Future Perfect: Is There Hope?

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It depends on how you look at the future.

An awful lot of people don’t seem to look beyond the weekend.

But some number of folk do try to imagine the world to come, and to my thinking, they tend to fall into two camps.

On one side are the unfettered optimists who usually see technology being the hero on the white horse that rescues the day.

The other camp consists of those who think it’s already “game over” because we’ve fouled our nest beyond repair and human nature is ultimately self-destructive.

Future Perfect, a worthwhile bit of optimism published over at at Grist  sees the world from the optimist camp. I share some of the author’s understandings of a best-of-all-possible-worlds use of technology. We are capable of solving many of our energy, food, transportation and resource needs. We are smart. But we are not very wise.

The author makes some good points, and some rosy assumptions.

What do you see when you contemplate the world you great-great grandchildren will live in? Can you bring yourself to really, honestly face it, and convert that to action on the ground today?


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. The optimitstic article ended as cautionary as you would, Fred. Saying that the possibilities will only do us any good if people change, and he seems to concede that this isn’t a slam dunk at all. All in all, I think his tone was on the right track. Solutions are doable, in theory, for lots of our issues. And knowing that is important, so people will try to make it happen.

  2. The fear I have with the optimistic view, which otherwise I tend to share, is that we don’t realize how much it will cost, and we won’t be able to afford it. People never seem to bring economics into environmentalism except to condemn capitalism. Adaptation to climate change is going to be very costly!

  3. My fear is that we will continue to figure cost only in dollars and not include the cost of agriculture, commerce, travel and other consumption on the Goose we are killing for the golden eggs of creature comfort and the illusory “progress and growth” that drives our present measure of economic health–the GNP.

    And more, that unless there is a heart change–a relational repentance, you might say–in how we treat each other and the earth–then the projected future is business as usual, and that dog don’t hunt.

    Alternative energy and all forms of sustainability are just lipstick on a pig unless we change our understanding of relationships, and this then translates into an eco-economic model that treats people and planet as high a priority as profit.