Professor Guy McPherson on transforming abstract hope into concrete action.
I held onto hope for decades. But I’ve come to see hope as wishful thinking, also known as hopium.
I’m not giving up, and I constantly encourage acts of resistance that will allow opportunities for the living planet to persist into the future. In so doing, I’m channeling iconoclastic Tucson author Edward Abbey: “Action is the antidote to despair.”
Hopium is the drug to which we’re addicted. It’s the desire to have our problems solved by others, instead of by ourselves. It’s why we keep electing politicians while knowing they won’t keep their promises, but finding ourselves too fearful to give up the much-promised future of never-ending growth on a finite planet.
Knowing we cannot occupy this finite world without adverse consequences for humans or other animals, but afraid to face that truth, we turn away. We watch the television, go to the movies, gamble at casinos, play on Facebook, and pursue similar avenues of using up our precious time. Many Americans applaud while the world burns and we take a flame-thrower to the planet. Nietzsche nailed it, as usual:
“Hope in reality is worst of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.”
Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nietzsche was right. I used to think hope differed from hopium, back when I had hope. Gradually, I’ve come to see hope and hopium as one. Let’s get off the crack pipe and onto reality. May Pandora release the final gift from her container (usually incorrectly referred to as her box).
Lest the reader forget, I am by no means suggesting we abandon (1) resistance or (2) joy-filled lives. Life, including human life, is a gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the others in our lives, human and otherwise. Let’s live as if there is more to life than the treadmill onto which we’ve been born.
–This essay is excerpted and modified from McPherson’s latest book, Going Dark.