Brotopia (vs Personal Responsibility)

There are a few ways out of the despair loop. The what?

The despair loop. That completely engaging cyclic thought train that keeps one occupied with no benefit. The wallowing in how things didn’t go the way they ought. The deepening of the dilemma by taking in more negative perspectives that reinforce the one you already hold. The doomscrolling of the newsfeed that feeds you more of what you engage with – and because you engaged with the negative-bias perspectives, you get more of that.

That loop. Ever been there? Me too.

For me the despair is usually related to climate and complete dysfunction of the political apparatus when it comes to dealing with climate issues. Lately my despair has been hijacked a bit by AI and robotics related concern. Take a look at any of the entries under ‘On Climate’ and you’ll see some of the despair on your screen. Nonetheless, optimism > pessimism and of course, optimism is the path to solution-focus. Optimism, however, can get us into trouble too. Pragmatism lies somewhere in the middle.

Dangerous Pessimism

This one is easy. Its the default position for many. See the danger. Shut down. Decry there is no point in trying.

When it comes to climate, this usually looks like “they do it too, so why do anything” (blamists), or, “its too big for me to deal with” (fatalists), or “human presence is too small to affect climate” (denialists), or “well I’m just one person, my changing won’t do anything really” (solipsists).

I’m guilty of at least 2 of these over the course of my life. I’ve been aware of and concerned about climate change since I read about it in my “Weekly Reader” back in 5th grade (i.e. in the late 70’s!).

But not anymore.

Dangerous Optimism

Some think climate change is all just natural cycles and will work itself out eventually, and if humans are not part of that future, so be it. I list this under optimism because they still think it will sort itself regardless, and seem to think that if humanity largely dies out, that’s just how it was supposed to be.

Others think climate change just isn’t really an issue and we’ll all be fine and don’t worry about it. I think this is becoming more rare as more folks are directly affected, or someone they know is directly affected. A friend whose house burned down or was smashed by a tornado or worse, lost a loved one to the ever-more-common weather catastrophes.

The scariest perspective is “technology will save us, so I don’t need to do anything”. Whether you think its AI, Robots, Science and Technology in general – there is a naive, myopic, self-centered rationalization going on that helps you disregard your impact, and the impact of the companies who make/sell/deliver the products that you buy. This perspective I am calling Brotopia. A completely irrational and unjustified reliance on the silicon valley bros to somehow row us out of the ever-deepening swirling vortex of climate hell that we have found ourselves in.


Don’t buy into Brotopia. All of you who think that these billionaires and billionaire-hopefuls have your best interests at heart, have the planets wellbeing in mind – for the love of all that used to be clean air – stop it. Greed leads to power. Power corrupts. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this just about everywhere in American corporations and politics (and abroad but…home is here in the US for me).

Yes I love that Bill Gates wants to do more nuclear stuffs and fusion stuffs, as does Sam Altman and others. Absolutely love it. You can love it too. Even believe it!

But do not believe that this releases you from a duty to yourself, your community, and your world to do your personal utmost to minimize your potentially climate-impacting activities.

The pragmatic person takes action. Action is the antidote to despair. The pragmatist would do everything they could, AND remain hopeful/optimistic that it matters. The pragmatic person would recycle even though the latest news tries to convince them its pointless. The pragmatic person would drive an electric car even though the news says they don’t fare well in deep cold. The pragmatic person would write and call their congress-person and lobby for legislation that moves the needle on the problem. And more…

So don’t be pessimistic. Be cautious with your optimism. Be pragmatic.

Above all, let go of the magical thinking. Don’t rely on those who profit from fear-pandering to save us all and usher in a new era of climate wellness. It’s really not in their best interests.


This idea of “Legacy” has become buzzword-y of late. I’m sure the ultra rich have had it on their mind for millennia, and this is how we end up with rich people’s names on streets and buildings. Sometimes through foundations we also end up with a few folks trying to do a bit of good in the world as their “Legacy“.

In software, Legacy is used in a pejorative sense, but it seems in business and finance it has become something even the casual investor is told they should be thinking about. Well let’s get off of that horse, and consider instead what Legacy we leave to children who grow to be adults as Climate Change really starts bucking.

Will your Legacy be drought, floods, thirst, starvation, climate migration and resource wars? And that is only from the human’s perspective!

The poorest and most affected are migrating now. It just doesn’t rate as newsworthy because it isn’t happening in the US in a way we yet comprehend at the citizen level – and because it doesn’t sell ad buys like court gossip and intrigue do.

The richest, instead of capping profits so they can invest in solutions or mitigations, far from it, are building bunkers, or planning to, in the naive assumption that this will all be somehow temporary, like a hurricane, and things will “return to normal”. This behavior is undeniable shameful, and perhaps should be considered criminal/criminally negligent. These beneficiaries of a poorly managed capitalism don’t want to help, they want to hide, and think they can wait it out.

If you are are among the extraordinarily wealthy, do us all a favor and be part of the solution. Or at least enact practices in your life and businesses to stop being part of the problem. And if you can’t, please just donate all your money to groups that want to stop or mitigate this, and wander away.

I suppose this mindset of Legacy in the sense of how your money will help your identity live on is difficult to adapt to a future that sounds so extreme. The stark and terrifying reality eludes the capacity of our imagination while one can still order takeout sushi from oceans half a world away while sitting on the couch in their underwear.

Denial is the only practical response.

Only through denial can we still sit and ponder how our 401k’s will fulfill our ‘Legacy‘ hopes for our progeny.

Residents carry their belongings as they wade through muddy floodwater that submerged a village after Typhoon Vamco hit on Nov. 14, 2020 in Rodriguez, Rizal province, Philippines. Ezra Acayan / Getty Images


It can feel like shouting into the void, talking tweeting/retweeting/sharing/texting about climate/climate-change, biodiversity loss, overfishing, ocean acidification+warming, desertification – all the impacts of the disruption of natural cycles.

