Bright Future, Bright No Longer

Post By Taras Danylak. Reading time 7 minutes (1,277 words)

We have a bright future,, said the oblivious optimist to the rational realist. Our brilliant minds have invented countless new technologies and conquered many deadly deceases. We have made food to feed billions and in our future we will eat genetically grown steaks, leaving cows to produce milk and pass their days happily on the green pastures.

Our future will be black as night, said the rational realist. Our rivers will run dry, our forests will be cut down, our crop fields will become clay mud. The air we breathe will kill us slowly, giving us hitherto unknown deceases, to which there will be no cure. People will starve by the millions after droughts and floods destroy our farmland. Cows and chickens will all be slaughtered to stave off a famine, making the famine ever more terrible.

You are mistaken dear friend, said the optimist. Our human intelligence knows no bounds.

Human intelligence had reached it's height a 15,000 years ago.

Yet we have invented computers, telephones, televisions, medical equipment, cars, trucks, trains, and planes, twinkies, slinkies and all sorts of trinkets. Our imagination has no bounds and our future will be glorious and full of happiness. We've created machines that make our clothes, cook our food and build our homes. A poor man today knows luxury the greatest kings of yesteryear would never have dreamed of. We will create the technology to solve any of our current and future problems.

The machines have made us lazy, said the realist. Computers have made communication easier but destroyed our ability to interact physically with one another. Cars, planes and trucks have helped us travel great distances, deliver goods from distant lands, and visit distant continents but destroyed our local communities, broke down our cultural traditions, and split up hitherto close knit families. Technology took away our jobs, made us forget thousands of years worth of craft.

The realist was exhaled loudly and took another deep breath. The words flew out of him in a maddening fury. Anger and pain mixing in each syllable, conjuring up images of destruction and suffering.

The food we eat, he said, causes new deceases, our clothes rip apart after a few months, and our homes are merely boxes in which we exist not live. Out planet is the technology that helps us solve our problems and we are clubbing it to death like a caveman.

The two opponents were looking at each other, each contemplating the points made before. The realist was feeling aroused and invigorated. Blood rushed to his face. His mind was as clear as a mountain spring and as clear as winter's morning air. For the optimist, dark clouds began to gather about him. His eternal sunshine of happiness was beginning to be obscured by the shadows of doubt brought forth by the cool logic of the realist's argument. The optimist had to retreat a few steps before charging forward with his retort.

Yes, we have made some mistakes and made our planet suffer, he said. But we have the people and the time to solve these problems. Our researchers discovered cures for deceases, our physicists harnessed the power of the atom, our philosophers formulated our human ethics, and our politicians formulated laws to govern our societies with fairness and justice. When some said that we can't fly, the Wright brothers proved them wrong, when some said that we can't explore the bottom of the oceans, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan proved them wrong, when some said that we can't reach for the stars, Yuri Gagarin proved them wrong. We can accomplish anything we set our minds to.

We can reverse global warming, the optimist continued, if we switch to renewable energy. Wave power is available without cost. Wind and solar are inexhaustible sources. Rivers, lakes and water falls can substitute the need for coal and gas power plants in the future. We can prevent the future catastrophe if we make our cars more efficient. As we do that we can create technology to convert them to use renewable energy in the form of ethanol. There are already plans to create gasoline substitute from water and sugar canes. We can stop any further damage if we work together to create a fair and equal world.

The optimist was brimming with pride after delivering his arguments. It sure felt like a winning strike. Listing all of humanities achievements brought the feeling of euphoria into his mind. He had long thought about the final solution to all of Earth's problems. And there it was. The people needed to create a fair and equal world, where every one would get along and love and respect one another.

The realist was not smiling. His eyes gave off a stream of sadness known only to person who is losing someone close. The corners of his mouth turned down slightly and he began shaking his head.

My poor, disillusioned friend, said the realist. "I can see that your naiveté has no bounds . We do not have time to solve our problems. Forty years ago there were signals that our planet was under immense strain and in danger of dying. Limits to Growth authors warned the world of our resource boundaries. Fringe academics were trying to bring our attention to pollution related problems. The time to act was then. It is too late now.

"Since we did not use our intelligence then to save our planet then and our historical track record does not leave much to be aspired to, it is only logical to assume that our intelligence can only be harnessed for destruction with an occasional positive side effect. We can only make it worse. Renewable energy, although a noble goal, can not sustain our insatiable needs. It cannot replace our coal power plants; it cannot replace our nuclear stations; it cannot replace our gas powered stoves; it cannot replace our oil powered cars; and it cannot replace our coal powered computers. Fossil fuels are energy dense and can be easily transported from the place of extraction to the place of consumption. Renewable sources do not have the same qualities and cannot drive economic development like fossil fuels did.

It took millions of years and the everlasting heat from our sun to incubate earthly carbon-life matter into the energy packed fuel that we are so accustomed to burning today. It took only one hundred and fifty years for us to almost completely exhaust millions of years worth of energy supplies. This greed had its consequences. What took Earth tens of millions of years to store underground was released into the air in a fraction of that time. And we are paying for it now. We have reached the limits our resources and we have taken advantage of mother nature. We abused it. And now we shall suffer for it.

Fire was burning in the realists heart. His eyes looked at the optimist with the passion of zealot. The realist was in his element and his was the truest of truths. The optimist was taken aback by the force that the realist projected. A reply stuck in his throat. It was looking for a different way out, knowing that out there it will be crushed and murdered by the rational power of the realist's logic.

The realist looked sad. Even though, this was the final blow, delivered with the force of a thousand bombs, knocking the optimists on the ground, the realist pitied the optimist. For both of them now knew it. Times were changing and our bright future would be bright no longer.