Affluent Insecurity

From the beginning, this project has been challenging. The subject is immense- beyond our lifetimes, and horizons; complicated- it is truly global and part of every aspect of our lives ( you never live without weather and the climate defines so much of what we create in the built world) ; and probably most of all- beyond our control.

We will never control the forces of nature. We may be able to have influence, and mitigate what damage and havoc they can impose on our way of organizing our lives, but controlling weather and climate the way we harness physics and chemistry to our purposes? Not likely.

Because of this, I have had a problem coming to terms with the apocalyptic aspect of every climate related program I see (with the exception of “Dimming The Sun”). It is as if we cannot imagine a positive outcome to a story without end. Probably due to my own experience in theater going, I have resisted this approach. Sending an audience out the door scared and depressed just doesn’t fit my idea of creating value. At least it isn’t the value I want to create.

That is why I was turned by the scientists I interviewed to look at the efforts of the private sector to respond to climate change with capitalistic applications of self interest. It was intuitive.

Well, this weekend I have been voraciously reading “Breakthrough”. While a bit wonkish, and politics oriented, it has supplied me with intelligent analysis that explains my aversion to the end of the world theme of other climate related programs, and more importantly explains the underlying social and psychological reasons that these programs have failed to move us.

I won’t try to summarize the breadth and depth of the authors’ analysis here. What I do want to offer is one concept that I find applicable across a wide variety of issues in our nation- affluent insecurity. That we find ourselves today more comfortable materially, and yet insecure about so many aspects of our lives explains a number of strange seemingly irrational situations. How is it that being poor, which used to mean that you didn’t have enough to eat, now is an indicator for obesity? Why is it that as rich and affluent as we are, we report that we are less confident about the future?

All of the real progress towards self creation that our system of democracy and capitalism has enabled has occurred during periods when our sense of security has been high. So despite the amazing thriving of humans on the planet, the real suffering and violence continues. The fact that there is enough food for all, doesn’t result in no hunger. The fact that we could live in harmony with the rules of physics and chemistry, or even build upon them, does not get us to stop poisoning ourselves.

That is why this production will not be apocalyptic. It will not be simply a rational discussion of the facts. It will be a story of how people are working right now to overcome, to rise above, and to reinvent our economy, and our world so that we are both affluent and secure enough to address these challenges.

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