Half full or half empty?
"An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be"
I say otherwise.
Some people will not only tell you that the glass half empty, they'll also tell you that used to be nearly full and it’s being drained at an unsustainable rate, that the water that’s in the glass is full of toxic chemicals, and it’s getting more worse every day.
I don’t see it that way. But I'm not an optimist. I'm simply aware of the limits of what we know.
I don't believe anyone knows how big the glass actually is. So I don't believe anyone knows if it’s half-full or half-empty. I believe that the water isn’t as pure as it once was, but as far as I can tell it’s still mostly drinkable--though that may not continue to be the case. I know that some people are increasing the amount of pollution in the glass. And I also know others are working to clean it up.
So I know things might get worse. There’s a good chance that they will because good enough that there’s plenty of room for things to get worse--and because left alone things naturally get worse. But there are people who are not letting things alone. There are people who are working against nature to find ways to make things better. Some will succeed and some will fail.
And history tells us that some things have been a lot worse and then gotten better--which give me hope, but doesn't guarantee anything.
So I don’t know. Things could go badly. But they don’t have to. You can’t look at a trend--up or down--and know what’s going to happen. Theories that make sense sometimes predict the future and sometimes they don’t.
People have been predicting disasters over and over and with good reasons to support their predictions. And over and over they’re been wrong. But the fact that they’ve been wrong doesn’t mean that they’re going to be wrong this time.
It's reasonable to be pessimistic because there are more ways things can go wrong than there are ways that things can go well. The world has narrowly escaped disaster again and again. One of these times we may not be lucky.
It's reasonable to be optimistic because, despite all the opportunities for disaster, people are still alive. No natural disaster has been entirely destructive. No epidemic has killed everyone. No genocide has been entirely successful. People have recovered from every setback.
So what can we say about the present moment?
I can say, with absolute confidence, that I don’t know. I can say, near certainty, that no one else knows--though some people will guess correctly. I believe that there are good reasons to be pessimistic. And I believe there are good reasons to be optimistic. But I am neither an optimist or a pessimist.
I am an agnostic and I am hopeful.
An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be.
And I will tell you only this: I’m glad that there’s drinkable water today. I don't know if there will be drinkable water tomorrow. But I hope there will be.