(This week, I'm offering four sets of questions that seem helpful in inspiring and empowering action on climate change. Click here for Question #1.)
Question #2 What Do You Want in a World Beyond Climate Change?
Our emotions help us pay attention and take action, and they give us energy for making change, but they don’t tell us what that change should be. It’s not enough to want global warming end, to want greenhouse gas pollution to stop and everything to be OK. Everything isn’t OK, and it won’t be until we create ways of meeting our needs that don’t dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. How do we want to get to work in the morning? What kind of work do we want to do, for that matter? Until we can imagine and create more sustainable ways of living and making a living, we can’t have the safety and peace that we crave.
What do we want our world to look like once we have left fossil fuels behind and entered the age of renewable energy? How will people be living? Where will they live? What will they be doing? Whenever I’ve created time and space in a workshop to allow people to really explore this question for themselves, the images and ideas they describe make one point very clearly: a society that has addressed climate change has the potential to be much more beautiful, much more fair, and much more life-affirming than the society we have today.
When I ask people what they want out of a future that has responded to climate change, I don’t hear only of rooftop solar panels and windmills – although there are plenty of both in the visions people share – but also of the rich world sharing with the less rich, of thriving farms in every community, of healthy, delicious local food, of cities full of gardens and bike paths and canals full of clean water, and of a human society so wise, so clear in its purpose, that it has surrounded itself with wilderness, allowing the rest of the life of the planet to go on about its work in peace.
A person who knows what it is she wants for the future has taken the first step towards discovering where to act today, because a vision tells you what to feed and what to let wither. Only by knowing the future you want, with such clarity that you can see it, taste it, almost feel it, can you recognize all the parts of what you want that already exist, from the biodynamic farm in the neighboring town, to the car sharing collective down the block, to the courageous political champion of greenhouse gas controls. The seeds of the future are all around us, but they are only easy to spot once you've imagined the wonders that they could give rise to.
Such visions seem to be very individual and personal. You may see rivers full of salmon, I see parks in the middle of every city and people with time for playing games with children and walking along winding paths. Someone else will see a smooth-running, highly efficient transportation system, and a distributed network of energy generation. Together, we have a good chance of seeing enough complexity and possibility to describe something worth working very, very hard for.
And so, whenever you invite another person, or a roomful of them, to share what they would really like to see in the future of their wildest dreams, you help that future ease its way into existence.