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Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World

Restoring happiness, balance, and sanity to our lives and our planet

By Jim Brumm
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Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World by Jim Brumm

Long-Term Thinking for a Short-Sighted World (2012) reveals the root of many of the world’s problems: our own short-sightedness. From climate change to rampant consumerism and oil depletion, find out how many of the challenges we face today are the result of our inability or unwillingness to see the big picture. These blinks will set you on the path to thinking about the long-term consequences of the actions we take.

Key idea 1 of 9

History shows that people are shortsighted by nature.

Humans can be pretty good at devising specific solutions for specific problems, but we’re not very good at thinking about the long-term consequences of those solutions. To put it another way: we’re shortsighted.

Once upon a time, our shortsightedness was beneficial. It kept our prehistoric ancestors focused on the important things – finding food, for instance, and avoiding predators. Our myopia ensured our survival.

Today, however, it’s beginning to usher us toward our own downfall.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, humans invented agriculture. This allowed us to sustain ourselves in the long term, but, despite this revolutionary technology, we remained, by nature, shortsighted.

And when we look back, we can clearly see how this is at the root of our destructive behavior today: humans settle down somewhere and deplete the area’s natural resources, thereby causing their own downfall.

This is exactly what happened on Easter Island. Once home to a thriving community, the island was decimated by its inhabitants, who made the fatal error of cutting down all the trees. Most of the wood they used for fuel; the rest they shaped into logs, which they used to roll about their giant statues. This deforestation is believed to be a central reason for the eventual dying out of Easter Island’s population.

But instead of learning from our mistakes, we continue in our shortsightedness, to devastating effect.

In the 1950s, when faced with the problem of malaria-carrying mosquitoes on the Asian island of Borneo, the World Health Organization (WHO) responded by spraying vast areas of the island with DDT, a toxic pesticide.

They succeeded in obliterating the mosquitoes, but this short-term solution failed to take into account any of the long-term problems it created.

Geckos ate the contaminated insects and subsequently died of DDT poisoning. Cats then fed on the contaminated geckos and they began dying as well. This left rats with a reduced number of predators, and as their numbers skyrocketed, so too did cases of typhus and plague.

Due to WHO’s shortsightedness, the Royal Air Force was forced to airdrop cats into Borneo’s affected areas to bring the rat population back down.

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