The Long View

What are you doing tomorrow? How about this weekend? What are you doing next year? Whats your five year plan? Are you planning for retirement? Are you planning for your children’s college? What are you doing for your grandkids? How about your great grandkids? Whats your 100 year plan, your 500 year plan?

Most people plan for today, tomorrow, maybe if you find someone who has really got there stuff together they will be planning for the next five years. A very few plan for the kids, almost no one plans for the grandkids, and forget the next 100 to 500 years.

Its not really hard to see why, no one thinks about the deep future. Humans are little more than smart monkeys. We have pretty advanced brains, but its basically monkey 2.0 . We think about feeding ourselves, protecting ourselves from the elements, and the safety of our children. We are subject to instincts, to sudden desires for this or that. Its very hard for us to think long term.

If you are a student of history you will find many examples of the dangers of not thinking long term. The Mayans farmed themselves into extinction because they didn’t understand the consequences of there actions(we almost did the same during the dust bowl). Because of one mans desire to start his own silk industry our forests are now blighted by gypsy moths. Phragmites now choke the waterways of Cape Cod because someone thought they would look nice in the yard (or bittersweet, or Japanese knot-weed or….).

The trick it would seem is to think about what the consequences of our actions will be five, ten, and 100 years from now. This is far from easy. The future can bring many changes. For some things however the writing is on the wall. The single biggest problem facing the human race in the future is the threat of global warming.

The vast majority of the worlds science community now agree, global warming is real, and its getting worse. Its so seductively simple to not think about global warming. We can let our monkey 2.0 brains take over and simply worry about food, shelter, and the safety of our children. We can let the next generation take over. People say “I wont be around for that” or “That wont happen for 100 years.” Its so easy to not do anything at all. We are simply wired to ignore the future in favor of the “now.”

We have to overcome our own brains. We have to think about the future. We have to do something now. The human race is in trouble, big trouble. Like the dinosaurs, the dodo, or any other species we are only here because of a fragile web of interconnections with every other living thing on the planet. And like the dinosaur or the dodo we can go extinct. There could be a day at some point in the future when a sun rises on an Earth with no humans.

“I like my SUV”, “I don’t want to ruin my view”, “I like the coffee from Chile”, all of these boil down to “I don’t care about the future.” For so long the Cassandras have been screaming, and the masses have been ignoring. Another horrible feature of monkey brain 2.0 is that we like our conveniences. We don’t want to go back to a day when there was inconvenience. We like our modern life. We don’t care that we use up most of the worlds resources even though we are a very small amount of the worlds populations.

So what do we do? We make a long term plan, and we stick to it. We change how we drive, how we eat, and where we live. We build hybrid cars, install wind farms, grow our own food locally. We stop consuming the worlds resources at such a frenetic pace. We make sure we frame the arguments for the future in the proper terms, that is the survival of the human race. We think long term, or we die off. Its that simple.

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