Too Late for Pessimism at Greening the Heartland

Marge Anderson, executive VP of the Energy Center of Wisconsin, gave the opening keynote address at Greening the Heartland 2013.

She concluded her remarks with the quote

“It’s too late for pessimism.”

It’s a reference that has been associated with sustainability advocates since at least 2009, stemming from scientific studies related to climate change and it’s the thing that has stuck with me most from the conference.

In essence, what the quote conveys is that the idea and goal of sustainability is not something that should be the dream of an idealistic few, but the reality of the whole.  Though there are still many who do not believe human activities have an effect on the earth’s climate or on nature’s delicate balance, there is an even greater contingent that feels, whether the preceding statement is true or not, there is nothing that can be done about it because we have traveled too far down our current path.

This is the far more dangerous attitude because it is not ignorance but pessimism and the lack of action is willful.  The attitude is akin to a gravely ill patient not taking his/her medication because the chance of survival is only 1% or search and rescue not digging into the dune because the child has been under the sand for too many hours.  If there is a chance the patient can live, if there is chance the child can be saved, if there is a chance our everyday choices can slow, stop or even reverse global degradation, as a species why wouldn’t we everything we can to prolong our lives or the life of this planet?  If the ignorant are right, then we lose nothing and sacrifice little.  If the optimists are right, then we live on knowing we have done everything we can, even if we ultimately fail.

Brian P. Scully, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP O+M

It’s too late for pessimism.  Optimism is the only choice.  Otherwise, what’s the point?