A Possitopian Future

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Collage @bridgetmck

I’m responding to an open invitation from ‘Futures Now’ to share visions of a better tomorrow. It seems an appropriate thing to do at the start of a New Year.

My approach to future thinking is Possitopian, which expands the cone of the possible future, and draws on geophysical realities and data. It applies maximum imagination to help us envisage future scenarios which are potentially worse or better than we might allow ourselves to think. Read more about it here, where I explain this founding principle of Climate Museum UK.

Possitopian thinking is essentially non-binary, as it allows possible scenarios to be explored within an assumption that we ARE in a context of collapse, and also that the biosphere and its lifeforms hold potential of regenerative recovery. It’s moving from dystopia and utopia as black and white, towards an intertwining of decay and regrowth. So, how might this inform my future vision?

We have to accept that the future will be a climate-changed one, and that Earth will take around 10 million years to recover from the damage of human industrial activities. A bright and brilliant future will not be possible for everyone, as so many people have already been or will be traumatised, displaced and hungry. That said, the challenge we collectively face is to prefigure and build a more regenerative system at every scale – domestic, local, inter-bioregional and global.

This better future looks to me like hard work. We will have to put in extraordinary time and effort to reduce the harm both for our close loved ones and for every species and community on Earth. This effort isn’t just about keeping fossil fuels in the ground, although this is absolutely vital. It is also about justice for those most affected, reducing conflict and illness, and ending extreme inequalities. And it’s about protecting and restoring wild places and biosphere systems. It will be hard work but here’s a counter-thought from Sam Knights: “But activism is not work in the conventional sense of the word, either; at its best, activism is about love. About the opening up of new possibilities. It should enliven, enrich, and excite you.”

In this world of hard work and love, here are some of the things we’ll be working on, and ways we’ll be working:

Holistic understanding of the core problems

  • People will know that the big problem they are collectively tackling is extractive capitalism, which has historical roots in biocolonialism, and that has generated interconnected crises of environmental and social injustice and threats to all our futures.
  • People will access therapeutic, cultural and spiritual services that will help them reconnect, to overcome the separations from the biodiverse world and from human diversity.
  • People will experience and provide education and training that develops eco-capacities and acknowledges the fragility & traumatised state of the biosphere. Children will be able to learn from home, in arts & play spaces, or in wild places, as long as they are healthy and safe.

Fundamental needs are recognised

Communities and civic agencies will recognise the basic needs of food, water, shelter, health and energy, so that…

  • According to their capacities, people will get stuck into achievable projects that share resources, that they can start in one place and roll out to other neighbourhoods. For example, they might set up a Community Fridge or a Library of Things.
  • People will form a variety of food co-ops and community agriculture schemes that allow them to grow food locally, sell it into local markets for fair prices or distribute it freely to those in need, or to share space and resources to make food growing more equitable and beneficial. Where possible, such schemes will restore ecosystems whether by allowing agricultural land to recover, creating food forests, or reducing waste and pollution. Food will be seen as fundamental to wellbeing — and people will know what to consume to maximise their immunity and contribution to society, and will avoid Ultra Processed Food.
  • People will form renewable energy co-operatives, like Stokey Energy, to work for more renewable infrastructure and supply in civic buildings and new developments. Co-operative efforts will also increase the efficiency and eco-benefits of new and existing buildings.
  • High streets and shopping centres will be full of repair centres, equipment sharing services, micro-farms and indoor farms, plant-based and food waste cafes, co-work and maker spaces, skills-sharing spaces, libraries, museums, galleries, heritage craft shops, garden centres, ceremony & exercise spaces, pharmacies & health services, play & childcare facilities, and so on. It will be more appealing to make or mend your own clothes with others, or to hire and borrow, than to buy fast fashion.

Collaboration and networking at scale

  • People will collaborate and network at the bioregional scale, so that bioregions become units of decision-making, more significant than nation states. This will allow the rights of more-than-human beings and places to be considered in decision-making.
  • People will make judicious use of digital tools & platforms so that they can resist harmful propaganda while distributing ecocentric knowledge, providing finance where it’s most needed and using data for good.
  • People will be empowered to be politically active, to be involved in participatory democracy that contributes directly to decisions at a higher level or at scale. They will express solidarity for people who are marginalised from decision-making, defending their right to representation.
  • People will collaborate to take legal action, to sue governments and companies guilty of climate violence, ecocide and exploitation of human labour and animals, on grounds of violation of their rights.

Activism will have to continue

  • People will — where still necessary — carry out direct activism on the worst, most polluting projects, such as coal mines or oil pipelines, or rainforest deforestation, and support campaigns both local and global. If the better world has led to such projects being illegal (e.g. due to an international ecocide law) they will be vigilant for continued harm and will work for reparations for places & people historically affected by past ecocide and conflict.
  • People will be working to protect communities from the impacts of global warming — such as fire, flood, rising seas and high winds, and ocean acidification. This means forming direct aid and rescue services. It means retrofitting and building new housing that is safe and resilient. It means creating ecological infrastructure to protect against flooding, managing forests to reduce risk of large wildfires, or restoring coral reefs. It also means ensuring that the most vulnerable communities (e.g. located in low-lying areas) have places of refuge and aid.
  • People will collaborate globally to end wars, to help war-torn communities to recover, to support refugees, and to bring peace through fair distribution of resources.
  • People will work to transform their industries and professions so that they are more horizontal and equitable, so that they tackle extreme wealth inequality and so that their organisations are entirely motivated to heal breached planetary boundaries to continue diverse life on Earth. This will see companies taking long-term decisions rather than being driven by short-term profits for share-holders.
  • People will work to end the influence and power of fossil fuel industries, by divesting their finances and transforming the financial system so that it is in more democratic control.

There is more to dream of, more to describe, but this is probably enough for now. Let me know what I’ve missed.

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