INVESTMENT advisors and stock brokers often use the phrase “climbing a wall of worry,” an image meant to encourage investors by noting that investing in the future can still be worthwhile, even when that future looks grim.
It might further be worth noting that the future has always looked grim. From Moses’ predictions of Egypt’s famine in Biblical antiquity to short sellers on today’s stock market and ecological prognostications of climatic Armageddon, there has always been plenty of bad news for those who recognize it when they see it.
(Those familiar with my writing know that one of my traits is my own mordant perception of imagined future possibilities – eco-collapse of various sorts, pipeline ruptures, hideous forms of social injustice including racism and warfare, economic malfunction based on corruption, resource limits, etc – there are plenty of options to choose from.)
While I can’t realistically disown such possibilities or even likelihoods, there are some reasons for optimism, as well. Our cup is at least half full just now, and despite threats on many horizons, we might do well at least sometimes to heed the advice of ancient Persian poet Omar Khayyam: “Unborn tomorrow and dead yesterday – why fret about them if today be sweet?” There’s still wine on the rack.
But there is also argument to be made for thinking about the future, and acting responsibly. As the Islamic aphorism argues, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” So what positives are being created and perceived these days?
Millions of people are making daily efforts to address and enhance our problematic future. From the microcosms of individual choices to the policies and actions of corporations and governments, plenty is happening.
I’ve noticed a lot more bikes on Terrace roads recently, and not simply because we finally have favourable weather. Citizens from toddlers to senior citizens are visible pedaling around the community. Getting cars off the street is a good thing: fewer greenhouse gases, less noise, less threat of serious physical accidents, less air pollution, as well as the benefits of healthful exercise. Let’s get pedaling! Shoppers are beginning to get the hang of carrying reusable bags with them, particularly to the supermarket. We’re simply wasting less plastic.
Communities are planning how to increase their resilience. Resilient Communities Canada is a non-profit society and registered charity dedicated to fostering sustainable community development, to enhancing local economies and food security, and to educating the public about climate change and energy issues. The organization, party of a much larger global network of resiliency organizations, is based in Abbotsford.
Resilient communities are better prepared for unexpected “crashes:” energy shortages, earthquakes, climate emergencies, fuel shortages, flooding, etc. (Check out www.resilientcommunitiescanada.com for links to everything from food security to peak oil, including recommended reads and recommended videos.)
Various foundations and citizen groups are actively pursuing better knowledge of how to cope with projected future problems. The Trottier Energy Futures Project is part of a series of investigations into how Canada can remain prosperous while making the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon energy future. By their overview, contrary to the hysteria generated by the fossil fuel industry, we can make this transition reasonably painlessly, generating employment and new industry as we proceed.
Globally, entrepreneurs recognize that our dilemmas will handsomely reward any new processes that can help limit the current damage we are suffering from too much atmospheric CO2 and that can wean us from our fossil fuel dependency. One idea is to use solar power to add energy to natural gas, making it 20 per cent more powerful. A doctoral student in Australia recently proposed using nanotechnology to create solar paint, a surface coating that acts as a photovoltaic generator.
Corporations are struggling with every means possible to limit waste. Www.environmentalleader.com sports daily stories of corporations increasingly pursuing “triple bottom line” policies and working to save energy.
Even some governments are getting with the program: Australia has a Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Based on favorable government policies, Germany is getting about a quarter of its energy from renewables today, a huge step forward.
We can do it, too. Let’s.
Retired English teacher Al Lehmann lives in Terrace, B.C.