The world as we know it today is ripe with unrest. Why? Because we face the global health crisis of COVID-19 along with social and racial injustice, climate change, loss of biodiversity, economic instability, and political polarization. Whew! What a chilling list. Although I try not to be a pessimist, I fear all these issues will gravely impact what I have come to think of as “normal” in the not too distant future. Nearing the end of a long and productive life, I, myself, am committed to doing everything I can to raise collective consciousness. But I wonder how upcoming generations will respond to impending social and ecological collapse?
One thing for sure: We can no longer accept a world that is unethical and unsustainable. The extent of our ecological, economic, and political transgression is rampant. Traveling along the road to an improved future requires a mode of transportation devoid of hatred and violence. If we continue on the same course, disaster is pretty much inevitable. So what can we do to change the destructive dynamics and bring about a sustainable future?
First of all, we can stop denying that we have a problem and admit that our physical survival depends on agreeing that ecological degradation is not separate from the perils of racism, poverty, forced migration, and war. Unfortunately, modern human mentality is steeped in four paradigms: 1) Denial of historical and on-going change; 2) Disregard of the limitations of a finite Planet Earth to sustain expanding future generations; 3) The inability to see ourselves as connected to each other and the biodiversity of our environment; 4) Ignoring the complexity of the issue so that we can go on with business as usual, no matter the long-term consequences.
Now is the time to give up our delusions of grandeur and step up with humility, compassion, and patience to dig ourselves out of this crisis. A positive, intelligent attitude will inspire us to seek out more constructive forms of education and engagement to face the future, whatever it might bring. Indigenous people, upon whose stolen land our current system of imperialistic dreams is built, seem to have had a better-balanced view of the big picture. They knew that living simply, as opposed to grabbing all they could get, was more in sync with the ethos of the planet that sustained them. If the earth was sick, then so were they. If their elected leaders were fools, they were too. Guided by an intuitive wisdom that held them together for thousands of years, they survived.
In “Mateus,” a song made by indigenous person Luiz Gonzaga available on SoundCloud, he imagines how it is going to be in the future. Translation: “I cannot breathe, I cannot swim anymore; the land is dying, we cannot plant anymore; if we sow the seeds, they do not sprout; if they sprout, the seedlings do not grow; even spirits are hard to find these days. (Repeat) Where is the flower that used to be here? Pollution has taken it. Where is the fish that used to be in the sea? Pollution has taken it. Where is the green forest that used to be here? Pollution has taken it. We need strength to keep going, believing that another world is possible, a new world, where everything is different.”
*Inspired by: “Preparing for the End of the World as We Know It,” written by The Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures Collective, originally published August 28, 2020.