I picture our civilization as a bus going through the night. We are proud of the machine we have built and enjoy riding it – it is more convenient than walking. Everyone, perhaps except for a few primitive tribes deep in the jungle, jumped on the bus from the fear of being left behind. We are eager to go faster and faster. We will never be happy with the speed (GDP, standard of living) that we thought was amazing just a few years back. Striving for growth is our nature, stagnation is not an option. The road leads into the future, but nobody knows what lies ahead – the visibility is low, it is dark. Only few people realize that the bus has gained such an enormous momentum that there is no way we can break quickly enough when some obstacle or sharp turn comes. To make things worse, we have selected the most shortsighted drivers (politicians, CEOs with short term incentives). There are some thoughtful people (scientists, academics) in the back who suggest that we are breaking a sustainable speed limit, but majority of people enjoy the ride and don’t really want to slow it down. In democracy, the majority rules.
I made my way to the front of the bus (my career at McKinsey and education at Harvard Business School) so I could understand the shortsighted drivers, watching them switch the wheel one after another. No one is really responsible. I am personally worried, because I see more ahead and know that at the increasing speed, there will come a turn that the bus won’t be able to handle. Yes, we need to reduce, reuse, recycle to help sustainability. Constraining ourselves however goes against our greedy human nature, even against evolution so it probably won’t be enough. I want to ensure long-term sustainability of mankind, but to me a crash is inevitable at some moment. In fact nothing in nature can grow forever; everything goes in cycles of growth and decline. Decline inevitably comes after growth, but growth does not necessarily follow after a decline. I want to ensure we don’t end up like dinosaurs, because if we do, everything we did in our life was meaningless. I want us to survive our decline and rebound. I want to build the airbags