Making the Best of Uncertainty
As worldwide response to the COVID-19 outbreak escalated quickly, one word stuck in the mind of many people, including my own: that is, a sense of uncertainty. It became clear that developments regarding the coronavirus were impossible to predict with comfortable accuracy, which in turn caused a general societal distress. Fear of the unknown influenced our way of life, from macro levels (such as the economy) to more micro ones (i.e., an unwillingness to shake hands with other people). Our response to the coronavirus, whether we like it or not, has set a precedent for how major institutions across the world will respond to public health emergencies, and/or items deemed a threat to public safety.
It became apparent to me that the extent to which uncertainty gripped the world would yield negative, long-term effects. While uncertainty is not inherently “negative” or “damaging,” there remains a fine line between a healthy dose of uncertainty, versus acting based solely on emotion and fear. Having unknown or imperfect information can drive us to search for the truth; drive us to experiment and prepare for the future. Uncertainty, to a great degree, drives the engine of the environmental sustainability movement, for we wish to make the planet a better place. We do not know the implications of our actions thirty years from now, much less eighty or a hundred. Some people can predict well, but we can never demonstrably know until it’s time.
While I find some anger and disappointment stemming from the uncertainty regarding contemporary action (or perhaps more appropriately, inaction) to solve environmental problems justifiable, I remain critical of the idea that issues should be an omnipresent stress. Rather than being perpetually worried about climate change, waste reduction, etc, we must tackle these anxieties head-on. Uncertainty can fuel fear, but it can also be leveraged to develop creative solutions. Our world needs environmental leaders willing to work through uncertain situations to come up with effective gameplans, in lieu of mimicking an alarmist approach.
Written by Dax Emerson, Class of 2021
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