Climate change, unpredictable weather, smoke filled summers, floods and devastation — all this would lead us to fear for our future and the quality of the lives of our children and grandchildren.
It doesn’t help that the president of the most powerful country denies the urgency of these threats.
Events that human beings have endured in the last century though and the optimism of millennials give us hope.
Nobody can deny the devastation of two world wars in the 20th century. Sixteen million people died in the First World War. The number of both civilian and military casualties in that war is estimated to be around 37 million people.
The estimates for the Second World War deaths are even higher. Fifty million to more than 80 million people are estimated to have died. These numbers stagger the imagination.
Yet the rebuilding of Europe, the emergence of post-war Germany and Japan as economic powerhouses suggest a dramatic recovery after massive devastation. Even more startling is the emergence of China as the chief economic rival to the U.S. in a matter of a few decades in the late 20 century. This after an estimated 45 million people died in China the result of a famine during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in the later 1950s and early ’60s.
A survey in addition seems to confirm that the future looks bright in the hands of the generation now coming of age. The survey, conducted by Ipsos and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found young people across all countries were more optimistic than adults.
In fact more than nine in 10 teenagers in Kenya, Mexico, China, Nigeria and India reported feeling positive about their futures. That is an interesting contrast to the young people in long established and economically robust countries like Sweden and France. There the pessimism among young people is the highest of all countries surveyed.
We’ll have to wait and see how and when this optimism bears fruit. It is a subject not frequently discussed or promoted and yet It is a vital ingredient in pursuing new ideas with energy and hopefulness.