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The problems that we face are not beyond our control because we are the ones creating the problems. We can do something about them.

I’ve paraphrased a quote from Jared Diamond who spoke at an Earth Day celebration at Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma County. Diamond is the well-known author of “Guns, Germs and Steel.” Here is the essence of his talk:

In a beautiful area such as the Wine Country, in a place of abundance, even in California, we need to realize that the earth is under siege and that we are depleting natural resources that cannot be restored. Those of us who live in the first world might believe that we will be fine but we would be mistaken because climate change will impact all of us. Diamond believes that we are in the midst of a horse race between the “horse of destruction” and the “horse of sustainability.” Both horses are increasing in speed at an exponential rate. He believes that the race, which is fate of life on earth, will be decided by 2050. Will we continue to destroy life on earth or will we act rationally and create a society that sustains life on this planet?

He mentioned the line above –that these problems are under our control because we are the cause of the problems — as a reason for optimism. It resonated with my own sense of how we view the world as makers. We can make change. We can gain a greater degree of control over these destructive processes and find more sustainable alternatives.

Diamond said we already know how to practice sustainable management so that we can increasingly rely on renewable energy, forestry, and fisheries. We have technology that can make a difference. Diamond even cited how large companies are changing in ways he would have never thought possible and they are acting to reduce their impact on the environment. While they might be acting in their own self-interest, they have a better understanding of how their own business requires them to become better stewards of the resources they use. He mentioned organizations like National Geographic and others that are having positive impact worldwide. Diamond wonders, however, if we have the political will to make the necessary changes happen before it is too late. He believes that there’s a 51% chance we will do the right thing; and a 49% chance we won’t. Diamond encouraged everyone to do what they can, whether it is supporting the work of environmental organizations or acting locally to implement sustainable practices. What you can do is very much worth doing.

Diamond’s latest book is “The World Until Yesterday” which compares our lives today with traditional societies of the past. He writes: “Traditional societies may not only suggest to us some better living practices, but may also help us appreciate some advantages of our own society that we take for granted.”

The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

Thanks to members of the MAKE team who participated in “Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley” by demonstrating 3D printers along with Brook Drumm of PrintrBot. I hope we brought some of the maker spirit to the event.

Dale Dougherty

I’m founder of MAKE magazine and creator of Maker Faire. I am CEO of Maker Media, the company that produces MAKE, Maker Faire and Maker Shed. I am Chairman of the Maker Education Initiative (www.makered.org).


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