The belief in limits is a primitive perspective. Alarmist environmentalism does not appreciate the fundamental human impulse to seek something better, to progress, and to create a better life and world. This impulse makes us truly human and leads to the humanization and benefit of all life. Environmental pessimism devalues and distorts our desire to progress as greed and destruction, as something to prevent and punish.
The belief that life, and all its natural features, is rigidly limited has become a core element of the environmentalist belief system. This limits perception sits at the very heart of sustainable development theories, ecological footprint models, and such things as population fears. It is a view of life as stingy, constrained, fragile, and easily exhausted.
Meet one of the foremost advocates of limits thinking, Dr. Bill Rees, known as Dr. Doom. Bill has built his Ecological Footprint model around this core perspective of limits – limited resources, limited ecosystems, the limited bio-capacity of the entire web of life on earth, limited available energy (Second Law of Thermodynamics), and limited human ability to solve problems and adapt to shortages.
A while ago, I engaged Rees over a roughly two year period in an online discussion re his Ecological Footprint theories (he is known as the Father or co-creator, along with Mathis Wackernagel, of this EF model). In the early 90s I had taken most of Rees’ courses at the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC. This was the time when Bill and Mathis were formulating the Ecological Footprint model, drawing ideas from a variety of environmental pessimists, among them Herman Daley, Paul Erhlich, and the Club of Rome.
Bill beat into our brains that all resources on earth were strictly limited (based on estimates of reserves known at that time), and overall Earth’s bio-capacity was finite and existed in a fragile and easily exhausted state.
One of Bill’s favorite metaphors was that of dangerous tipping points set off toward disaster by tiny changes. He argued that humanity was already putting far too much pressure on Earth’s systems and resources and nature was now tottering and ready to collapse into a catastrophic ending, taking all life and civilization down with it. People, with their desire for a better life, were consuming too much and exhausting all of Earth’s main resources. We were destroying life on earth. We were now in “overshoot” by taking too much out and dumping too much garbage back into nature. We were overwhelming Earth’s systems and their ability to renew themselves, and payback was soon coming.
Dr. Doom already had his sandwich board placards on and was strolling the streets of the planet warning of the coming apocalypse. Repent or else. Humanity had violated the inviolable and sacred limits of life and now must turn back, quickly and drastically. One student asked if there was there hope for a turnaround. Bill said no, it was already too late.
Key to Rees’s presentation of overshoot is his repeated argument that if all of humanity were to exist at the standard of living of an average Westerner, then we would need two more earths to support everyone. Some have argued that we need even more, up to four more Earths. Our footprint of consumption and garbage disposal is way too large for one Earth.
The human footprint measurement is based on land area needed for such things as growing food, extracting resources, building infrastructure, producing goods, and absorbing wastes. For most countries Footprint advocates have calculated the area of land they believe is necessary to support the average person in that country. Footprinters claim the resulting calculations show that many of us Westerners are using more land than is available to meet our standards of living. Our footprint is too big and we unfairly appropriate, through trade, the land area that others need.
It is notable that footprint advocates state that 54% of the footprint must be land allocated to CO2 or carbon storage, for example, in forests (see, for instance, here). The footprint devotees assume that CO2 is a dangerous threat to life (global warming) and therefore it must be removed from the atmosphere. They do not accept the proven beneficial outcome of more CO2 in the atmosphere which has resulted in a significant 6.17% increase in Earth’s net primary production, just over the period from 1982-1999 (see also here). As the researchers at CO2science.org have noted, rather than finding a terrestrial biosphere in collapse, they found the opposite, a terrestrial biosphere growing ever more robust. Thanks directly to increasing CO2 levels. The inclusion of area for CO2 absorption and storage exaggerates land requirements and thereby distorts footprint analysis by over half.
Bill Rees offers a set of indicators as his proof that humanity has exceeded Earth’s inviolable bio-capacity limits. His indicators include disappearing forests, degraded agricultural land, the species holocaust, the coming fisheries collapse, and other indicators such as the growing ozone hole, and of course, looming cataclysmic global warming. In regard to his indicators, Bill is a committed believer and will not accept as valid any evidence that contradicts his belief that the natural resources being used by humanity now face a catastrophic collapse. He is committed to a stringent confirmation bias for his model of limits. And for affirmation of his views he tends to quote alarmist media reports on how bad the environmental situation is, apparently not recognizing that media are simply regurgitating comments from alarmist scientists like himself. It’s a closed feedback system of information sourcing.
