Maybe it's just my imagination, but it seems as if both the number and intensity of proclaimed "imminent" or "looming" crisis warnings are rising. Whether it's energy, nanometer fabs, climate change, obesity, anorexia, food, water, commodities, flu, doctors, energy, RF or UV, it seems as if a lot of skies are falling (my apologies to Chicken Little).
Consider the crisis prediction, just a few years ago, that carpal tunnel syndrome was a brewing epidemic. If we were to believe even a fraction of the hype, by now much of the population should be crippled from too much keyboarding. Tort lawyers were in standby mode, ready to sue vendors and anybody else involved with keyboards.
So, what happened? Perhaps there's less standard typing going on, thanks to the "thumbing" of texting and BlackBerries, along with increased use of non-QWERTY touchscreens. More likely, though, the problem was never going to be as severe as the fear-factor folks proclaimed. While I don't deny that some people do indeed suffer from CTS, it's certainly not an epidemic.
I'm not sure why crisis enumeration has risen exponentially, but I have a theory. The media need something--anything--to fill their time, space and channels, and crises make good grabbers.
Then there are the people who are committed to a cause or project, and want to attract attention to it.
Finally, there's the impact of fast, widespread dissemination of any news or information, which raises the ambient noise level much higher. Thus, to be heard, the signal levels must go ever higher. It's the old SNR problem.
Meanwhile, almost inevitably, the crisis mongers' warnings conclude with a call for more "support," "research" or "commitment," all of which map to "cash." Coincidence? I don't think so.
I've started to tune out the bulk of those crying wolf, which is unfortunate because we do face some genuine crises that engineers can help address--if only I was sure what they are. Meanwhile, I have an image of all these crises spiraling inward like stars of a galaxy, at ever-increasing speeds (conservation of angular momentum) and converging at the center. There, they collapse into a super-dense crisis core, where one of two things happens: 1) It is so dense that no further crisis news can ever escape (a crisis black hole); or 2) The collapsed core goes "supernova" and explodes, spewing crisis news all over the universe--to start the process again.