Let me resume this blog with a life-affirming vision. My wish is for our descendants to live fulfilling lives into the indefinite future. What must we accomplish, eventually, for it to be possible? Here is an extract from my draft book Our Place (see My Books tab). The painting is by indigenous artist Julie Tucker Hughes. See more of her story.
Let us not minimise the challenge of raising our expectations. The work of conservationists and environmentalists has for a long time been to slow the destruction of nature, and hopefully to prevent the complete destruction of many habitats. This has been noble and necessary work, but we can’t be content with this if we aspire to improve the quality of our descendants’ lives, indefinitely. We cannot simply destroy the Earth more slowly. We must stop the destruction. Then we must reverse the destruction.
This means that at some point in the not-too-distant future forests will be spreading and ageing, coral reefs will be regenerating, some species thought to be lost will be rediscovered and many others will be proliferating, soils will be enriching and increasing, the atmosphere will be cooling, life in the rivers and oceans will be proliferating, people will work modest hours for a modest but creative and fulfilling life, all materials will be recycled, civilisation will run on the sun’s energy, food and resources will be harvested by local people who know each locality intimately, the human population will be slowly and peaceably declining to a less demanding level, and we humans will confine ourselves to defined enclaves, with wild nature a connected continuum surrounding us, free to thrive.
Such a future may be breathtaking on first encounter. It was so for me, when first I realised that no lesser vision will do. This is simply the necessary condition for the indefinite continuance of humanity. The continuance of humanity is not something we dwell on. In fact it is striking to me that our popular culture portrays the future either as a technological fantasy or as a dystopia, or both. Apocalypse in various forms has become almost the routine portrayal of the future. Where is there a portrayal of the future, more than a generation or two hence, in which improvement and potential are the outstanding qualities? And I don’t just mean heartwarming individual triumphs in a setting of continuing decline, I mean improvement of the world as a whole. Where is there a portrayal of our civilisation, or its descendants, living by the creed of indigenous people, to receive the land from our parents, to hold it in trust, to take only what we need, and to pass it on in as good or better condition than when it was received?
Though these are very big challenges, I do not expect them to yield Utopia. There will be those who insist such visions are Utopian. Let them. They are trapped by their limited imagination. I simply think we have no option but to rise to these challenges if we are to avoid the catastrophe that is bearing down on us. If we believe the task is impossible, then we will be right. So I acknowledge there are very big challenges that will require us to go beyond business-as-usual, politics-as-usual and thinking-as-usual, because “the usual” is what has got us into this mess. When I say I am not Utopian, I mean simply that I do not expect a perfect world to emerge. There is no such thing as perfection, that is not the way of life, which is full of striving and contest as well as cooperation and love. I expect us to go on squabbling, loving and striving, but I hope we can avoid much of the destruction that has featured in our recent history, along with the worst of the imminent threat.