Save the typewriters!
The recent political landscape and national zeitgeist has prompted me to think about resource production and distribution in a new context. I have wondered: do I wish for a return to what once was? Should we roll back the clock to strive to recapture something that existed in the past? I will share a short personal story in hopes that my full conclusions can be understood.
I grew up in a small town. By many measures, it is less prosperous today than it was 40 years ago. You may have never heard of Groton, NY, but if you see a Smith Corona typewriter in an antique market, it was likely made less than a mile from my childhood home. The factory was THE employer in town with 1200 high paying jobs in a community of 2300 people. I remember childhood friends having an attitude that school didn’t matter because everyone could get a job in ‘the factory’. There was a sense that the town would be prosperous forever. The local economy was booming. Citizens attained their American Dream because there was so much opportunity.
I have fond memories of my childhood home. The gravity of nostalgia pulls on my desire to press the reset button and see the town it its former glory, but that can’t and won’t happen by clinging to the past because…
The world did not mourn the loss of the typewriter.
No one organized a grassroots movement to ‘save the typewriters!’ That would have been selfish, short sighted, and silly. The world is better with typewrites gone. The total opportunities in the world increased with the invention of the computer. Millions of people attained their American Dream elsewhere because of the typewriter’s funeral. The world has moved on, as it moves on from all things. Everything we own and use is a replacement of what came before. Your job once belonged to someone else. This is the natural progression of innovation, and we should not lament the losses of the past; even when the losses are profoundly personal.
Energy production is not immune from innovation. Alternative energy sources are beginning to compete with fossil fuels. Would the world mourn the loss of coal if it were replaced by something cleaner, safer and cheaper? No! That is the challenge for sustainable energy within the climate change conversation. The scientists and innovators of the world can’t just discuss change, we have to effect change by offering a better alternative for the future. For example: sustainable (or carbon free) energy must become a better alternative, not for some moral imperative or fear for an uncertain future or any other nonsense. It simply has to be better. And by being better, it will create new opportunities in the marketplace. One day we will think of coal in the same way we think about typewriters today. The same logic of relentless change applies to everything–including ourselves. My conclusion is that we should not let the gravity of nostalgia pull us away from a more prosperous future. It is our duty to innovate and remain relevant to resist the seductive pull of former success.