Two people close to my heart got in a heated argument last weekend. One of them said that he was not hopeful about the future. The other one was.
I find the question of whether to be pessimistic or optimistic fascinating. I have asked myself the same many times.
Last weekend’s future-pessimist reasoned that his pessimism is grounded in his life experience. He is in his sixties and has been thinking and talking about environmental issues for 40 years without seeing much improvement. Living in a small town, he sees how his friends don’t think twice about flying on vacation, leaving their 300m2 house and two cars behind for a weekend in Barcelona. He doesn’t believe that people will make that change. I get where his frustration comes from.
The future-optimist grounded his optimism in all the changes he is already seeing. How sustainable-oriented companies are popping up. He mentions that growth in carbon dioxide emissions has slowed notably over the past decade. Living in Berlin, his friends and acquaintances have some flygskam or flight shame, and many prefer a vegetarian diet. He also strongly believes that technological advances can make the change. I get where his optimism comes from.
The recent IPCC WG3 report notes that emissions are projected to plateau in coming years under current policies and commitments. A recent Nature article shows that if all the countries of the world fulfilled their climate commitments, the world would most likely limit climate change to just under 2 degrees C. At the same time, we are facing a sixth mass extinction, and the majority of the world’s soil resources are only fair, poor, or very poor condition.
Many things get better, and many things get worse at the same time. The worse it seems to get, the more we are desperate to change it. The better we feel it is, the more we are at peace with the world as is. What I find the fascinating question is: Can we be at peace with the world while we accept that things get worse? Can we want to change it while accepting it?