The case for optimism, cont’d: “Isn’t pessimism necessary? Isn’t optimism complacent?”

Paul Gilding, author of The Great Disruption, is optimistic about climate change. The coming crisis will be catastrophic, he predicts, but humanity will rise to the challenge:

Historically, looking at World War II as the prime example, we don’t act until the crisis hits […] We don’t act until the evidence is so overwhelming we have no choice left. But then we do amazing things. […]

There will be arguments and debates and conflicts between countries. And we will think we won’t make it various times […] but what I’m saying is from history the evidence is that we will make this and we will work it out. The only thing that has to change is for us to end the denial that it’s happening and get to work on fixing the problem.

Matt Ridley is an even deeper optimist: Based on our very long track record for predicting global catastrophes — and getting it wrong — he thinks it’s quite possible that climate change, while undeniably real, may not wind up being the downfall of human civilization that the current doomsayers are making it out to be. (I suspect Al Gore might consider Ridley to be part of the “climate of denial,” though to be fair Ridley isn’t a denialist — merely trying very hard not to be unnecessarily alarmist about the issue.)

In any case, I continue to find his confidence in progress and human innovation deeply persuasive:

Here’s an excerpt from his talk, “Deep Optimism,” for Fora TV:

I highly recommend watching the whole thing (and get Ridley’s answers to the questions posed in the title, while you’re at it). Ridley’s argument doesn’t fit neatly into “progressive” or “conservative” philosophies; it requires a shift of thought away from pat categories and — perhaps more profoundly — away from the easy and sadly pervasive assumption that it’s all downhill from here. There are plenty of reasons for rational optimism — regardless of how difficult it seems to be to recognize them.


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