Save the Children (from Apocalyptic Thinking)

Laurence Articles

Please note: This is copyrighted material excerpted from my book Fewer, Richer, Greener, published by John Wiley & Sons. For your personal use only. Please do not rehost this PDF or distribute printed copies. You may forward the link to this page or to the book (and please do!), and you may quote passages with full attribution.

Thanks, Larry

The following is excerpted from Fewer, Richer, Greener: Prospects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance (John Wiley & Sons, 2019), Larry Siegel’s newly published book. It is available from Amazon via the link on this page.

An old story has a young man coming home from college to visit his father, who asks him, “What have you learned?”

The young man says, “I’ve just heard the worst news … and it was in astronomy class. The world is going to end in 5 billion years, when the Sun becomes a supernova.”

The father says, “I’m not sure I heard you right. The Sun is going to explode when?”

The son replies, “5 billion years.”

The father wipes his forehead and says, “Whew! You had me worried there for a moment. I thought you said 5 million.”

The point of the story, of course, is that we can’t think sensibly about the very far future. We can barely understand the numbers involved and, if our future is constrained by astrophysics, we surely can’t do much about it. What we can do is make sure we don’t destroy the near future.

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