By Roger Diamond

Looking into the future is fun, but even more fun is looking at how other people are looking into the future. First, there are the pessimists and doomsayers who are sure the game is all over and we have a few last years of light before the eternal darkness, or something along those lines. But today I’m going to look at the optimists.

There are basically two groups of optimists. The larger group is those who think everything is fine and we can just carry on raping the planet, human population displacing all other creatures and we will live in one big megacity that covers the globe and fly in ever increasing luxury and speed from a suburb in Melbourne to an iceberg in Alaska (remember, there will still be lots of icebergs as climate change is not real) to see the whales frolic and watch glaciers calve into the icy water. Blind optimism and faith in the current political, economic and technological systems we have. Pretty stupid actually. Any look at history or geography will tell you that this path is not real. This view is held by those too poor and ignorant to know otherwise, or those in the lap of luxury who can afford to squander resources for their supposed pleasure.

The other group of optimists is those who are aware that our current society is flawed, yet who believe that there are solutions to all the problems. The interesting thing about this group is that most of the people believe that the solutions lie ahead, on a road of ever increasingly complex social, economic and technological systems. The energy crisis that awaits us from dwindling fossil fuel supplies will be solved by very hi-tech systems to capture renewable energy. The materials crisis caused by dwindling mineral resources will be solved by super lightweight, easily recyclable and non-toxic materials. The lack of land for farming will be solved by intensified, multi-crop, biodynamic, organic approaches. And so on. The answers will be provided by humans for humans.

A few people, however, who seem a little backwards to many, are pointing out that new technology always has drawbacks. Is it also not a bit foolish to pin hopes on unproved methods? The computer did not bring the paperless office. The petrol-electric hybrid motor cars are not all that efficient over the total lifecycle. Wind turbines sit idle 70% of the time. Nuclear power stations now need decommissioning and waste disposal at immense cost. So?

So, fighting our problems with guns is silly, when we were born amidst germs. Ten thousand years of technology is puny against four billion years of evolution. The biggest, best answers lie with what we already have — the magnificent earth around us. The best sun block is the shade of a tree and the natural shield of the ozone layer and the rest of the atmosphere. The best farming is lower yield, but sustains the soil and does not pollute the rivers and groundwater. Hi-tech has its place — using natural hormones to disrupt breeding cycles of pests, rather than pesticides. With, not against.

I am not motivating turning our back on technology and clever political and economic systems. But my belief is that although the progress pathway has something to offer, the bulk of our solutions to our current global and local crises, lie in “simple”, “natural” methods. Fewer people, less rushing around, more time, more leisure, more pleasure. Life is beautiful. Celebrate and enjoy, yet nurture and protect. Easy.

The shift towards this is not actually around us, it’s within us. A change in our ambitions, our beliefs, our values. But this is really the topic of another post. Next time.

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