It was Kurt Vonnegut. The year was 1988.
Vonnegut wrote a letter to the citizens of Earth in 2088. He wrote of future perils that, in some ways, have already come to pass. It was advice that almost no one heeded.
Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.
The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:
1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
7. And so on. Or else.Vonnegut's letter was published in Time magazine and has been recently recycled. Like so many things, KV did "see it coming." And, yes, we are still choosing "abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership," people skilled in just one thing - telling us what we want to hear.