Biophilic or Dystopic: The Future in our Hands

Will we choose to live in harmony with nature or separated from it?
Apr 28, 2015 8:00 AM ET

Last weekend, I watched two movies. The first one, set in in the 1920’s, was about a female immigrant who came to New York City to build a new life. Instead of finding streets paved with gold, she encountered heartbreak and deception everywhere. The movie was grim and grimy, depicting the hardships of the era. As I watched, I remember thinking how grateful I am to be alive today, with all of our amenities, technological innovations, and medical advancements.

The second movie transported me to the future. It was a science fiction fantasy set in the 2100’s, in which Earth had become so polluted and inhospitable that the wealthiest people had moved off the planet to a pristine manmade habitat in Space.

After watching the two movies, both portraying frightening, ravished places and undesirable, immoral societies, I couldn’t help but wonder what our future has in store, and how we’ll look back on this moment in time.

Will we develop the emotional, technological, economic, and environmental intelligence to clean up our act and create a future that is abundant, healthy, and clean? Or are we destined to manifest dystopia, a future in which everyone is dirty, angry, underfed, and unsatisfied?

Will we look back on today as the time when we judiciously transitioned to renewable energy, efficient technology, and appropriate resource management strategies, or will it become known as the period when we foolishly squandered our natural resources and turned the planet against us? As far as I can tell, the two outcomes seem equally as possible.

There are many factors that will determine our future, some of which we have control over (for example, how we deal with energy, carbon emissions, water, and land use), many of which we don’t (for example, shifting weather patterns and precipitation rates, rising sea levels, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, and stratospheric ozone depletion.) The factors that we can’t control will certainly be accelerated or mitigated by those that we can control.


The first factor that will determine our fate is how we deal with energy. While fossil fuels have been considered the most enduring and effective energy source, the rapid adoption of solar and other renewables could change the course of our future. Every day, the political and regulatory landscape are becoming more favorable towards renewables, and improvements in technology are eliminating the price advantage of fossil fuels.