(Disclaimer I: If you want to know the “technical details” (the boring stuff) about me, just look to the bottom. The text in between is more of a short introduction of the thought path that led me to start this blog and try write this book)
(Disclaimer II: I will be updating this section in the future so it is not yet complete)
“We do not inherit this world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – A Native American proverb
“It is unlikely that future generations would thank us if we simply unilaterally proclaim that growth should cease at this entirely arbitrary juncture of human history.“ – Colin McInness
When I first came across the former quote I was deeply moved. A beautiful and poetic anecdote that epitomized everything that was missing from the seemingly careless attitudes of my contemporaries. Who were we to call ourselves intelligent, when “primitive” hunter-gatherers could achieve much higher levels of sustainability (and be eloquent about it)? To say the least I was deeply disappointed with the perceived development of my inherited Western culture.
This development-pessimism is a very fashionable strand of liberal intellectual thought today. I often hear that today’s consumerism and techno-centrism has made life somehow ‘void of meaning’. Moreover, it is said that this “development” hasn’t simply sucked out the meaning of life but is threatening life’s very existence.
It wasn’t long ago when I read the latter quote and started thinking what the former one truly meant. Nothing had changed in terms of the proverb of course – we should aim to provide future generations with the best possible opportunities. The big question is then how to best provide that future?
This issue, and its multiple-shades-of-grey-nature, came up during a time when I was going through some fundamental internal discussions about the nature of sustainability. For instance, I had started wondering about the seeming paradox of complaining about the perils of economic growth amid unprecedented standards of living combined with clean air, water and mostly growing forests. (Yes, that’s right, mostly at least. I will return to the issue of forests in my posts).
The more I looked into this the more astounded I was. Most indicators of development ranging from levels of malnutrition and child mortality to the stabilization of population growth and pollution are in fact all pointing to a rather positive direction. Of course I do not mean to say that there are no problems in the world. There are massive challenges but that isn’t a sufficient reason to conclude that the civilization is on the brink of collapse.
I realized that many authors had covered this issue already rather extensively. Bjorn Lomborg for one, illustrated that we are indeed living ever healthier lives and that most indicators of human and environmental wellbeing are more often aggravated by poverty rather than wealth as the typical thinking goes. The positive trends are not limited to environment and health. Steven Pinker has shown how the rate of violence has decreased rather dramatically over time. Matt Ridley painted a contagiously optimistic outlook about the prospects of human development based on teachings for our past successes. Hans Rosling has done some sobering work on dispelling myths about population growth and human development.
Several other thinkers have also deeply influenced my world view recently. People such as Prof. Colin McInness, Graham Strouts and Jan Blomgren, whose speech (I heard last year) finally convinced me (if there was any doubt by then) that my newly acquired positive outlook on the state of the world indeed had rather solid foundations.
Most of the things I say in this blog have already been said by far more eloquent and respected writers than me but what I hope to add to this discussion is a novel way of looking at the state of the world and human development. I hope to convince at least some of the readers to see things from a fresh perspective and learn something in the process myself.
In the end this project is my attempt to spread the optimism I feel myself when looking at the trends and mechanisms that have led to ever expanding part of humanity being better off than their ancestors.
My name is Lauri Muranen.
I am thirty.
A father to a lovely five year old daughter.
I live in Helsinki, Finland.
I work as the Director of World Energy Council Finland, the Finnish Member committee of the World Energy Council, a global energy think tank.
Despite believing only few years ago that a unique fate was reserved for me, I have become more middle class than I can believe. So middle class in fact that it’s not even funny anymore.
I hate lists.
I love stories.
I am Finnish by nationality but decided to do my university studies in the UK. I have now been back in Finland for about five years.