Monday, March 26, 2012

A future only a mother could love

You gentlemen are making a great mistake. The exchange is a perfect institution.

(Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange during the crash of 1929)

I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and gas run out before we tackle that.

(Thomas Edison, in conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, 1931)

We want ours

China and India together have more than two billion people, approximately a quarter of the world's population, a fact that ought not to elicit unrestrained optimism for planet Earth and its inhabitants, in spite of the economic “successes” of both countries, especially China.

Of course we can hope that China and India will somehow get it right in the not too distant future, but the pressure to improve life for the millions and the attempt to expand the middle class is likely to only speed up the unsustainable treadmill, as the search across the globe for finite resources becomes even more frenzied and destructive. We probably don't have another 100 years to finally realize we went down the wrong path.

Try to imagine

Curt Stager, paleoclimatologist, has written an interesting book on the theoretical what if. Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth asks us to look at the possibilities of what could happen to our planet and ultimately to all life on it. What happens after global warming? is one of the questions Stagner raises. What might we do now to avert the worst possibilities?

What to do

While too much time has already been spent complaining about the climate denialists or corporate misinformation or political corruption or even public ignorance—certainly in the United States—we have not done a lot of thinking about our ability to tell stories effectively. It's the creative narrative that needs to be created.

Yes, as has been said, scientists need to become better storytellers when it comes to science and the public—like it or not. But the rest of us have a part to play. The Occupy movement has taught us that we can change the same old tired narrative and create a compelling new story. It is however not a part-time effort. So what are we willing to do?

What we need to invent … are ways in which farsightedness can become a habit of the citizenry of the diverse peoples of this planet.

(Margaret Mead, Atmospheric Science Conference, North Carolina, 1975)

Additional reading:

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