Sometimes people are not very good at long-term thinking. Many of us, as individuals, have gotten better at it. But, as a species, we’re really built more for avoiding bears than avoiding bear markets. And why not? For most of our history, we simply haven’t stayed around long enough for long-term to matter. But, as our productivity increased, so did our lifespans. We learned to plant seeds, and thus were able to plant ourselves in one spot. To keep track of our increasing stores, we invented numbers and letters. And thus, the question of where our next meal would come from was replaced by the quandary of where to have lunch. Still, even the best of us sometimes have trouble seeing till the end of next week, never mind ten years from now, and forget about fifty.
This shortcoming is hardly newly recognized. In 1754, Rousseau wrote that “men could see no further than the present inconveniences, and never thought of providing remedies for future ones,” as part of his Discourse on Inequality. So we know our faults, or this one at least. What do we do about it? Well, mostly we try to scare each other. We make apocalyptic pronouncements about what will happen, sometimes even attaching dates. The hope is to create a sense of urgency around problems which are otherwise very hard to see. The problem is that the apocalypse never seems to come around. And, when the sky doesn’t fall, we are left a bit hardened to the next plea.
That’s not to say that such prognosticators are always incorrect, a least directionally. It does seem, though, that progress in such areas is more often an unintended consequence, a happy accident that accompanies more conventional motives. We’ve spoken before about the horse being a huge waste management and public health problem solved by the automobile. No one imagines that beautifying the urban landscape was Henry Ford’s motivation. But does it matter? Cities were better off as a result.
Less oration, more innovation, then, seems to be the cure what ails us. And, by all signs, we are getting better at that, however slowly. For our part, Paper Water Bottle will continue to focus on increasing sustainability, reducing the use of scant natural resources, and shrinking our waste management profile, by providing products that people want to buy. That’s not as shocking as an ominous prediction, but it’s far more likely to change a consumer’s mind. That sounds like A Refreshing Alternative.