In response, I took each of his indicators and brought in data from the most credible sources to show Bill that while problems do exist, there is no evidence than any of Earth’s main resources are facing exhaustion and imminent collapse from overuse. There is no sound evidential basis for an apocalyptic view of the state of the planet.
My response to Bill took the following route. I noted, for instance, that agricultural land degradation was occurring but it was nowhere near as severe a condition as the alarmists proclaimed. I presented him a number of FAO and other studies, along with Bjorn Lomberg’s summary of agricultural land in the Skeptical Environmentalist and Julian Simon’s summary in Ultimate Resource (see also my summary of World Agricultural Land) which show the alarmist case to be grossly overstated. Alarmists have repeatedly mixed up categories of degradation to make numbers look worse, ignored soil regeneration rates (important to understanding net loss), and have focused on hotspots to the ignoring of the overall situation and long term trends. This has allowed them to present a distorted picture that supports alarmist hysteria regarding an apocalyptic collapse of agricultural land.
I even invited Godert Van Lynden, head of a new world land degradation study, into our discussion to point out to Bill that there was no confirming evidence for an alarmist position on land degradation. Van Lynden admitted in a personal email, in response to my question on the categories and severity of degradation, that we have no appropriate up-to-date assessment of the world situation, which, according to him, may now be better or worse. The last worldwide study was the GLASOD project of over 20 years ago and that study was subject to questions of credibility. Van Lynden also said that his organization was currently involved in a global assessment of biomass decline as an indicator of land degradation. But using that logic, the actual biomass increase from more atmospheric CO2, noted above, would probably then reveal the opposite to a situation of degradation. Also, the continuing and predicted further increases in food productivity argues against a situation of serious overall soil degradation.
I then reminded Bill of the fact that hydroponic and other greenhouse technology could supply humanity’s food needs and agricultural land would become less of a critical factor in future food production. Julian Simon had demonstrated this in his book Ultimate Resource, based on actual hydroponic technology existing in the 90s. Also of note, continuing increases in agricultural productivity have resulted in significant areas of land being returned to nature (see Greg Easterbrook’s research on this in A Moment On The Earth). Humanity has learned to grow more food on less land.
But in keeping with his commitment to apocalyptic, Bill countered this evidence on hydroponic technology with the warning that greenhouse alternatives were no solution because fertilizer inputs to greenhouse production were limited and would run out. In response, I went to sources such as the USGS (US Geological Survey) and other good data sources which show no looming limits to the three basic ingredients of fertilizer. At current rates of use, potash reserves will provide anywhere from a 545 year supply to 2,272 years supply, depending on the sources noted. Phosphates provide a 365 year supply at current estimates of reserves and rates of usage (remember, these estimates are repeatedly increased with further discoveries over time). And nitrogen is virtually unlimited as it makes up 78% of the air we breathe.
The limiting factor in its production is natural gas, and well, you have all heard of the shale gas revolution. And does anyone seriously doubt that we will find alternative sources over the next centuries, long before we approach any looming scarcity of fertilizer ingredients?
And so it goes with all of Rees’ indicators. With forests, even the usually alarmist National Geographic has now admitted the world forest situation is improving and they admit this improvement is due to human ingenuity (e.g. improved agricultural productivity which results in less forest being cut down) and significant forest restoration across the world. Also, the rate of apparent forest loss over the last decade or so may have been overinflated due to the severity of forest fires from the El Nino of the late Nineties. But these burned forests will recover and as this FAO report notes, fire plays a useful role in maintaining and renewing forest in fire-adapted ecosystems.
Behind this data on forests there is the stubborn fact that world forest cover remains at about 30% of Earth’s land area, just where it has been fluctuating since the 1940s, despite the human population almost tripling over this same time period (from 2.4 billion in the mid 1940s to 7 billion today).
In regard to world fisheries we find a leading alarmist researcher (Boris Worm) having backed away from the apocalyptic scenario of world fisheries collapse in 2048 to a more sober estimate of some 30% of fishery species under stress but recovering when the overfishing stress is relieved. And we find aquaculture taking an ever larger role in feeding people and this growing industry relieves pressure on wild stocks. FAO studies also note that aquaculture increasingly relies on feed inputs from non-fish stock which again lessens pressure on fish stocks.
