The Optimist's Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age

The Optimist's Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age

by Bina Venkataraman

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Overview

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735219472
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/27/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 473,496
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Bina Venkataraman is the editorial page editor of The Boston Globe. Before joining the Globe, she served as a senior adviser for climate change innovation in the Obama White House, was the director of global policy initiatives at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and taught in the program on science, technology, and society at MIT. An alumna of Brown University and the Harvard Kennedy School, Venkataraman grew up in a small town in Ohio and now lives in Boston.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

A Note on Sources xvii

Introduction: The Trouble with the Future 1

Part 1 The Individual and the Family

1 Ghosts of the Past and Future 13

2 Dashboard Driving 42

3 Beyond the Here and Now 65

Part 2 Businesses and Organizations

4 The Quick Fix 95

5 A Bird's-Eye View 122

6 The Glitter Bomb 159

Part 3 Communities and Society

7 Hell or High Water 181

8 The Games We Play 211

9 The Living Crowd 239

Coda: Hope for a Reckless Age 267

Acknowledgments 277

Notes 283

Index 309

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