If we take a minute to consider our world right now, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed: Rampant inequality, major race and social justice issues, climate change, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. With his latest book, Thomas Homer-Dixon wants to help keep us from being overwhelmed and provide active solutions humanity can take to prepare for and solve these problems. In Commanding Hope: The Power We Have To Renew A World In Peril, the bestselling author reckons with the magnitude of these crises while offering historical and scientific research, alongside his own insights, to push against pessimistic gloom.
The Star recently featured an essay from the book, which was released earlier this month. The excerpt below is from that essay, which covers an overview of the crises and problems facing humanity at the moment. As Thomas admits, the broad picture is both daunting and seemingly negative. But there are still many tools at our disposal should we choose to endeavor for a course correction.
What does all of this portend? Are we at a point where the curve of our collective well-being begins to bend sharply downwards? It appears so: when we dispassionately weigh the evidence, the negative trends I’ve just described seem to be starting to overwhelm the positive ones highlighted by Pinker, Gregg Easterbrook, Matt Ridley, and like-minded commentators. This new downward trend isn’t inexorable, though … at least not yet. There are still many things we can do to bend our curve upwards again.
And by “we” here, I mean not just North Americans or members of the richer western societies, but all people, everywhere. The entire human species is involved today; our fates are too intertwined on Earth for it to be otherwise, as the COVID-19 pandemic’s explosive propagation through our tightly connected global networks has made abundantly clear.
Humanity can’t and won’t address its urgent challenges unless enough of us from a broad range of cultures and societies recognize ourselves as one group, with a shared sense of identity, facing these challenges and developing solutions together.
At this crucial moment in humanity’s history, I argue, three changes are essential to keep us from descending into intractable, savage violence.
First, we need individually to better understand how and why we see the world the way we do and what makes other people’s views sometimes so different from ours. Second, instead of passively accepting a dystopian image of what will come tomorrow, we need to actively create together from our diverse perspectives a shared story of a positive future — including a shared identity as “we” — that will help us address our common problems and thrive. And, finally, we need to fully mobilize our extraordinary human agency to produce that future.
Bestselling author of The Ingenuity Gap, Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon shows audiences how to adapt and prosper in a world of ever-increasing complexity, speed, and surprise. Called “one of the best-informed and most brilliant writers on global affairs today” by The Guardian, he uses clear and simple language to help audiences understand how the world is rapidly changing and what that means for our future.