The Future according to the Class of 2017.

Lone treeXxxxwebIf you’ve ever wondered what life will be like in the year 2065, I have some ideas, fresh from the people (Whitman students) who will be guiding us there.
Based upon my observation that when riding a motorcycle, you go where you are looking, I asked the 18-20 year-olds in my Environmental Studies 120 class to write about the world in 2065. They gazed into their crystal balls. Here’s what they saw.
Although most of it is not a pretty picture, they think there’s hope.
IMG_1102Let’s begin with what we fear might be true: “The world is an environmental mess, spiraling downwards towards environmental disaster.” one paper began pessimistically. The issues of 2065 enumerated by students include sediment piling up behind dams, groundwater resources polluted by fracking, and an ocean bereft of life and replete with dead zones. “The world is full of talkers and not enough doers” observes one. Another student, who may have read too much Cormack McCarty in other classes, wrote “In the boy’s drawing, the sky was yellow, the tree was gray with no leaves, and when the teacher asked the boy why there were no birds in his drawing of the tree he responded that he had never seen one.” Then the student notes that this is NOT how she thinks 2065 will be, but how it is liable to be if we continue the way we are.
haboob approachesAMost of these college freshmen are more optimistic. “A move to more local styles of living will reduce future energy needs.” one predicted.. “Because we are focused on preserving many natural landscapes, I would like to think there will still be beautiful landscapes in 2065” said another. Other ideas include cars that derive energy from solar panels embedded in road surfaces, solar-powered trains that provide most of our cross-country transportation, and a world in which we “first-world” humans have learned to live simple lives that require few resources or energy (The Great Simplification.) Another student passed a law that forbade hydrocarbon production of use. One paper suggested, tongue –in-cheek, that with rising sea levels, Manhattan had become “the Venice of the Americas” with Miami following suit, (and filing suit over New York’s trademarked slogan.)
13 mt baker sunset 1BXWho knows whether any of this will happen. (I especially enjoy imagining Manhattan–as-Venice.) We do face daunting problems of climate change, resource depletion, and population growth. Taken at face value, the future looks gloomy. But the freshmen– people who will be elders in 2065–have different ideas. They envision solving global problems.
I know from experience that you go where you look. Or, put another way, by a voice from a different wisdom philosophy that I don’t often quote: “Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. Believe the answer will come. It will.” (Norman Vincent Peale.)