Balancing Optimism, Waste, and the Newly Improved American Dream #letsblogoff

The current #letsblogoff asks: Is there a reason to be optimistic?

I have heard it said: be personally optimistic and globally pessimistic. I get that. My best life is still ahead of me and my familys working through these tough times. That makes me personally optimistic.


Global situations strike me as less rosy. In the mid 1970s, Linus Pauling told me and my eager college-mates ten ways people might destroy the planet. Whoa, we were shocked! He started with nuclear weapons. Then I recall over-population, hunger, water, trash – really? Death by waste?

I had never thought like this. It sounded epic. And I took it to heart. From that day forward, I understood the fact that we live in catastrophic times. Disasters seem to occur with increasing frequency.  

How to stay optimistic despite constant threats? To me, that’s the heart of it.

American Dreamers!

What times were worse than the Great Depression? Financial woes at all levels, joblessness, shanty towns, even the weather pitched in with the Dust Bowl. That’s when we invented the idea of the American Dream. We needed a strong dose of optimism.


Actually, the American Dream contains two parts, moral and material. We believe that all men are created equal, our moral thread of egalitarianism. And we believe that anyone can win big, from rags to riches, the Horatio Algiers story. We love the underdog, success through hard work and thrift, the puritan work ethic.

The American Dream embraces opportunity and reshaped America as a nation of hopes and dreams. It is after all, the first country to make “the pursuit of happiness” a constitutional right.

Most importantly, the American Dream seeded the largest middle class in history. After nearly 80 years, it’s essentially a national motto.

American Nightmares 

Over decades of growth and prosperity, we narrowed the definition to “keeping up with the Jones.” A new home, new car, new tech, trips to Disney World. More things, more consumer debt, boom. The Dream becomes Buy Stuff. No Way.


Now the American Dream has been boiled down into one thing: owning a home.

If you narrow your definition to just one idea, and then it becomes more difficult, the entire idea is destroyed. In other words, the house becomes the dream becomes the country. Lose your house and you lose your sense of identity.

The American Dream is not merely home ownership. That’s a total rip-off. We lose the gist, the heart and soul of it. We are stuck on materialism without the moral thread, the hope and optimism. That’s not the dream, that’s imbalanced, a nightmare.

American Dream ReShaped

Long before the idea of the A.D., Americans deeply understood hope and equality. We had imagination. And we had confidence. I’m not willing to live without those.

So let’s imagine: What do you do with the highest GDP in the world?


You educate everyone, you feed, clothe and house us all, and make damn sure we have health care and are not overloaded with debt. You wipe out poverty, declare a war on crime and make peace with the rest of the world.

More than that, you leave a better place for future generations, a clean and vigorous environment with bright green, livable cities. And invest continually in new ideas, inventions, innovations that improve quality of life and feeds commerce and jobs. That’s the path to long-term prosperity and opportunities.

Our dream needs to emphasize social and environmental goodover materialism and hope over hate and fear. And assume responsibility for our neighbors. We are in this together. Not just in the US, but the global community. 

It’s not just an American Dream; it’s a World Dream.


Mahatma Gandhi said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values; your values become your destiny.”

To me, that’s optimism, the belief you can make dreams into reality. 

What’s optimism for you? How do you make your dreams become reality?

Here’s some of my favorite people’s thoughts on optimism for #letsblogoff.

Images: Music video: Balance by Aceyalone; House on Milwaukee Apt Finders/Prowess R/E blog; “God Bless America” by Seward Johnson; urban farming on Time Magazine; India children by Vincent Desjardin on Flickr cc; trash by Darch Norman on Flickr cc 


Can Rest of the World Learn From Africa?

Is there a future where harvesting energy is an integral component of activity and nature?

Ask yourself: why do we build massive grids, pipelines, power plants, and refineries? Why do we mine coal and drill for oil thousands of miles away when sun supplies energy right to our roof – or to a PV-surfaced backpack for that matter?

Can the first energy option be local and the second option be massive, centralized systems, instead of the other way around?

Granted, practical technology for storing solar or any renewable energies is just coming available. We can build better buildings and cities, learn new ways of living and working to manage energy use. It’s not only about solar, batteries, and diffused energy supplies. It’s a mindset.

Can we learn from Africa? Africa is burdened by poverty and low technology. Yet is lack of high technology and heavy ancient infrastructures actually making them smarter, more resourceful, and ultimately could they show us something new?

In 10, 20, 30 years, could they be growing food, making clothes, building cities regionally, and supplying products, services to other parts of the world? Based on simply changing their energy supply – actually an improvement over no electricity at all – could Africans build stable, sustainable nations?

Even in some small way, is there something that developed countries can learn about living sustainably from people who are freshly adding electricity to their daily habits? If we were just adding power to our lives and cities, what form would it take?

I admit, I am taken by the use of cell phones to buy well water. And now the possibilities of energy at the exact spot that you need it. It’s Just-In-Time resources, instead of Always-Running resources. That’s a far more sustainable model. While we can’t emulate it, our commitments to industry are far too great today, can we learn from it, at least at the residential, personal level (breakdown:

Could Africa pave the way towards a balanced planet?

It’s possible.