The Optimist's Telescope
Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Bina Venkataraman, Bina Venkataraman
Named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR
“How might we mitigate losses caused by shortsightedness? Bina Venkataraman, a former climate adviser to the Obama administration, brings a storyteller’s eye to this question. . . . She is also deeply informed about the relevant science.” —The New York Times Book Review
A trailblazing exploration of how we can plan better for the future: our own, our families’, and our society’s.
Instant gratification is the norm today—in our lives, our culture, our economy, and our politics. Many of us have forgotten (if we ever learned) how to make smart decisions for the long run. Whether it comes to our finances, our health, our communities, or our planet, it’s easy to avoid thinking ahead.
The consequences of this immediacy are stark: Superbugs spawned by the overuse of antibiotics endanger our health. Companies that fail to invest stagnate and fall behind. Hurricanes and wildfires turn deadly for communities that could have taken more precaution. Today more than ever, all of us need to know how we can make better long-term decisions in our lives, businesses, and society.
Bina Venkataraman sees the way forward. A former journalist and adviser in the Obama administration, she helped communities and businesses prepare for climate change, and she learned firsthand why people don’t think ahead—and what can be done to change that. In The Optimist’s Telescope, she draws from stories she has reported around the world and new research in biology, psychology, and economics to explain how we can make decisions that benefit us over time. With examples from ancient Pompeii to modern-day Fukushima, she dispels the myth that human nature is impossibly reckless and highlights the surprising practices each of us can adopt in our own lives—and the ones we must fight for as a society. The result is a book brimming with the ideas and insights all of us need in order to forge a better future.