The Impact You’ll Make
(You will make an impact. How you manage that is a simple hard task.)
What you do during your life has a long term significance. It will have lasting consequences. You will have an impact after your death.
You might not think in those terms. The idea that your life has consequences is, perhaps, an odd way of thinking about things. But the simple fact is that everything about your life makes a difference. And that includes the things you don’t do. Both activity and inactivity have consequences.
This applies to everyone – you, me and everyone else. And all of it is unpredictable. None of us know our likely long term impact. None of us can know the future.* But even with that unpredictability in the background, it is natural to think about what your impact might be.
First up, there’s the question of what kind of impact you could or perhaps should be considering. After a moment’s thought, it becomes all too obvious that the scope of anyone’s impact is huge. From the very personal – your impact on people who know you, are related to you, worked with you and so on – to the more general. Just by being alive we all have an impact on the Earth – from the resources we use to the pollution we create. This ranges from plant and animal life to fuels and minerals, to never be replaced. It’s quite hard to realise all the implications of a life – all the different ways you make an impact.
With some even just broad notion of the scope of your impact in mind then, of course, you could decide you simply don’t care about it all. ‘I’ll be dead so it doesn’t matter to me.’ That has to be an easier stance to take if you’ve no-one you care much about. Inevitably, your life will have some kind of impact, big or small, on the quality of life of others. If no-one’s important to you, none of that matters. You’ll also need to extend that ‘don’t care’ attitude to your impact on all other forms of life on Earth. The upshot is that, to feel happy ignoring the entire impact your life has had, you have to not care about an awful lot of things. But it’s an option.
There is also the question of what you think is worthwhile, even if you do care.
There are plenty of people who think the human-dominated era of life on Earth is coming to an end. Whether that’s in 10, 20 or 100 years is much debated. But it is hard to credibly deny that there are twin intertwined pressures on the planet that are inherent in the ever-growing numbers of people alive and the scale of the changes to the climate they are creating.
From there, you’re left grappling with the extent of the changes these two pressures are creating – and what we could or should do to cope with them. If you delve into this area to any extent then it becomes very clear it’s a big, messy issue with an awful lot of vested interests in play. Who gains from the status quo? What’s at risk from not changing how humans live their lives? It is a perfect arena for all the bad sides of human nature to come to the fore.
To bring this back to the question of your impact, that means you have to consider your impact within the difficult, frequently fraught context of competing interests and human nature – complete with all its shortcomings.
What’s more, you have to remember, too, that whether or not you think humankind is doomed, your life will still have an impact on all the other aspects of life that will remain. Even if humans are wiped out, other life will continue and will have to survive with whatever legacy humans have left behind and in whatever climate that then exists.
Curiously, whatever attitude you take towards the future in a sense the result is the same. Not caring or caring, you have to be able to go to sleep at night knowing the choice you’ve made – with its potential consequences. And be clear, this is not something you’ll only be pondering on your deathbed. You have to be happy with your choice every time you go to sleep – every time, every night, no matter how long you live.
With thoughts about your impact in mind, you would be justified in finding yourself wondering what to do. And it is not up to me to suggest or advise a course of action to follow. It’s your choice. But I suggest ignorance is not bliss. We all should think about our life’s impact now, rationally, unhurriedly, while we can. We should all be able to look anyone in the eye and respond to any question they might ask about why you’ve done what you’ve done.
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There is an item about the issues that come up with trying to predict the future on the3rd3rd’s parent site, Unstated Name: