APPLIED HOPE

We all want to live in a world, as Armory Lovins said, “where the war against the earth is over; where we’ve stopped treating soil like dirt, forests are expanding, farms emulate natural ecosystems, rivers run clean, oceans are starting to recover, fish and wildlife are returning, and a stabilising, radically resource-efficient human population needs ever less of the world’s land and metabolism, leaving more for all the relatives who give us life.” But it is difficult to conceive of such a world. To hypothesise such a world, mere optimism is not enough. What we need is ‘applied hope’. Lovins says applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. It is not about some vague far-off future but an image that has a good chance of becoming reality. It is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices.

The most solid foundation that can be laid for a better future is to improve it — tangibly, durably, reproducibly. The real practitioners of applied hope are not mere theorists. The task before the applied hopefuls is quite challenging. It requires you to combine sizzle in your brain, fire in your belly, perseverance rooted like a redwood, and soul as light as a butterfly. An applied hopeful understands the difference between hope and hype. Hope reaffirms optimism. The unrealistic expansion of hope results in the hype. In some situations, particularly where nothing works, hope works.

An applied hopeful knows that hope works like a drug and that drug overdose is generally dangerous. An applied hopeful promises only what he can deliver. He possesses a good nose for talent and also has a low tolerance of nonsense. An applied hopeful cares for the dreams of ordinary people. At the moment of triumph, applied hopefuls remember that in the victory of the people lies the secret of their success. The genome of an applied hopeful contains the genes of tolerance.

Utopian visionaries see in the future world a state of balance and peace, and where all life is valued and sustained. Since the world has achieved its full potential, they see no reason for one to be aggressive. They maintain that man has no enmity or competition with nature. In the future world, they find it not difficult to expect a world of equal opportunity and equitable distribution of goods and services. They see in the future world abolition of cultural, racial and gender-based prejudices. They see that humanity has solved all its problems with the help of sensibly developed and rightly used technologies.

Dystopian visionaries imagine a future world where life and nature are recklessly exploited and eventually destroyed. They predict the catastrophic destruction of our natural environment. They imagine the loss of complete freedom of the mind, due to technological interventions. They believe future generations will depend more upon artificial intelligence than their native intelligence. They believe technology will make them slaves of technology.

Overly disastrous future projection is not a great idea, as excessive optimism is. The utopian future is projected by idealist visionaries. Dystopian future, on the other hand, is projected by those who feel oppressed by their environment and are afraid to fight extreme odds. The point is to avoid both the utopian and dystopian extremes and take a conciliatory middle path. If optimism is mixed with some amount of pessimism, it works better. If in certainty, a certain amount of uncertainty is mixed, it generally leads to better results. An adaptationist can extend or contract oneself as per the demands of the situation. An adaptationist knows how to manage situations when extrapolations fail. And man is the best adaptationist. And as William Faulkner said, “Man will not merely endure. He will prevail.”