The Danger of Unfounded Optimism 
Failure to act decisively soon enough
SOS #97    J. Morris Hicks    (3-16-21)
Now is a very critical time for the future of humanity. Most conservation scientists believe that there is still time for us to take bold enough action NOW -- to prevent the near-term extinction of Homo sapiens. But it won't be easy. 

The problem is that there is widespread complacency among the populace of all developed nations. Why is that? 

According to a recent scientific paper, the prospects for our future as a species are much worse than what is being reported by the mainstream media. 

Those prospects are reviewed in a bombshell January 2021 scientific paper that was published in the journal, Frontiers in Conversation Science, a multidisciplinary, open-access, journal, publishing rigorously peer-reviewed research on all topics that can be applied to conservation management.
That recent paper is entitled Understanding the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future and I strongly encourage you to read the entire piece. I have read it three times. Click here to read a summary of the paper 
from Frontiers in Conservation Science. 

Since you may not have time to read the entire paper, I encourage you to watch this two-minute summary video from the lead author -- Professor Corey A. Bradshaw of Flinders University in Australia.  

Just click on his image below to watch it, after which, you may be convinced to go back and read the entire report.

Lead Author, Dr. Corey Bradshaw
summarizes our situation thusly...

"The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms is so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts. The problem is compounded by ignorance and short-term self-interest, with the pursuit of wealth and political interests stymying the action that is crucial for survival." 

As for the content of their powerful paper, I was struck by the alarming shift in biomass of the Earth's vertebrates in the last 12,000 years -- in millions of tons. 
  • Twelve thousand years ago, wild animals comprised 100% of all the world's tonnage of vertebrate biomass.
  • In 2015, as you can easily see in the graph below -- we humans, along with our cattle, pigs and chickens, now comprise over 90% of that total biomass. 
  • Even our domesticated horses, cats and dogs weigh more than all of the world's total population of wild animals.
  • Take a quick look at Professor Bradshaw's comments about the rapidly declining global diversity -- beneath this alarming graph

So how important is slowing or stopping biodiversity loss among the world's leaders? Not you can see from within the report itself: 

Stopping biodiversity loss is nowhere close to the top of any country's priorities, trailing far behind other concerns such as employment, healthcare, economic growth, or currency stability.

Also, within the report, they cover the topic of political impotence,  writing:

If most of the world's population truly understood and appreciated the magnitude of the crises we summarize here, and the inevitability of worsening conditions, one could logically expect positive changes in politics and policies to match the gravity of the existential threats. 
But the opposite is unfolding. The rise of right-wing populist leaders is associated with anti-environment agendas as seen recently for example in 
Brazil (Nature, 2018), 
the USA (Hejny, 2018), and 
Australia (Burck et al., 2019). 
Large differences in income, wealth, and consumption among people and even among countries render it difficult to make any policy global in its execution or effect.
Want to learn more about this paper? After watching Professor Bradshaw's 2-minute, ghastly future video, I encourage you to take ten minutes to read an opinion piece written by Yale's Carl Safina. It was published just two weeks after the paper by Bradshaw and colleagues and it strongly reinforces its conclusions. 

Click on this image to read the article

Carl Safina's opinion piece began with this introduction:
A group of the world's top ecologists have issued a stark warning about the snowballing crisis caused by climate change, population growth, and unchecked development. Their assessment is grim, but big-picture societal changes on a global scale can still avert a disastrous future.

He ends this excellent piece with these words:

The cold shower outlined in "Avoiding a Ghastly Future" should motivate scientists to speak out strongly and should motivate investors and policymakers to envision and implement the many comprehensive solutions that have been charted. 

It's not really a matter of "avoiding" a ghastly future; it's whether we decide to create one. If we decide not to, we have our work - and our moral and ethical reflections - cut out for us.

This is Mr. Safina's home screen at
Click on image to visit his website

More on the "Ghastly Future" paper. Bradshaw's team includes seventeen top international ecologists from Stanford, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Cal Berkeley, Oregon State and others. Once again, a link to this powerful paper.

Their bombshell report began with these chilling words about what their paper addresses:

We report three major and confronting environmental issues that have received little attention and require urgent action. 
  • First, we review the evidence that future environmental conditions will be far more dangerous than currently believed.
  • Second, we ask what political or economic system, or leadership, is prepared to handle the predicted disasters, or even capable of such action. 
  • Third, this dire situation places an extraordinary responsibility on scientists to speak out candidly and accurately when engaging with government, business, and the public.
The paper continues with a plethora of horrifying details that you should take the time to read. The remaining sections of the report include a focus on:

Biodiversity Loss, the Sixth Mass Extinction, Ecological Overshoot: Population Size & Overconsumption, Failed International Goals and Prospects for the Future, Climate Disruption, Changing the Rules of the Game and Political Impotence.

What about that human "optimism bias?" Take a look at the last four sentences of this great paper:
While there have been more recent calls for the scientific community in particular to be more vocal about their warnings to humanity, these have been insufficiently foreboding to match the scale of the crisis. 
Given the existence of a human "optimism bias" that triggers some to underestimate the severity of a crisis and ignore expert warnings, a good communication strategy must ideally undercut this bias without inducing disproportionate feelings of fear and despair
It is therefore incumbent on experts in any discipline that deals with the future of the biosphere and human well-being to eschew reticence, avoid sugar-coating the overwhelming challenges ahead and "tell it like it is." 
Anything else is misleading at best, or negligent and potentially lethal for the human enterprise at worst.
The Bottom Line. It all begins with navigating that human optimism bias that afflicts most of us. We've simply got to start thinking differently about almost everything.