I presented this information to Rees to show him that none of his indicators support his argument that humanity is overshooting and destroying nature in a catastrophic and potentially civilization-ending manner. My point was that if your indicators do not support your central hypothesis of apocalyptic collapse due to violated limits then you need to reevaluate your entire viewpoint and even abandon it. I gave Bill the admission that, yes, we have made serious mistakes in our engagement of world resources, but we have learned from our mistakes and have taken corrective action and found solutions to apparent resource constraints. We are still not perfect in our engagement of nature, but overall we continue to improve our use of world resources.
My concern in challenging Bill Rees had to do with his exaggeration of existing problems to the scale of life-ending catastrophe and consequently terrorizing people unnecessarily. The evidence does not support this alarmist hysteria so rampant throughout the contemporary environmental movement. Alarmism over resource problems leads to advocacy of panic-driven and radical policy responses that distort public spending priorities and often this ends with unintended consequences that hurt many people unnecessarily. The bio-fuels mess, with its consequent increased food prices for the poorest people, is a recent example.
Our past history does reveal various situations of human abuse of nature and the use of resources in local areas till they were exhausted (e.g. Easter Island). But you will not find humanity stumbling up against some overall resource and blindly consuming that resource till it is exhausted and collapses. More commonly, we have faced resource constraints and have seen a possible damaging outcome and we have responsibly backed off. We have then moved to increase inefficiency in our use of any given resource, or found an alternative (e.g. as with fuels), or we have engaged renewable resources in a more sustainable manner. Again, note our record on forests, agricultural land, and fisheries. We have used creative approaches to preserve nature and have been – in net terms- successful in doing so. Our historical record shows that we do learn from our mistakes and continue to improve our engagement of the world.
Environmental alarmists ignore this overall and long term track record to focus mainly on the minority of aberrational situations of unresolved abuse of nature (e.g. species lost) and extrapolate these out to a general narrative of human destructiveness in the face of strict natural limits in all areas of life. This pessimistic environmental narrative has become prominently fixed in public consciousness- that life is stingy and strictly limited and humanity is hopelessly destructive and incompetent in dealing with nature.
Not willing to countenance a moderating of his views, Bill changed the topic again. It confirmed to me once again that facts do not argue people out of their emotional commitments. As with many alarmists, it is not about factual science but emotion and a certain view of morality. Julian Simon had noted this morality in his comments on Herman Daley’s theology, “The call for energy conservation is involved with a belief that ‘sanity’ requires living more simply – a moral-theological belief that should be imposed on everyone else” (p.202, Ultimate Resource). This belief in the moral superiority of the simple and primitive life is behind much environmental ideology. Limits thinking is rooted in religious belief.
One discovers when engaging alarmists that it is more about the background narrative and belief system that people make an emotional commitment to than it is about factual evidence or rational/empirical science. This limits perspective continues as a leading threat to human development and progress toward a better future. It’s continued widespread acceptance everywhere demands a more robust response.
The belief in limits is a primitive perspective. Anthropologists refer to it as the “limited good” view of life. Tribal peoples have long seen only so much good available to them and if some members of a tribe take more of any thing then it is believed that the others are obviously losing out. So tribal people use shaming, threat and coercion to make the more successful members (e.g. in hunting or planting) share with the rest of the group. For years I observed firsthand this shaming of “greedy” tribe members among the Manobo tribes of Mindanao. It undermined the motivation of others to get ahead.
Too many people still hold to this primitive limited good view of life. They believe that if some people have been more successful, then it must have been at the expense of the rest of us. The successful (the 1%) have taken more of the limited resources that are available to all of us.
The limited good view is also associated with the belief that to desire more, to want to consume more, or to get ahead is quite obviously evidence of greed and selfishness. Increased consumption violates the belief that the simple low-consumption lifestyle is morally superior. This is related to the similarly primitive belief that humanity is a curse on the planet, greedy and destructive, a defiled intruder into pure nature and that people do not really belong here. There is a demonic element in humanity that leads to the ruin of life and nature. Many ancient religious traditions hold to the belief that there was a pure and perfect beginning, a creation that was spoiled by defiled and fallen people. Since those early people destroyed the original paradise, life has been in decline toward some coming disastrous ending. Like all declinist visions, this posits an enemy (devalued, dehumanized, demonized) that is attacking something good and pure, and now an emergency plan of salvation must be enacted to rescue the pure entity by eradicating the dangerous, destructive enemy. In contemporary environmental visions, a pure and inherently good natural world must be saved from evil humanity. The salvation plan aims for the restoration of what the devotees believe is the lost paradise or utopia.
