U.S. News & World Report, a website I use primarily to scoff at universities ranked below UCSB, happened to run an article recently headlined, “Study: Global Warming Can Be Slowed By Working Less.” The accompanying photo of a napping, shirtless cyclist could easily have been taken in Santa Barbara, though in fact it was taken in New York. I’m not yet entirely convinced, nor am I completely sure that the study is all wrong. I will say this right away: if leisure is the antidote to global warming, I think the future portends well, because a coast-to-coast beach day sounds a lot more fun than does an indefinite prescription for higher taxes and public transportation.
That said, full disclosure should note that I already believe the future portends well, even with regard to global warming. My perspective on the subject has changed considerably since coming to college a year and a half ago. Before then, I would have called myself a skeptic, but now I would call myself an optimist. For me, the experience of living and working at UCSB has elicited a particular effect on my outlook. Generally now, I hold the earnest conviction that everything will be OK, good even, and that nothing in the future is a threat as much as it is a challenge.
And I think this increase in optimism is the most important way that I’ve changed since coming here.
I tried for a while to pinpoint what converted me. Could it be a peculiar effect of the light on Storke Tower or a certain concentration in the campus demographics? People in Isla Vista are friendly and sunsets at Campus Point are definitely worth seeing, but are these the reasons the prospect of meteoric destruction went from seeming unlikely to impossible?
I think more than the landscape or the people, here at UCSB we have a culture of leisure, and that makes all the difference. Relaxation is in all of us. Latently, we’re at ease, and in imagining the future, we should look to the present more than anything else. At UCSB, I’m relaxed. How hot would our planet have to become to make that change?
Some of you will have an answer to that question. Like I did at one time, you hear the term global warming and picture your eyelids melting shut and the skin around your throat taking on the texture of sandpaper. My global warming looks a lot different. I live, now, in a place where there exists the luxury to celebrate Valentine’s Day in flip-flops by the barbecue. The devastation of global warming, as I perceive it now, transplants that luxury to Denver, Chicago, Ottawa and other northern locales. Wrigley Field opens its doors for lovers’ picnics and prepubescents take the day off from school to go swimming in Lake Michigan.
Now, what global warming means for the equator, I don’t know — but that’s the point! Optimism is in me now, and I can’t shake it loose. I hear global warming, and I can’t think of anything but how nice it will be to take a winter road trip through Manitoba, to plant a garden on my land in Alaska and to send my kids exploring the North Pole, looking for Santa.
Optimism is liberating. People respond better to optimists than pessimists and it offers insane utility for business-minded people. Thus is the pitch that I would give to a high school student considering UCSB. For most of the country, optimism is uncharted territory, but just as America is a hub for entrepreneurs, I believe UCSB is an institution that both creates and attracts optimists. The scene set by the article in US News had an insight that I don’t think they quite understood, as it takes a sojourn in Santa Barbara to realize optimism’s full potential.
Ben Moss is optimistic that the 2014 United Nations Global Climate Change Conference will honor him as its key note speaker.