After studying many topics related to the sustainability of human life on this planet for the last 19 years, I am exasperated about how little the average human knows about the crises we are all facing in the not-so-distant future -- and the extent that we must be willing to dramatically change the way we live -- if we want to have a ghost of a chance of surviving indefinitely on this planet.

James Cameron pretty much nailed our current situation on the cover of our book that was published almost one year ago -- on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
I now sense that many people are beginning to worry a bit more about what might happen to us in the future. Even the most conservative among us know that we cannot continue indefinitely in a world where success is dependent on the maximization of the consumption of stuff in a world of finite resources. 

We all should have learned that in the third grade. Yet, I do not know of a single world leader who is seriously committed to all six of the following, urgently-needed, actions:
  • Replacing eternal growth economics with a system that answers to nature. Earthonomics Replaces Capitalism is the title of Chapter 11 of our book, Outcry.
  • Sharply lowering the consumption of manufactured goods everywhere
  • Actively lowering the human population 
  • Abolishing the consumption of animal-based foods
  • Eliminating the burning of all fossil fuels ASAP
  • And, in summary, dramatically reinventing our entire civilization -- which can result in returning vast areas of our planet completely back to nature.
Based on my 19 years of study, I have concluded that we in the developed world are probably living between 5% and 10% as sustainably as we must live in order to survive longterm. That means that we will have to quickly learn to live between 10 and 20 times more sustainably than we are now. 

And that still may not be enough. To understand what must be done to truly save us, we must address the question below with the absolute commitment that it deserves:

In closing, I confess that I have also suffered somewhat from the optimism bias that affects most humans. I am reluctant to completely give-up -- even as I continue to see our chances slowly slipping away -- as leaders in the developed world are failing miserably when it comes to taking the bold actions now that are necessary for our survival. 

Want to help wake up the populace to what nature thinks about what we have done to her planet? You can start by sending a link to this SOS Memo to everyone you know. It will be more effective if you include a personal note about how you are feeling about our longterm chances to survive as a species.

A handy link to this SOS Memo #97 can be easily found on our SOS Memos page, where all of our weekly memos are listed, with the most recent listed first.

While writing Outcry, in 2019 and 2020, I felt a true sense of optimism as I wrote about actions we could take that I believe would maximize our chances for survival. 

As such, that book remains, to our knowledge, the only book ever published that features an envisioned, totally-green, ultra-sustainable, super-desirable habitat for humans -- along with steps for how we might get there as soon as possible. 

One more thing. In the PS section below my name, I have provided a few related links to videos and articles in the sequence that they occurred herein.

The list begins with a link to a video of the only conservation scientist I know who believes humanity has little to no chance of surviving as a species much past 2030 -- if we make it that far. He gave up on the "optimism bias" long ago and, as a result, the scientific community -- and the general public -- have not treated him kindly since. 

Note: The links in the PS section below include all of the primary links that I have included earlier in this SOS Memo. 

Please circulate this memo widely. Want to send a link to a friend? It appears at the top of the list on our SOS Memos page. Also, contact me directly at the email below if you would like to discuss.

J. Morris (Jim) Hicks


PS: As promised, here is a list of all of the primary links that appeared in this SOS Memo -- listed below in calendar order. Also, I'd like to thank Paul Beckwith for bringing the "ghastly future" paper to my attention last week.

The first video below was in June of 2020 (seven months before the "ghastly future" paper) and features Professor Bradshaw in a discussion with Dr. Guy McPherson, who has predicted that humanity will go extinct before 2030. With each passing year, I must confess that I find it more difficult to exercise my optimism bias by disagreeing with him.
PPS: Free Zoom Conferences. In the interest of jump-starting the urgently-needed global "conversation" about the dilemma we are in, I am now offering to conduct private Zoom conferences free of charge to groups of almost any size. I look forward to ZOOM-ing with you and your group sometime soon. 

Send me an email and let's get started.

In preparation for those Zoom visits, I have developed a one-hour format consisting of an opening statement followed by a 20-minute slide show and then ending with a discussion and Q&A with the attendees. The sessions you organize will be far more interesting and productive if attendees have read Outcry in advance.

Our book, for a host of environmental reasons, is only available as an e-book on Amazon. As such, it contains hyperlinks to hundreds of references and videos, is less expensive, does not kill any trees and does not have to be manufactured and delivered. 

You can join my mailing list and/or find all of my previous postings by visiting the SOS Memos page on my websiteHere are a few of them where you can see how my vision has evolved since that first "creative idea" on 9-21-18:

As always, I am just trying to spark a global conversation about what is needed. By sharing a vision of what I believe is possible, I hope to influence others to think bigger, better and bolder. 

What else can you do to help? Two things:

1. Live as greenly as possible while doing all that you can to raise the awareness of "big picture" solutions that are crucially necessary for saving our civilization.

2. Share this BSB and my "Mama Ain't Happy" BSB with prominent journalists, thought leaders and/or elected officials whom you respect. They need to learn a lot more about the many reasons why Mama ain't happy.

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

Moonglow J. Morris Hicks

Want to see earlier SOS Memos? Click here
If you got this blog from a friend or found it on our website and want to receive more of these Bite-Size Blogs? Join Our Mailing List

Want to get started nurturing your own health and the health of our planet? Take our survey at
Click here to learn more about this free online dietary assessment tool.

4Leaf Logo