O. (2023) Al-Shifa: WHO says Gaza hospital unable to bury dead bodies, BBC News, 14 November, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-67410093, (Accessed: 14 Nov 2023).

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  • Spini, D. and Morton, S. (2024) The SLLS in uncertain times: an opportunity to develop an impactful and responsive society: a reply to Settersten et al, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 1924. doi: 10.1332/17579597Y2023D000000003

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  • Wong, C.Y. and Edwards, B. (2024) Age at arrival and integration outcomes of refugee youth and emerging adults: a longitudinal study, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 6988. doi: 10.1332/175795923x16839016657163

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    • Export Citation
  • Liew, H. (2024) Explaining disparities in cognitive functioning: a test of competing hypotheses, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 4568. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16836624887393

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) (2023a) Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel: Flash Update #38, ReliefWeb, 13 November, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-38, (Accessed: 14 Nov 2023).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) (2023b) Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – reported impact, 13 November 2023 at 23:59, ReliefWeb, 13 November, updated 14 November, https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-reported-impact-13-november-2023-2359, (Accessed: 14 Nov 2023).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peri-Rotem, N. (2024) Education, health indicators and fertility outcomes: a longitudinal analysis of couples in Britain, Longitudinal and Life Course, 15(1): 109132. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16822409446639

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Russo, F. and Kelly, M.P. (2024) The ‘lifeworld’ of health and disease and the design of public health interventions, Longitudinal and Life Course, 15(1): 2544. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16835353334712

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Settersten, R.A. Jr, Dannefer, D., Elder, G.H. Jr, Mortimer, J.T. and Kelley, J. (2024) Studying social change in human lives: a conversation, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 518. doi: 10.1332/17579597Y2023D000000005

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sligo, J.L., Hohmann-Marriott, B.E., McAnally, H.M. and Hancox, R.J. (2024) Impact of New Zealand teenagers’ fertility intentions on childbearing, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 89108. doi: 10.1332/175795921x16783960472524

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Slow, O. (2023) Al-Shifa: WHO says Gaza hospital unable to bury dead bodies, BBC News, 14 November, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-67410093, (Accessed: 14 Nov 2023).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Spini, D. and Morton, S. (2024) The SLLS in uncertain times: an opportunity to develop an impactful and responsive society: a reply to Settersten et al, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 1924. doi: 10.1332/17579597Y2023D000000003

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wong, C.Y. and Edwards, B. (2024) Age at arrival and integration outcomes of refugee youth and emerging adults: a longitudinal study, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 15(1): 6988. doi: 10.1332/175795923x16839016657163

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Tony Robertson University of Stirling, UK

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