Vision, Opportunity, and Prudence – a recipe for survival

[Lightly edited from 2009 blog]

There is no silver bullet in this campaign for the continued thriving of life on Earth. Difficult decisions will have to be made (and are being made at this very moment) and sacrifices endured, especially as we have dug such a deep hole to climb out of. But using certain tools, described below, we can choose the most fruitful course.

What comes to mind when you search for a symbol of survival? A large, gnarled thousand-year-old tree? A cactus in the desert? A small critter diving back into the safety of its burrow? A deeply wrinkled grandparent rocking on a front porch, seemingly forever? The last image is the closest to our lives. In fact, based on the grandparent likeness we can create a mnemonic device for how we too can reach very old age, not just as individuals, but as societies living in the world: VOP.

VOP is an acronym for two ideas, one being very old people. Such men and women clearly did numerous things right to reach their un-guessable age. They learned and implemented ways to survive whatever life threw at them over the decades, whether that be war, health problems, or 40 years in a factory. Three tools they’ve likely used (so to for other creatures that get more than their serving of life) constitute the second VOP acronym – vision, opportunity, prudence. These same three things are what we need today as a global human community in order to ourselves survive as long as possible and allow the rest of the natural world to do so as well.

First comes vision, the ability to step back and picture how we want to be living in the future and what is needed to reach that. Without vision, acts become either reactionary or aimless. See much more on my vision at

Context is crucial, and any entity – whether corporation, person, falcon, or kelp – needs to take advantage of ideal situations and weather poor ones. This is opportunism. The circumstances for environmental sanity right now may be good in the United States because society as a whole is increasingly open to responsible long-term decisions.

Finally, prudence should guide all our actions. Considerations include future effects and tradeoffs. Here is where wisdom is critical, reflecting on past experience to make educated decisions that will result in the greatest payoff.

Together vision, opportunity, and prudence will carry us far. Vision is like a flashlight that illuminates the objects of our collective wishes, opportunity is the batteries that let the light be cast, and prudence is the intelligent avoidance of obstacles. What is the result? The silhouette of a white-haired grandparent – a survivor. As very old people (VOP) have persevered and proven their mettle, so too can we as a whole, ensuring through vision, opportunity, and prudence (VOP) that both humans and the rest of the natural world can thrive for as long as batteries allow.