When faced with a problem, we tend to turn to what we know. We stick with solutions that have worked in the past. We build levees for floods, and we put out fires, and we irrigate when land is too dry. Thinking ahead is something that generally happens during the lull after a crisis, when we look at the damage that has been done, and think about how to prepare for the next time. It’s a tried and true technique, and it’s gotten us this far. In essence, the strategy of sticking with what we know is in itself sticking with what we know.
It’s a survival strategy, but there are two reasons why it’s not the right response to the problems of today. The first is that we’re no longer satisfied with mere survival. We want to thrive. The innovations that have given us such pinnacles of technological achievement did not come from sticking with the tried-and-true.
The second reason it’s not the right response is that there are situations in which we know it just doesn’t work. There have been times in the past when something that happened was so far outside of the knowledge of the people it happened to that everything that worked in the past simply failed to be enough to cope with the problem. The warming of our planet’s climate is one such event, and it is the biggest one ever to occur.
I’m not saying that for dramatic effect. It’s the literal truth. If a warming event of this magnitude and speed has happened in the past, it has NOT happened in the history of the human species, or any of our immediate ancestors.
This is a time when sticking with what we know will not be sufficient, and so the only way to not only survive, but also thrive, is to move to unfamiliar territory willingly before we are forced to.
There have always been terrible ideas proposed in the name of innovation – probably more of those than the good ones – but this is a time when we have both the resources and the luxury to explore new ideas. Given the stakes, we cannot afford to leave any idea unexplored, no matter how crazy it sounds at the outset.
So here’s the bit where I’ve changed perspective. I think that this is a GOOD thing. We are faced with a choice. On the one hand, we have an uncoordinated scrabble to survive, and we might well make it. That’s a real possibility. On the other hand, we can take this vast pool of technological, intellectual, and artistic brilliance that we’ve fostered in this modern age, and use that to change the way we move forward in time.
So there you have it. This is a time when not only is it ok to take time to explore that crazy solution you’ve had bouncing around in your head, this is a time when doing so is the right thing to do for the good of the entire species, and the planet we’re living on!