People like Tony Abbott, Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer, Gautam Adani, Donald Trump and Scott Morrison, who seem willing to do anything to gain and hold onto money or power in the present at the cost of being despised in the future are making a poor choice. People like Rupert Murdoch, Alan Jones, Peta Credlin and Andrew Bolt, who deny anthropogenic climate change for their own selfish reasons will go down in history as corrupt monsters.
Surely people like Peter Singer, Bill Gates, Mike Cannon-Brookes, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Bob Brown, Lhamo Dondrub (the Dalai Lama) and Pope Francis, who will have the gratitude of future generations for the good they are doing, are far wiser and would have to be called far more successful.
It seems to me that a successful life is one that has been spent trying to do the right thing; the accumulation of wealth or power are at best unimportant and peripheral.
A truly successful life is one in which a person has wisely and intelligently done his or her best to make the world a better place on whatever scale: local, regional, global; either for Mankind or for any or all sentient life.
A few examples of wasted or misspent livesTony Abbott was, for a time, Prime Minister of Australia and he would love to be again. While in power he did all he could to slow action to limit climate changing emissions in Australia. He gained a high position in the Australian hierarchy for a time, but will be condemned for his actions by the historians and people of the future. The same applies to the Prime Minister at the time of writing, Scott Morrison.
Are these successful lives? I think not.
Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer have made millions if not billions of dollars out of mining and exporting coal. They have resisted the introduction of the renewable energy technology that will replace fossil fuelled energy and is needed if future generations are to have lives that are not greatly inferior to those enjoyed by my generation. They too will be recorded as some of the worst criminals of the era.
None of these people have been living what I would call successful lives.
More recently (March 2019) ex Vice-chancellor of
Western Australia's Notre Dame University,
Celia Hammond has decided to run for federal parliament while denying anthropogenic climate change.
She will quite probably be despised by her grand children (if she has any); what a foolish decision!
A few examples of what I might call successful lives, lives lived with the needs of the people and the world of the future in mind.David Attenborough has advocated for the environment for as long as I can remember and more recently for climate action.
Tim Flannery "is an Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, environmentalist, conservationist, explorer, and public scientist." He has also authore or co-authored 33 books and is an environmental activist.
I've been fortunate in knowing Simon Chapman, who has been vocal in opposing the lies of the tobacco industry, debunking the delusions of those who claim that wind turbines cause health problems, and advocating for the right to die with dignity.
I've written elsewhere about another friend who I admired; Blair Donaldson died in 2016.
Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has been very active in pressing for renewable energy development and funding innovative Australian projects.
I know nothing about the life of Mr Musk and Mr Cannon-Brookes until the last few years, I have included their names here because they seem to be trying to do good while Abbott, Morrison, Rinehart and Palmer have been behaving very destructively. Elon Musk certainly has his failings, but he seems to me to be doing more good than harm.
Bob Brown too is someone to be admired. He is perhaps the most successful environmental activist in recent Australian history and has been trying to do good for decades.
Attenborough, Flannery, Chapman, Musk, Cannon-Brookes and Brown are examples of people who will go down in history as progressive and visionary.
I would call these people successful.
The unsung heros and villainsThe few people I've named above are either Australian or well known to Australians. There are a great many less known names that could be placed in the groups that are on the right or wrong side of history. I've also written a page on good and bad people.
How will the people of the future look back on your life?
Ask who?: if you were able to ask the most respected people in the world about climate change what would they say?
How should we judge others?: What qualities define the worth of a person?