Writing about saving the world

Now we can add Sandy to the list of reasons to worry: about the environment, our bad habits, other people, and where all of it may be leading. And certainly lots of recent evidence seems to suggest that we have plenty of reasons to worry. But let’s be careful here. History shows that panic and fear have a way of infecting human thought, often feeding their own destructive patterns. In a recent essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books, K.C. Cole juxtaposes two works that manifest both the alarmist end-of-days perspective and a more nuanced consideration of the human mind. The essay entitled “How to Save ourselves from Extinction (One System at a Time)” begins thus:

“No one in their right mind would deliberately create the means of their own extinction, but that’s what we seem to be doing. The only conclusion is that we’re not in our right minds — which appears to be true. The two books considered in this review may not have an obvious relationship. Fred Guterl’s The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It, tells a compelling if disturbing narrative of what went wrong, with great stories, clear explanations and just enough optimism to think we might make it after all. But his book, by design I think, doesn’t deal with the biggest danger of all: the very nature of human thought. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow deals with the very nature of thought, and it just may be the most important book I’ve read in many years. Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics, offers potential solutions that actually might work. In tandem, the books provide a useful map of where the dragons lie (almost everywhere, alas) and also potential paths to safety.”

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