Oftentimes there is simply no response. We’re all exhausted from learning even more ways things are failing. Maybe the only response is a forward, retweet, or similar. Thank you for that micro-dose of dopamine.

But –

Sometimes it’s the guy who disagrees and wants to tell you how he heard all the coral came back and we really have a global cooling problem. Just stop. Probably not worth the sound waves of conversation.

Sometimes it’s the one who wants to tell you these are all 100% natural cycles and not “mans doing“. Why is this a reasonable argument? If there’s a grenade going off in the room I’m in, and I have time to run – do I care who pulled the pin?

Sometimes it’s the one where “not all scientists agree“, for which one can find a variety of differing opinions, and yet in general, it does seem there are fewer and fewer exceptions. Perhaps an analogy can help us here. Let’s say you are driving your family across the country in your smoky ancient Volvo on the way to Wally World and come across a large group of people waving you down. Most of them (say, 97) tell you that a local militia planted a minefield down that way – you absolutely should take another road or you and your kids are probably going to die. However 3 of them say they’ve been down that road and there’s no mines. They can feel it in their gut! They know it! They try to convince you all these crazy people are just trying to trick you because…well they’ve no idea why, because there’s no real incentive. To whom do you listen? After all, it will be an inconvenience to believe those 97 adamant folks and find another route.

Sometimes it’s the one where “other countries are doing it too”. China (or India or…) put out XX tons of CO2 a year! I thought we learned in grade school (and maybe even church?) that two wrongs don’t make a right?

Blame is the Game

And how about the one who just shrugs and says if humans are committed to ending humanity so be it? We’ll get what’s coming to us…nature will take care of itself. Apathy is just another form of fear. Fear of feeling the pain and sadness of loss. Who wouldn’t want to tune out being a part of species extinction across the globe? Pretending you are somehow elevated above this because of your long-view is rationalized denial.

Lastly, most dangerously, we have those who simply agree vehemently that all we are seeing, fire, flood, wind is perhaps real, and perhaps a problem. These are our echo chamber, and we should take great comfort that there seem to be many. Comfort, but not complacence. We must break out of the echo chamber, and keep broadcasting the message that status quo is death. Change in a community, a society, a government, doesn’t come by chatting with only those who agree.

This message cannot just be online. It’s a simple way to be loud – to those with whom you are connected, and likely then, to those generally which think like you.

As uncomfortable as it sounds, real human connection and conversation are how we take our power back.


I am betrayed throughout the day by a nagging sense that I should be doing something different.

When a person who has been in recovery starts drinking again, and they take up the ‘normal’ activities of going to the bar and ordering drinks, going to the liquor store, waking up hungover and doing it again – the ‘fun’ tends to go out of it. The knowledge they gained in a recovery program screams at them from some part of their being that what they are doing is deadly, and dangerous to themselves and others.

This is how continuing business-as-usual feels in the climate emergency.

Remember how we all got exhausted in the Covid pandemic? How could we not be exhausted by the climate change impacts? The noise of catastrophe in the news. The inaction of government. The voice of deniers and their insipid argumentative rejection of what is obvious. Still, we MUST do SOMETHING, right? Like…what?

It is eating me alive, the reality of working my 8-10 hours, driving my CO2 emitting gasoline engine vehicle to the store, the restaurant, the movie theater, to shop, eat, sit in air conditioned buildings hiding the current most obvious signal that we are failing our planet, while actively perpetuating the problem. While governments argue about unborn life, and constituents look for who to blame the cost of fuel on. (Why shouldn’t gas be $100/gallon?! Maybe THEN something would change.)

What can I do? What can I do!

I talk to people. I join organizations. I keep up on climate news and climate-science latest developments. I tweet.

Somehow this all feels roughly equivalent to doing nothing, and so…

I am betrayed throughout the day by a nagging sense that I should be doing something different.

I’m Afraid

I’m afraid of climate change. Not for the loss of life and property in floods. Not for the rising prices and stifling drought and heat. What I’m afraid of is how people are going to react when their world starts getting smaller and having less. What is the breaking point?

People afraid of losing things are most dangerous people.

I worry there will be a “war for resources” in the coming decades. We’re seeing precursors now with Russia/Ukraine war and the impending food crisis that is generating. We’re seeing it in the US Southwest water crisis. The Yellowstone floods. Crop shortages from too much and too little rain have started.

I’m afraid of doing nothing about climate change, and I’m afraid of doing the wrong thing while trying to do the right thing.

People afraid of losing things are rarely reasonable people. People who have lost everything, even less so.

I worry that there will be an influx of refugees, and that people who consider that region “theirs” will begin to reject the refugees, and there will be forms of civil war all over.

People who don’t have the basics of living like fresh water and food staples are dangerously motivated. 

Maybe it will all be fine. Maybe I’m worrying over nothing. Maybe 96% of the involved scientists are wrong, and this will take care of itself.  Maybe those climate people are right, but we can’t do anything about it. Maybe it isn’t “created by man”.  Maybe there’s “nothing I can do” because I don’t know what I can do. Maybe I am so apathetic that I don’t really care about any of this. Maybe I just love a cheeseburger and so what and fuck you!?

Or maybe it is just too damn big. Planet-sized in fact! Maybe we are just too damned scared, to take action.

It is the greatest of all mistakes, to do nothing because you can only do little: but there are men who are always clamouring for immediate and stupendous effects…”

– Sydney Smith, 1806 

I’m afraid of what life will be like when my children are my age, and of what they’ll think when they look back and try to remember if I did anything to try to stop this.