I admit I’m a doomer. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. To be a doomer is to recognize the tragedy of the human experience.
History provides some excellent company. Nietzsche and Schopenhauer are among my favorites. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those hopelessly optimistic writers and thinkers who don their rose-colored-glasses and conclude we can always find a way to advance civilization: Lester Brown, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and many, many others in positions of power.
Of course, power doesn’t come to those who deal in reality (e.g., Nietzsche, Schopenhauer). Not only does no good deed go unpunished, but no bad act is unrewarded. Consider this anecdote from renowned ecologist and AAAS Fellow Charles Hall, a professor at the State University of New York:
Hall has worked on ecological issues his entire career, and has been rewarded in the usual sense. He has received grant funds totaling millions of dollars and has published hundreds of papers. At the same time, he has spent his spare time working on energy issues, and has published more than 200 papers in this arena. But he has landed a total of $800 in grant funds to work on these issues, and he is perhaps the only person to be denied tenure from an Ivy-League university the very week one of his papers landed on the cover of Science (the paper was titled, Energy and the U.S. Economy: A Biophysical Perspective).
Obviously, Hall is not the only person who has been marginalized for his work on important issues. But his is a telling contemporary example of the type of infamy M. King Hubbert earned in his day, and a reminder how Cassandras (i.e., realists) are treated in any empire (at least as far back as Socrates).
Optimists, however foolish, earn external rewards. Realists are not so fortunate. On the other hand, realists get to deal in reality, and therefore face with honor the toughest judge: the mirror.
Yes, I’m a doomer. And damned proud of the company I keep, too.