It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
I suppose many of us are going through the same kind of existential angst I am when I think about climate change. On the one hand, I have a granddaughter who graduates High School this year and I can remember how large the world was for me at that age — the opportunities, the possible futures, young love, the sheer exuberance of living. It is the best of times.
But then I swing back to a very dark secret — something one can’t bring up in polite company. It was the first thought I had when my son told me they were expecting a baby. What will her life be like, I wondered, in 2040, 2060, and 2090? She will reach my present age in 2082, assuming she can survive what I know is coming. Her world will not look like the General Motors Futurama of the 1939 World’s Fair, with fully autonomous cars, vertical farms for artificially produced crops, and rooftop platforms on which to park personal flying machines or land your jet pack.
It would require enormous luck for the 2082 future just to resemble as happy an outcome as the Ford pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair, where fairgoers rode through a world of Audio-Animatronic cave-men (the exhibit became Disneyland’s “Primeval World” railroad fantasy ride in 1966).
There are so many converging crises that I take comfort in recalling that I had read “The Future as a Way of Life” in Horizon magazine the summer I graduated from High School. In that piece, Alvin Toffler set out only a fraction of the changes that actually came true during my life. He labeled the phenom, “Future Shock,” by which he meant too much change in too short a period of time.
“Too much change in too short a period of time” aptly describes where we find ourselves in 2023. There is urgent public policy debate about how best to respond to the extreme weather changes that clearly show the Anthropocene having traversed planetary biogeophysical boundaries (although even that is disputed by some). We can ignore the deniers. They suffer understandably from normalcy bias, optimism bias, priming bias, confirmation bias, framing bias, anchoring bias, loss aversion, regressive conservatism (post hoc ergo propter hoc), and sick gut bacteria.