“A New Dark Age Looms,” says a currently-popular Times op-ed, on the eve of my Earth Week talk to the Students for Environmental Action which I’m calling “Glimmers of Hope.”
Inveterate optimism may not sell newspapers, may in fact be delusional – “Drumpf Wins New York” is today’s big headline – but we’ve all gotta be what we’re gonna be. My glass remains half full.
Why do I discern hopeful glimmers where others detect only the impending darkness? I follow the same prompt that fills William Gail with Gloom, but it takes me to a better place. “Picture yourself in our grandchildren’s time, a century hence.” My grandchildren are going to be geniuses, maybe yours are too. Deep pessimism is an indulgence we owe it to them to forego, out of loyalty to their genius.
That’s not to deny the truth of Gail’s analysis, “that disrupting nature’s patterns could extend well beyond extreme weather, with far more pervasive impacts” on the predictive models that allow us to project and manage food production, develop adequate infrastructure, anticipate oceanic impacts, and generally just stay a step ahead of catastrophe.
But it is to insist that while “our grandchildren could grow up knowing less about the planet than we do today,” they could also commit themselves more intelligently and willfully to new and better patterns of living that we’ve not even imagined, and to technologies we’ve not taken seriously enough. Electric cars, rockets to Mars, the wind, the sun, and who knows what else are all theirs for the harvesting. I’m betting on them, on the future. As Mr. Faulkner said, it is the poet’s, the writer’s, the philosopher’s
duty and privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. [His] voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
A glimmer of hope is still hope.
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