The logical implication of such beliefs is that humans must be restrained from their destructive ways of consuming too much, of using too much of nature’s resources. They must be regulated, held back, and even punished.
Their desire for a better life, and the use of resources that this requires, is the cause of nature’s destruction; it leads to the exhaustion of limited resources. Earth must be saved from this destroying vermin that does not respect the sacred limits of life.
One other notably damaging outcome of this limited good or limits perspective is the life-boat mentality that it produces. The view that reality (the universe) and life are stingy and resources are limited leads inevitably to viewing all others as competitors for scarce resources and hence the endeavor to prevent their further development and success. You see this in the Occupy Movement and its rage against the 1% and the demand for coercive redistribution of that success. And you see it in the more general suspicion of wealthy people as somehow successful by defiled and destructive motivations that damage others (successful by greed, selfishness, and deception).
You also see this life-boat mentality in the European endeavor to prevent increased use of fossil fuels in the developing world. People need cheap energy supplies to raise their standard of living but well-off Westerners are fighting to prevent this, all in the name of saving limited and fragile nature. People in the West have achieved higher standards of living and now they are trying to prevent others from getting into the lifeboat with them, which is exactly what these global warming policies are effecting through the effort to prevent others from using cheap energy supplies (increased output of CO2) for their development and growth. The war on carbon/CO2 is essentially a war on human economic development and growth (environmental alarmists hold to both positions). It is a war on the poor. This war feeds off the distorted perception that resources on Earth are strictly limited and we are already exhausting them. We are in overshoot.
Limits thinking has been an essential element in the environmental narrative of imminent apocalypse that has become lodged in the public consciousness over the past decades. And consequently it has inspired endless obstruction of human endeavor to create a better life for all. An endeavor that needs abundant and inexpensive energy supplies. I remember Bill Rees, with his dark vision of all resources as strictly limited, then arguing that human economic development should not only be halted, but actually reversed. He once stated that income should be limited to $8000 annually per family.
Interestingly, this is the level, according to some models of the Kuznet’s Environmental Curve at which people, having met their basic needs, then turn to improving their environments. The Kuznets Curve shows that when people are wealthy enough they then naturally take better care of their environment. It has become obvious that economic development does not destroy nature but actually saves it. It is only in the poorest areas that severe environmental degradation is still occurring.
David Suzuki, a disciple of Rees, also shares the view that a return to a limited primitivism is the salvation of the world. He has argued for such things as returning to the use of oxen in agriculture, just as they do in Cuba, a shining example of agricultural productivity for the rest of the world to follow. These elite environmentalists, having attained a comfortable standard of living, now want others to refrain from the same levels of success and development. Through a centralized program of coerced redistribution and reversed development they would return all of humanity to levels of primitivism and poverty last known worldwide centuries ago.
This environmental narrative is profoundly anti-human because it is anti-progress, anti-success, and anti-development and growth. I would counter this dismal and pessimistic view of limits (limited resources, limited capacity to solve problems, limited creativity) with two fundamental and liberating realities that ought to be at the core of any grand human narrative. One – the infinite generosity evident in the universe and in life. And two – the magnificence of being consciously human (e.g. human creative potential).
On the infinite generosity of the material world – we have the recent and stunning examples of the shale gas and shale oil discoveries and these are aside from the emerging methane hydrate discoveries and related technological breakthroughs that are emerging there. And just as sure as all our past history shows, there are certain to be other emerging technological breakthroughs that will enable us to access other new resources. There is no limit to the energy that we can access. I am reminded, for instance, of dark energy, which Arthur C. Clarke predicted we might access in this century and then have an actual infinitely unlimited supply of energy. The night sky repeatedly reminds us that reality is all energy, and the points of exploding energy that we call stars reveal the vast outpouring, the excess waste of energy in the universe that is available to be explored and used.
In regard to the magnificence of being human, we have our long history of innumerable examples of the human ingenuity that has always discovered the technologies to access new and more plentiful resources as we need them. Our history of never-ending new discoveries shows that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of this planet, aside from needing other planets. This is true because we are always only beginning to explore the infinite creative potential of human minds. Limits theorists like Bill Rees dismiss and even deny this generosity of material reality and the wonder of human creative potential. And that is why these pessimistic alarmists refuse to abandon an apocalyptic position that has historically a 100% failure rate. To paraphrase Steven Pinker, apocalyptic alarmists repeatedly expose their inability to predict the future. And they already have a poor enough record of predicting the past.
