Don Gale: Respond to climate change with dreams, not memories

We live comfortably today because of the dreamers of years ago.

(Ed Kosmicki | Special to The Tribune) The shoreline of the Jordanelle Reservoir is a lot lower than it used to be after several years of drought. Beach goers have to walk much further from the parking areas to the waterline, June 9, 2021.

One penalty of growing old is the tendency to look back instead of ahead, to favor memories over dreams. The limitations of age overtake the freedoms of youth. The penalty applies to both individuals and societies. Memories are easy; dreams are challenging.

But as Snoopy said: “One dream is worth a bushel full of memories.”

The Economist magazine noted recently that European nations once accounted for 41 of the world’s 100 most successful companies. Now only 15 remain, thanks largely to “complacency.” Age and comfort breed complacency. The United States grows complacent as our population ages.

Sadly, even today’s younger generations favor memories over dreams. We see it in the obsessive focus on yesterday’s mistakes while neglecting tomorrow’s promise.

Consider the drought in the West. Some think we can deal with it by taking fewer showers and xeriscaping yards – short-term panacea for long-term climate problems. A few even talk about draining Lake Powell and other water storage. Such thinking is as dream-less as it sounds.

We live comfortably today because years ago dreamers made plans to collect water, store it, and move it so barren land could blossom. Where are today’s dreamers? The planet has plenty of water. It begs for collection, storage and re-distribution.

Dreamers should be planning ways to move ocean water to the Great Salt Lake. That would free up water from the Bear River and other sources to grow trees and greenery nature uses to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Dreamers should be making plans to move excess water from north to south and from east to west so barren land could blossom. (We move oil thousands of miles through pipes; why not water?)

Climate change will not be resolved in a decade – or even three decades. Every tree lost to drought and every blade of grass replaced by xeriscape gravel delays positive climate improvement. Tree leaves transform carbon dioxide into oxygen. Grass absorbs heat; dry soil and gravel reflect heat back into the atmosphere. Dreamers should be working on ways to mimic tree leaves by transforming dangerous carbon dioxide into beneficial oxygen.

Another area badly in need of dreamers is power generation. We will need three times as much electric power over the next 20 or 30 years so we can convert to electric cars, electric buildings and electric houses. Dreamers should be developing new technologies to generate electricity.

Solar and wind power may help in the short run, but both bring challenges of reliability and distribution. If dreamers succeed, those mis-named “green” technologies won’t survive 30 years. And individuals who resist nuclear power generation are the Luddites of the 21st century.

We also need creative dreamers in education. The value of general education is proven beyond doubt, but today’s education system falls short for too many segments of society – young children, minority communities, poor neighborhoods, immigrants, mature citizens, and so on. Dreamers would develop effective and affordable education opportunities for those groups and others

Higher education has more than its share of complacency. Too many universities focus on the offspring of our most affluent citizens. The primary motivation for that group is to maintain the status quo, to not rock the boat that provides family prosperity. Eligibility for higher education is based too much on testing – what a student knows – and too little on potential – what a student can accomplish.

Dreams for higher education include improving techniques to bring out creativity in young people, avoiding restrictions of “accepted limits,” stimulating interactions between children of the elite and equally talented children from less favored backgrounds, and developing unshakeable confidence within every student — confidence that every problem can be resolved through learning, understanding and thoughtful dreaming.

Comfort, complacency and contentment are characteristics of age for both individuals and societies. Dreams, creativity and problem-solving are required by individuals, societies and nations looking to the future.

Don Gale.

Don Gale is a long-time Utah journalist who had written about dreams for half a dozen decades.