It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Neither Optimist nor Pessimist, Just Activist

Posted to Dot Earth:

I'm not an optimist. I do not predict a good outcome. Nor am I a pessimist. I do not predict a bad outcome. I think the whole question is wrong-headed in the extreme.

The whole point of calling our time the anthropocene is to emphasize that we control our destiny. Good, or bad? It's our decision and our responsibility.

I believe a tolerably good outcome is possible, if and only if we work together toward it. It's not a question of predicting. It's a question of deciding.

Though some losses are already behind us and many more are inevitable, there is still much we can celebrate and build upon. We must stop treating the natural world as something to exploit, and start realizing that it is our home. If we do that, we can thrive. The other choices look dire. Why not choose to do our best?


Anonymous said...

Because there is no possibility to restore everything already lost; and because there is little interest in doing so; and because there are far too many humans making far too many demands; and because there is an endless litany of unsolved problems that are still escalating in scope and severity; and because money drives virtually everything, and greed drives even that; and because monetizing everything, including the environment, future, health, happiness and virtually all things found within human civilization - I do not share your "belief" that a "good outcome is possible".

In fact, such a position is, in my own opinion, but based upon several decades of close study, ridiculously optimistic.

The ability to "thrive" can only occur when there is an abundance of resources - which do not exist anymore. Not even democracy can continue without this abundance. But in their wasted absence, we do have an abundance of people - who still want everything that is fast disappearing and are demonstrably "insisting" on taking whatever is left, even if it means extinction (and often does). This is bound to cause conflicts and manifold problems, even beyond the metrics we are measuring today.

"The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen." - Arthur C. Clarke

Hogwash of course. There is more suffering and destruction and misery now then ever before (stats prove this, i.e., more slavery, more hunger, more "bad" of virtually everything). Clarke was just a author, but not prescient.

Honesty dictates we tell the truth and what Clarke projected is not the present or the truth, it was just wishful thinking.

Which is what you are doing in your post - projecting wishful thinking and attempting to declare as truth. Honesty dictates you accept the reality of our common predicament.

We cannot replace all that has now been lost, or all that has now gone extinct, or all that has been consumed, or mined, or tossed away. What remains is but a former fragment of the tremendous abundance that once existed, but it does not exist anymore and there is virtually nothing we can do to bring any of it back.

Wish all you want, but an honest assessment of all that is lost and what little remains, and what this means for 7+ billion, and the events that are unfolding, and what we actually DO know about the future from measurements being taken today, then optimism of any kind is the refuge of denial.

It may make you feel better, but it's just hopium and has no basis in reality or truth.

Russell Seitz said...

Those seeking to revise the geological column risk getting what they wish for- the brave new world of the Anthropocene could end up being styled the Neocarboniferous.

Russell Seitz said...

Those seeking to revise the geological column do so at their own risk: the brave new world of the Anthropocene could end up being styled the Neocarboniferous.