If our history teaches us anything, it reveals that humanity is an essentially creative species with an unlimited power of mind to explore and create. The confidence this should inspire would include the realization that we can access more than enough resources for everyone, so lets welcome all into the lifeboats of human progress and prosperity. There is no sound basis for fear of anything running out or of humanity arriving at the end of progress.
Our entire history, and especially the last few centuries, provides the best evidence of our endless creative progress toward something better. Note the improvements that we have attained in health and increased life spans. Or the incredible advances in transportation and communication. Or the new forms of less onerous occupation and increases in income. And just as the alarmist hysteria reached a new crescendo over peak fossil fuels, we then experienced the shale gas and shale oil revolutions. This remarkable progress has been achieved because along with the wonder of human consciousness come some profoundly human impulses. And none has been more important than the core human impulse to always seek something better, to create something better than what has been. To make endless progress from the imperfection of the past and present. This foundational human impulse can never be restrained for long. We encounter some setback along the way, some blockage or apparent limit, some shortage, and what has been our response? We creatively find a solution to the problem and pass this on to the benefit of all others. If this has been true of all our past history then why do some people think it will cease now?
We have made a grand exodus from the primitivism of the past in forests and on savannahs to create a magnificently humane civilization. To more fully appreciate where we have come from and what we have accomplished, read the varied scholars that have amassed detailed evidence of our advances – Julian Simon in Ultimate Resource, Paul Seabright in his book In The Company of Strangers, James Paynes’ History of Force, Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World, Matt Ridley in Rational Optimist, and Bjorn Lomberg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, among others. For good evidence on just one area of progress, read Steven Pinker’s excellent and detailed history of the decline of violence over human history (Our Better Angels) and be inspired at the wonder of being human. And it only gets better with each passing year. We now live in the most peaceful time in all history despite the ongoing and distorting alarmism of popular media that would suggest otherwise. We have conquered the animal and learned to live as human.
Admittedly, we have made our messes along the way, but our capacity to learn and our fundamental desire to improve has led us repeatedly to correct our mistakes and do better the next time. This is true in all areas of life. We have now become, in net terms, creators, not destroyers. Once again we have the example that nature has destroyed 99% of all species, but we now try to carefully protect all species and the rate of extinctions is at historical lows. We protect forests, fisheries, and agricultural land. We find ever new sources of abundant energy, and now less-polluting energy.
The old narrative of humanity as a defiling influence, a curse, is entirely distorting of our grand potential as conscious persons and our historical record of progress. Equally distorting is the primitive belief that the greater surrounding reality is something stingy, threatening, demanding sacrifice, and punishing. Overwhelming evidence points to the opposite – that there is an infinite generosity behind all.
Alarmist environmentalism does not appreciate the fundamental human impulse to seek something better, to progress, and to create a better life and world. This impulse makes us truly human and leads to the humanization and benefit of all life. Environmental pessimism devalues and distorts our desire to progress as greed and destruction, as something to prevent and punish. Again, this feeds off the belief that the greater reality that we are embedded within is stingy, threatening, and punishing (an angry planet, an angry and retaliating GAIA). The outcome of such a belief is guilt over our presence and activity, and the endeavor to restrain, punish, and even reverse human success. Certainly, to halt it because it is viewed as the destruction of a deified nature.
This distortion needs to be countered with a life-affirming and humanity-affirming narrative; that the human impulse to seek something better is not only good for humanity, but good for all life. And it is specifically our creation of wealth that enables us to take better care of nature, to improve upon all life.
And yes, our engagement of the natural world does change it. But this is not a violation or destruction of nature because we are as natural as any other species. We do belong here on Earth and what we do is as ‘natural’ as what any other species does, and our unique contribution is to humanize things more. Nature in its wilderness state is not some supreme and inviolably sacred thing that has the unquestionable right to cover the globe untouched and unaltered by humanity. Note the arguments of people like Greg Easterbrook in A Moment on the Earth – especially the last 50 pages- or Lyall Watson in Dark Nature, on the shortcomings of nature and what human minds can do to improve nature.
