Culture and Society

Why should we be optimistic about our future?
Answered by Paul Saffo and Hal Harvey
  • Paul Saffo

    Paul Saffo

  • Hal Harvey

    Hal Harvey

  1. Paul Saffo Futurist, Managing Director of Foresight at Discern Analytic


    I'm an optimist by nature and I am hopeful. "The human species," to misquote Emerson, "is a mutable cloud." The thing that makes our species extraordinary is how we're constantly changing.

    We have this sphere, you could call it the ethnosphere of human beings and our devices. It's constantly changing and mutating and heading in all sorts of unexpected directions. That is just endlessly fascinating.

    Anybody who cannot feel astounded and excited and utterly fascinated and curious about what the next chapter is isn't alive.

    More answers from Paul Saffo »

  2. Hal Harvey Founder and CEO, ClimateWorks Foundation; Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center


    I sometimes talk about energy heaven and energy hell. And energy heaven is, you build fantastic buildings, you make super-efficient cars, but you put them in a city where you don't need them that often, right? Because there's that great transit system. You have an increasing share of renewable energy or low-carbon fossil fuels. Increasingly low-carbon intensity in fossil fuels.

    If you put all the elements of energy heaven together, we have no problem. Our economic future is fine and our energy future is fine and our climate future is fine. And energy heaven exists in real-world examples all over. Energy hell is when we're increasingly using uncontrolled coal to power our electric system. We go to get oil from tar sands in Canada to power Hummers in cities where there's no transit, and so on.

    So both energy hell and energy heaven coexist today in the world. The indicator is how fast you move from energy hell to energy heaven, and what specifically do you have to do? The latest project I've been involved in is to look at all the energy policies across the world and say, what works and what doesn't work? And it turns out there are 10 policies that are incredibly important, and dozens and dozens that are trivial. If you get those 10 policies right in about 10 countries, you win. You don't have to go everywhere because this is a mathematical game.

    More answers from Hal Harvey »

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