In The Optimist’s Telescope, Bina Venkataraman 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.
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 in her new book, The Optimist’s Telescope. She is also deeply informed about the relevant science ... She herself is the optimist in her title, confidently insisting that impatience is not an immutable human trait. Her engaging narratives illustrate how people battle and often overcome shortsightedness across a range of problems and settings ... [an] impassioned call for making a commitment to future change...
... wise but not wonkish ... By bringing tales from basketball, an Ebola epidemic, poker, classroom discipline and nuclear power plants, as well as literary depictions of her travels to Mexico, Japan, India and South Carolina, Venkataraman vividly depicts what happens when we don’t plan ahead and what we can do about it, on our own and together. Despite the high-seeming bar suggested by the book’s title, there’s no need to be an optimist or to have a special future-telling telescope. Whether you’re trying to lose a few pounds or avert climate catastrophe, all that’s needed is to be a realist with an imagination.
In a thought-provoking and eminently readable debut, Venkataraman, an MIT professor who served as senior advisor for the Obama administration on climate change innovation, considers why people—individually and collectively—often undermine their own best interests, opting for short-term rewards over longer-term, perhaps more sustainable benefits ... enkataraman’s thoughtful and clear-eyed assessment of how to teach oneself to make more carefully considered decisions should prove a valuable tool for anyone wishing to think less in the short term and more toward the future.