Doomsday scenarios. They’re everywhere. Climate catastrophe, over population, over consumption, global pandemics, and oceans filled with plastic… it’s too late! There’s nothing we can do!
How do we deal with this ultimate negativity, this “doomism”? It’s a good question that needs an answer.
Hasn't happened yet
End of the world scenarios have been common throughout history, and so far, they have all been more or less avoided. Think of the warnings posed by George Orwell’s novel 1984. Such a global technological totalitarian state is still possible, but it has not happened. We have somehow heeded the warning and taken a billion tiny steps to avoid it.
If it had happened, if we had not heeded that warning, I would not be communicating with you on a reasonably free and open Internet. It the world of 1984, such communication would not be allowed.
Think of the threat of nuclear holocaust during the Cold War. It did not happen. It was close, very close during the Cuban missile crisis, and it scared the heck out of me and clearly a lot of other people too. But it did not happen.
Yes, certainly it still could! But the point is, it did not. Something changed: a large number of people somehow did a lot of small right things, and we avoided nuclear apocalypse.
Room for optimism
Most people who “give up” don’t know that there are practical answers to our present problems that have real and tangible co-benefits for you and me.
The pandemic caused a sudden 25% drop in global consumption, and as a result the sharpest drop in carbon dioxide and other pollutants in history, proving that it’s possible.
It also caused an “epidemic of kindness,” a global shift in values away from conspicuous consumption and toward the intrinsic values of people, relationships, family and friendships, the value of nature and of purposes greater than our own. Studies of past epidemics confirm that most of these world-shaping changes will stick.
Getting past fossil fuels and into a world fully powered by the unlimited, clean and renewable energies from the sun and wind will be quite easy, actually. Everything is in place; it just needs to be scaled up, way up. Huge, and it will take 20 or 30 years, but pretty straight forward, and the benefits to you, me and all our descendants will be utterly immense.
Moving to clean energy
Both solar and wind energy, now the fastest growing energy resources in the world, have become cheaper than any other sources of energy in history. By this time next year, the costs of these two limitless, clean and plentiful resources (along with storage) will be so cheap that even governments will have to admit it and shift their energy priorities accordingly. The energy world is changing, quickly.
And that’s a good thing. It will improve our health, provide a zillion energy jobs, and reduce the steep price we now pay for most everything, both financially and in a hundred other, even more important ways.
I choose a world of hope
There are no for certain futures, just a very, very wide range of possible ones. But none of these futures are inevitable, written in stone, unavoidable. None.
People continue to change the world with their individual and collective actions every day, some good, some not so good, but the future that actually unfolds is one 100% determined by what we do now, both individually and collectively. One hundred per cent. Now.
I choose to live in a world of hope, in which I believe that the actions I take will indeed make a difference. If we accept that a terrible apocalypse is inevitable then why bother doing anything? Let’s party!
I’m not there yet. I’m still pushing the rock up the hill, to what end I do not truly know, but I am still pushing. That’s because I believe, and it’s pretty obvious to me, that history, the future, is created by the day-to-day actions of people just like you and me.
The future is malleable, not inevitable. My actions, and those of the people around me, make a real and tangible difference that stretches far beyond our little local spheres of influence.
Travelling far and wide, our actions change much that we may never know about, like ripples from a tossed stone forever spreading across still water.
Don Pettit lives and writes in Dawson Creek, and is Executive Director of the Peace Energy Co-operative.