Advice for the Future That We Probably Shouldn't Wait On

Photo by Alex Iby.

Apparently, in 1988 Volkswagon hired Kurt Vonnegut to write a letter to those living 100 years in the future.

He gave seven steps to live in tune with (instead of in dominance over) nature:

1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
7. And so on. Or else.

Okay, so I have a confession: I got kind of angry reading that list. This probably seems like a huge overreaction to a collection of very good advice. After all, we are quickly marching directly into a global warming-fueled apocalypse precisely because we have not yet heeded this advice! It is very necessary!

And that's why I got mad!

That advice should not have been for people living in 2088! That is too far away! That advice should have been for people in 1988! Or 1980! He should have written advice for the PAST, not the FUTURE.

I suppose it's possible that in 1988, global disaster seemed far enough away that it was a problem for those living 100 years in the future, not for the next 20 years. I am not sure, I was too young in 1988 to know what kind of environmental panic people were living under, but it's not like it was off everyone's radar.

The other thing that makes me mad is that I don't know what to do with this advice. I would LOVE to stop poisoning the air, water, and topsoil, but mostly I am not able to make those decisions. Sure, I can "vote with my dollars", but that's a tough vote to make when it costs so much more.

So, basically, this is my confession: Kurt Vonnegut's advice for the future is so good, and so relevant right now, that it makes me angry to read it. Is that a reasonable response?

(via Kottke)

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