Every single generation solves some collection of massive problems in the world. But all things have many sides, so those solutions inevitably carried with them some unintended consequences.
Since younger generations are born without knowing what problem was solved before they were born, they focus primarily on the unintended consequences and will often view the previous generation as a failure.
That lasts until that generation’s own solutions start creating their own unintended consequences. Then they too are maligned by the next generation. Each generation takes half a lifetime before they realize that no one intended the unintended consequences.
While we perpetually need solutions, there is absolutely no reason to think that our solutions today will not also create their own unintended consequences. These are not successes or failures. That’s how absolutely anything new develops, including aspects of nature itself.
It is often difficult for a modern human to take this very long view of reality, and to see these things for what they really are in a bigger picture. This can lead to a false sense that things are much worse than they really are, and that problems are unsolvable.
Today, for the first time in my practice, I now hear from people with what I call Environmental Anxiety. They have a genuine sense of doom. Many have young children and they are concerned about their future.
Of course we should always be concerned about important things like that. But the sense of doom is not because we are doomed. It’s because if we’re not judicious in our thinking, we can depress ourselves by focusing strictly on the problems, but rarely on the solutions.
It’s important to remember that in every era, a portion the youngest adults will innocently and logically forecast doom for the future. And many of the issues they bring up really are legitimate and many very real bad things have happened. And yet…
Despite all of our very legitimate troubles, historically, the solutions do unfold. There have never been more safe, happy and healthy people. Lifespans have never been healthier or longer. And there has never been a larger, more educated, informed, or cooperative group of people, with better tools, working to tackle the challenges we face.
I am a huge science fan simply because I am deeply invested in seeing all of the beauty in the world. And one cannot love science and be pessimistic about the future.
Most sciences now double their knowledge in less than a year. Double. To get an idea of how incredible that is, imagine what it would be like if we could do that. Imagine being able to double the number of languages you speak every year!
That’s what super-computers and computer modelling can do. They can prove things won’t work so that we don’t waste time on false start non-solutions. Look at the rapid and brilliant work on the COVID virus. Now apply that to something like cancer research. By this time next year we’ll know twice as much. And doubled again the next year. It’s stunning.
If we stand too close to the trees we cannot see the forest. For most people, their anxiety and depression can be greatly improved by simply gaining a greater, yet entirely honest, perspective.
It is not hard to go from being depressed and anxious about the future to being excited and enthused by it. And that’s important, because it’s the people who see a bright future that have the boldness to create it. After all, our first and most important ‘environment’ is the one inside our own heads.
If you find yourself depressed or fearful about the future, and you are worried about teaching that stress to your children, then take action. Pay more attention to the solutions. Work on managing your thoughts through greater consciousness.
We can choose to be Malthusians or we can choose being Cornucopians. It is simply a matter of where we place our focus. One identity will enervate us and leave us defeated. While the other will inspire and enthuse us into meaningful action.
Which lifetime we experience will be the one we choose. So let’s make sure we all choose carefully.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.