- Do we need more optimism to overcome the sustainability challenge of our planet?
- Or do we need more fear and crisis to change our ways more radically?
This week I watched two talks from TED 2012 from two very different men painting two very different pictures of the future.
First was a talk called “The Earth is full” by Paul Gilding, a writer, activist and advisor on sustainability. As the title would suggest, it deals with how we are running out of resources, that we are overcrowding the planet, and that we are making too much stuff. In short, Gilding’s message is that we can’t keep up our economic growth and count on the resources to be there to support it – and us – way into the future. More likely, we will start feeling the pain perhaps already in our lifetime as we reach these limits. Two words you could probably use to accurately describe this talk would be “alarmist” and “pessimistic”.
Second was a talk called “Abundance is our future” by Peter Diamandis, Chairman of Singularity University and leader of the X Prize Foundation (cash prize for great inventions). His was the exact opposite of Gilding’s. Literally. Diamandis argues that we should be optimistic because human ingenuity, technology and a true abundance of resources will help us overcome all obstacles no matter what. He argues that we are really exaggerating the issue of resource consumption and that just like with Moore’s Law, we will be amazed by what our technology will allow us to do, like harvesting the sun’s energy and making undrinkable water drinkable. And healthcare? No problem, using cell phones we will soon be able to have point of care diagnostics that will allow emerging country people to alarm the CDC of coming pandemics. Two words to describe this talk would be “heady” and “optimistic”.
Question #1: which talk do you think I liked better? Put differently: which one did I hate (infinitely) more?
Question #2 (prize question): what is more powerful to get us to act towards a more sustainable future – fear and despair from the first video, or inspiration and hope from the second video?