Thursday, September 16, 2010

A few things that give me hope.

Thinking about the state of things can bring me down. Every now and then I like to draw attention to things that give me hope. In today's post, I'll draw brief attention to three of those things:
  1. Good colleagues, working on things that matter;
  2. Deepening understandings of how to effect behavior change on a broad scale; and;
  3. The fact that young people hold expertise that matters for changing how the world works, and that that expertise and its related infrastructure is growing quickly.
Charismatic Megafauna Aboard the JOIDES Resolution

Smart people are working on things that matter.
I'm writing again from the JOIDES Resolution, an ocean research ship now off the coast of British Columbia. Today we placed a CORK, a remote observatory on the seafloor, not quite a mile beneath where I sit now (and extending into the seafloor enough to reach a mile below me). I've been blogging on the JR's blog over the last week along with many of my colleagues in the School of Rock. I invite you to take a look and see what we're up to.

School of Rock is a program to bring educators into the ocean research programming to deepen the educators' understandings of ocean science and to bring scientists into contact with educators to help deepen the public's understanding of ocean science and its importance.

My School of Rock colleagues, like my colleagues at PRI and its Museum of the Earth give me hope about where the world is headed. Terrifically smart, hard working nice people working on things that matter give me hope that those efforts will make a difference. The Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling program (from which the JR gets her first name), brings together scientists and now educators from around the world to a program that enriches our understandings of how the Earth works.

A reality check is that smart people have always been working on things that matter, so we do need something more than this for our hopes for change to be realized.

The research base for effecting behavior change is maturing.
Joe Brewer, of Cognitive Policy Works, offers a nice summary of how research on fostering behavior change has changed over the past several years. Perhaps the most compelling reason for hope is the growing understanding that self-interest isn't as strong a motivator as long believed. I like to think we know this from our day-to-day experience. Most of the people I know and care about don't have greed as a primary motivator and it turns out that my friends and family aren't freakish for being kind and at least somewhat altruistic (though some of them are pleasantly freakish in other ways).

Also encouraging is the recognition that broad sweeping change happens all the time. Some of that's not been so good (urban sprawl, for one example). But there are many positive changes we can point to -- that overt sexism and racism is no longer socially acceptable in most circles, for example.

Change is possible.

For the first time in history, huge numbers of young people have expertise that really matters and that their seniors do not have.

Don Tapscott's Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World describes how media and young people's engagement with it is changing the fundamental nature of how we communicate. And if we change the way we communicate, we change the way we live.

My interaction with young folks gives me hope too. As an educator and a parent, I get the opportunity to interact with lots of them, and with their teachers from all over the country.

Though the phrasing of that last paragraph makes me feel like an old man, the basic gist of it gives me reason for optimism.

What gives you reason for optimism?

1 comment:

Paleontological Research Institution said...

I had expertise when I was a kid too, but it was largely based on Star Trek and Bugs Bunny.