This belief that the world should be left in a majority wilderness condition is prominent in the contemporary environmental narrative. In response to this I would note such lines of thought as those offered in the book Life of Pi where the author, Yan Martel, points out that animals themselves reveal by their responses that they are not blind advocates for wilderness existence but often prefer domesticated environments (e.g. zoos) with secure food supplies and protection from predators. Just as we left wilderness to create a more humane existence, so animals appear to prefer the same.
Studies have found more species of birds in German cities than in surrounding wilderness. Our influence in nature is to humanize it more and animals appreciate this just as we do; to rescue from all that is red in tooth and claw. Nature in its wilderness state does not protect animals as we now do. We decrease violence (humanize life) everywhere, as Pinker shows so well. And this is not to deny the valued place of some protected wilderness areas for recreational and other reasons. We now have many of these areas and we continue to increase their size over time. It is our economic development and growth that enables us to do all these things. Our increasing wealth enables us to continually discover ways around apparent limits and it enables us to protect, preserve and enhance the well being of all life on the planet.
To counter the darkly pessimistic narrative of contemporary environmentalism we need a fresh advocacy of the wonder of being human and our infinite creative potential for good. I have found no better statement of this potential than Matt Ridley’s comments in his book The Rational Optimist.
This is a potent response to the pessimism of limits thinking. I quote,
“The most fundamental feature of the modern world since 1800- more profound than flight, radio, nuclear weapons or websites, more momentous than science, health, or material well-being- has been the continuing discovery of ‘increasing returns’ so rapid that they outpaced even the population explosion.The more you prosper, the more you can prosper. The more you invent, the more inventions become possible. The world of things is indeed often subject to diminishing returns. But the world of ideas is not. The more knowledge you generate, the more you can generate. And the engine that is driving prosperity in the modern world is the accelerating generation of useful knowledge.The dissemination of useful knowledge causes that useful knowledge to breed more useful knowledge.The wonderful thing about knowledge is that it is genuinely limitless. There is not even a theoretical possibility of exhausting the supply of ideas, discoveries, and inventions. (the) inexhaustible river of invention and discovery. Knowledge is one thing that has showed inexorable upward progress. It is a beautiful feature of information systems that they are far vaster than physical systems: the combinatorial vastness of the universe of possible ideas dwarfs the puny universe of physical things. (the well-known Limits to Growth report of the 1970s) underestimated the speed and magnitude of technological change, the generation of new recipes for rearranging the world.the amount of oil left, the food-growing capacity of the world’s farmland, even the regenerative capacity of the biosphere- these are not fixed numbers; they are dynamic variables produced by a constant negotiation between human ingenuity and natural constraints.We now know .that more than six billion people can live upon the planet in improving health, food security and life expectancy and that this is compatible with cleaner air, increasing forest cover and some booming populations of elephants” (Rational Optimist, p. 248, 274, 276, 303).
The key concept above that exposes the fallacy of limits thinking (that there are strict limits to such things as natural resources or energy supplies) is this: “The combinatorial vastness of the universe of possible ideas dwarfs the puny universe of physical things”. Physicist Freeman Dyson stated it this way- that the imaginative human mind opened up possibilities that are “infinite in all directions”. The inventive human mind is the Ultimate Resource (Julian Simon) that frees humanity from all apparent physical resource limitations. The human mind can dream up and produce infinite possible combinations of atoms, molecules, manufactured things, new inventions, useful new procedures, new sources of energy, solutions to problems and apparent resource limits, and on and endlessly on. And this process of insight, imagination, discovery, learning, production, progress, and advance is endless and infinite in all directions. We are always just beginning in the movement toward a better and more generous future.
This is what a truly human consciousness is about in essence- the creative progress toward something better. It is the most powerful impulse in the universe and in life and it cannot be restrained or denied. It will find solutions to any problems encountered. Our entire past history is evidence of this impulse at work through human consciousness and succeeding beyond imagination. People of just one century ago could not have imagined the success that we have attained and we today cannot fully imagine what people one century from now will attain in an ever better future.
Its important to not get drawn into the media obsession with present problems and aberrational failures (often scaled up to the next world-ending crisis) as though such things defined life in its entirety and exposed our inability to respond. We should not neglect the larger picture of the overall historical situation and the long term trajectory of progress that we are a part of. This is not a call to denial but to keep clear the greater overall narrative and the long term trends that more correctly reveal the true state of the planet and our success in creating a better world.
Limits thinking misses entirely the wonder of this never-ending progress toward an unimaginably better and unlimited future.