Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Striving for Hope

In the wake of tragic events like Monday's murderous rampage at Virginia Tech, superimposed on the "background noise" of daily murderous rampages in Iraq (183 dead just today), it's sometimes hard to remain hopeful about the future. We've got nature on the run. We've got each other on the run. Where do you find reason for optimism?

I just finished Kim Stanley Robinson's Fifty Degrees Below, in which climate has changed rapidly and catastrophically. It's pretty bad, and it's only part two, so the effects of scientifically based efforts to restart the Gulf Stream and to capture carbon more efficiently are not resolved (I've got the third volume on hand). But it's a most hopeful disaster novel - when push comes to shove, human beings can cooperate, and reason can (mostly) prevail. There are no super-heros and no miracles. Complex problems require complex solutions. But life is worth preserving, and that's worth remembering and participating in, whenever possible.

Another good point is a TED speech by author Robert Wright that I watched tonight. This guy is no polyanna, but the title of the talk is "How cooperation (eventually) trumps conflict." There is progress, moral progress, not only technological. It's not a zero-sum game. So there is hope. I hope.

N.B. The TED web site has been redesigned and it is much easier to find the TEDtalks videos now. There are a lot of great things out there, all of them around 17 to 23 minutes in length. I also watched excellent talks tonight by E.O. Wilson and Sir Martin Rees. These are also "scary but hopeful" talks and well worth watching.

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