It didn't take long for the guy next to me on the train to ask if I was pretty liberal. He was merely confirming the obvious, as we amicably disagreed on several current lightning rods: health care reform, sustainable energy and the growing practice of natural gas hydrofracking, which, it turns out, was also his profession. He didn't dismiss the environmental hazards -- most notably permanently poisoning millions of gallons of water -- but instead emphasized the vast potential yield, that fracking can satisfy our energy needs for many many years to come.
But not 200 years or 300 or 1000 ...
I suddenly realized how infrequently we plan for centuries. 18 months, maybe 24, a large corporation may vision 10-20 years perhaps, or too often we plan just 'till the next election ...
But our future scope is frighteningly narrow.
We revere history. We are fully engaged in protecting a ruin, holding sacred a ceremony, honoring the dead, studying the past ... we explore our ancestry, re-enact past battles ... we celebrate foundings, anniversaries, ancient texts, long-standing beliefs ... We insist our children learn vast swaths of history, and our daily media stream the past and present with mind-numbing force.
I'm not suggesting that's wrong. But why not the future in equal measure? How come our future is relegated to video games and sci-fi or to those we sequester in ivory towers? We're closer to 2200 than 1776, so how come our kids aren't exploring that with as much vigor? Imagine a bunch of 2nd graders spending half their school day envisioning 2492. Then imagine them over the course of their education honing those visions, creating new inventions & skills, defining their world 800 years from now. What if communities routinely came together not to fight over a shrinking economic pie but to explore what commerce and exchange might look like in 2500? What if we were consciously planning our way-out future?
Instead of justifying (and having to earn a living justifying) a practice that may momentarily keep our lights on but will, as the nice guy on the train admitted, permanently destroy our water tables, what if he could describe how his multinational was thinking energy in 500 years?