Temper the gloom for the little ones

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

I happened to be in a junior school last week and noticed an interesting class project displayed on the corridor wall. The project showed letters written by the children about what they would like to achieve by the time they are 30 years old. As the children are 12 years old now they were considering what they would achieve by the year 2029. Being the wrong side of 30 I was interested and immediately started reading.

Most of the letters were well written, one child wrote about training to be a mechanic and setting up his own business, he even had a company name chosen. Others wrote about having their own children, hoping to win the lottery, designing computer games and one wrote that they planed to leave the country and live in Canada.

But two children surprised me by writing that they expected that the world would be destroyed from global warming by the time they were 30. I was shocked, that’s not a great sign, is it? 2 out of a class of 28 think that the world is going to end in the next few years, and not just end, but be destroyed by human activity. In fact more of the children could have thought this as I didn’t have time to read all of the letters. But it does show that as a society we are probably over emphasising the negatives. Certainly newspapers, charities, advertisers, politicians etc won’t be successful if they tell us that things are okay and instead we get pessimist messages about the future, i.e. unless we do X or buy Y, we are in trouble. It would seem that at least some of the children are being influenced by this.

It’s a pity that we can’t instill more confidence, for instance tell the young about the world’s problems, but instead treat them as challenges that need to be overcome and encourage them to think that they could be part of the solution. Most people are worriers to a greater or lesser extent and it was probably better to be a worrier in pre-history so that you would be prepared for trouble. However if we consider that as recently as the 1960’s people thought that nuclear war would destroy the planet and everyone on it. Yet there are many more of us here and most are thriving.

Think about all the problems that humans have overcome in the past, why do we think that we can’t overcome problems in the future. While we might think that we face incredibly tough problems today, surely the same could be said of the issues in the past that were solved when human knowledge and tools were a fraction of what we have at our disposal today.

Most probably if we solve the energy crisis or global warming as early as 2029, there will be another issue that people will say will destroy the world. As the old saying says ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ but if we try and break the extreme worry habit maybe the next generation won’t be as pessimistic about the future of the planet.

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