Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

A Conversation with Bina Venkataraman, Author of The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age

Sep 30, 2020

Instant gratification is the norm in our society. Whether it’s our finances, health, communities, or the planet, it’s easy to avoid thinking ahead, but should we? And is it possible to do better even amid urgent crises?

Author Bina Venkataraman, editorial page editor for The Boston Globe and former senior advisor for climate change in the Obama White House, explores these choices in her book, The Optimist’s Telescope: Think Ahead in a Reckless Age.

Join Metcalf institute, in partnership with IBES, for an online conversation with Venkataraman on Wednesday, September 30, at 1 p.m. Eastern about why we need long-term thinking today, and how we can pull off in our lives, work, and in society.

Register here.

In The Optimist’s Telescope, Venkataraman draws from stories she has reported around the world and new research in biology, psychology, and economics to explain how we can make decisions that benefit us over time. With examples from ancient Pompeii to modern-day Fukushima, she dispels the myth that human nature is impossibly reckless and highlights the surprising practices each of us can adopt —and the ones we must fight for as a society.

At a moment when we face significant challenges on several fronts, Venkataraman provides ideas and insights that can help us forge a better future.

After Venkataraman’s presentation, Temple University’s David Boardman will further explore the implications of the book in a live interview. Boardman, who served as a juror for The Grantham Prize from 2006-2012, is dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple, building on his experience as executive editor and senior vice president of The Seattle Times.


“Venkataraman vividly depicts what happens when we don’t plan ahead and what we can do about it, on our own and together.”
The Washington Post

“How might we mitigate losses caused by shortsightedness? Bina Venkataraman, a former climate adviser to the Obama administration, brings a storyteller’s eye to this question...Deeply informed...engaging...heed Venkataraman’s impassioned call for making a commitment to future change.”
The New York Times

The Optimist’s Telescope was named a top business book by The Financial Times and a best book of the year by Amazon, Science Friday, and National Public Radio.

About Bina Venkataraman

Venkataraman is a former IBES Advisory Council member, Metcalf Institute Advisory Board member, and an alumna of Metcalf Institute’s 2008 Environmental Reporting Fellowship, which placed her at the Boston Globe as a young journalist. She is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard Kennedy School. Before rejoining The Boston Globe in 2019, she served as a senior adviser for climate change innovation in the Obama White House, was the director of global policy initiatives at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and taught in the program on science, technology, and society at MIT. Venkataraman is a frequent public speaker whose appearances have included the TED mainstage, NPR, Aspen Ideas, MSNBC, CNN, and university campuses around the world.

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