Two completely underappreciated developments. As optimistic as I am about the world, EVEN I was taken aback by the rapidity and breadth of these developments: malaria and species extinction.
You may by now know that a horrible blight wiped out up to 3 billion American chestnut trees last century. It was one of the most common trees in America and made up an estimated 1/4 of all trees in the Appalachian forests. There are basically NONE left.
(1) Yes, lots of food and furniture depended on the tree. And this supremely important species both ecologically and economically was virtually extinct. What kind of an impact did its loss really have when you understand that there are very good substitutes for it?
(2) In an amazing collaberation of scientists, we believe we can bring the tree back. With a GMO technique to make it blight resistant, this once great tree may soon be a part of the American landscape. You can be a part of this historic restoration here: https://fundly.com/10-000-chestnut-challenge. I think points (1) and (2) are closely related.
PMI’s Bernard Nahlen brought it home to me when he talked about the sea change he’s seen in the tools available. When Bill Gates announced a commitment to elimination on the part of the Gate Foundation in 2007, it was roundly understood as an aspirational but unrealistic goal. No one thinks that any more – it’s an inevitability. The only question is how quickly can we do it – and every bit of speed we can muster is another child that doesn’t have to die.
I’ll remind you that nothing will guarantee that such incredible innovations will continue, but it is my deepest conviction that this should nonetheless be our default view of the world, and should be the baseline upon which we think about the challenges that climate change will bring us.