During lockdown (remember that?) I had time to speculate about the future of our species and revisited some old books concerning our planetary crisis. This issue is an exercise of imagination mediated by my own positive and negative emotions on the topic.
I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Citizen of Two Worlds
During the biggest crisis of our generation, we are swimming on Netflix, pouring money into Amazon, and wasting time on social media. The cultural toolkit of modernity and its abundance distractions is pulling us into a world of make-believe. At the same time, decisions that can have long term consequences in a post-pandemic world are being made daily. The virus is only one of the two crises we are confronting. Soon, the pandemic will be past us, but the urgent, insidious planetary crisis will not go away.
To write about a realistic picture of the future is to confront my paradoxical brain between climate breakdown tomorrow and today’s crafted constructed fake world. One in which the fragile human species live as if they’re separated from nature.
The way of paradoxes is the way of truth - Oscar Wilde
I watch Netflix and buy things I don’t need on Amazon, but I also care about the climate crisis. The human-animal is constantly battling against opposing thoughts and living fundamentally in two opposed realities. We feel engaged and alienated. We care about the whole, but also the part. We build to later destroy. To be human is to deny and to confirm - both are vital but incompatible.
The Pessimistic Realist
Inequality kills first. Most history is unjust, and the poor always suffer far more than the rich. As the planet continues to get warmer, over 10 billion humans are walking on earth in 2100. The wealthy elite and privileged class find refuge in their exclusive bunker style condos and luxurious submarines, chasing status, money, power and immortality. The segregated terrestrial mortals are forced into exile and spend their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms, deadly heatwaves, extreme droughts and biblical floods.
Global conflicts emerge over water, oil and natural resources. Every new year is about avoiding Armageddon as diseases evolve, nuclear weapons proliferate, economic, and political volatility increases.
The future generation inhabits a much more dangerous place. Climate instability and cataclysmic events will hunt down civilisation until doomsday. In short, humanity will continue to do what is already doing, only on a larger scale, and climate breakdown will become just the “weather”.
The future is bleak, but it is human.
The Fictional Optimist
We were too many, using too much and too fast — perpetual growth was unsustainable. The policy choice of the century transitioned from man or nature to man with nature. When social norms change, it allows people to act, or in this case, act less. The earth is warmer in 2100, but the redistribution of wealth, degrowth policies, localism, resistance movements and the surge of a new generation of young activists created a Goldilocks phenomenon.
We slowed down the pace of life and reconnected with the natural world. Wildlife, new protected areas, and natural parks are soaking up the carbon and flourishing with biodiversity. Humanity quit fossil fuel addiction and the distraction of the world-wide-web. Instead, we adopted carbon-free societies and found our way into the wood-wide-web. Enchanted forests are no longer exclusive of fairytales, and our new understanding of the social network of plants, trees and woodlands revealed profound insights and implications for the functioning of the ecosystems — all beneath our feet.
We talk to rocks and celebrate mountains. We dance and sing. We watch birds and look up at the night sky. We listen to the oldest voice of the world — the wind. We finally understand that the simple and small unnoticed pleasures of life are far richer and more precious than manufacturing and consuming desire, or modernising the planet for “progress”.
The future seems “just right”.
The world has ended several times, over and over again. For the Amazonian tribes, it ended 500 years ago, for Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, 12.000 years ago. Our world? We do not yet know when it will end, but there are no two ways about it. We’ll make a choice, or perhaps we already did, and we’ll learn to live with the consequences.