Crafting Positive Imaginings for 2050 and beyond
— Imagination — 4 min read
It's 2050, thirty years into the future and anything is possible. What does your future look like? What do you want from it? What do we want from it? How can we start to engage in meaningful conversations about the future in the context of the climate and ecological crisis?
When looking to the future it is easy to get trapped in the mindset and problems of today. These thoughts act as a cage to our ideas, dreams and vision of what might be. What could be. A cloud of pessimism obscures our mind.
In fact most of us rarely think that far into the future. We are trapped in the mundane activities of today, our nose pressed to the grindstone of life. Understandably so. It is a part of our lived reality. However, I firmly believe it is a mistake to think tomorrow will always be the same as today. Change is happening all around us, all the time. Imperceptible day to day, but month on month and year on year society perpetuates and reinvents itself through the interactions of it's members. That is you, me and every single one of us.
To imagine oneself separate from change, unable to influence or even participate in it is a mistake. At the same time, to believe you have control the future, or to even desire such control is also a mistake. The future is full of unknowable possibility and the process of change is chaotic and untameable. We should embrace it as such when imagining the future. Holding ideas as fluid, open to challenge but never outright rejection.
2050 and beyond is a powerful time horizon for our imagination for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, while the exact shape of the future and the human society the exists within it is unknowable anyone who believes in and accepts the rigour of science can know with a high degree of certainty that throughout the next 30 years as we transition to this future we are imagining the world has been getting hotter and people have been dying. The backdrop of the climate and ecological emergency that we are experiencing today has developed over 30 years and the situation is getting serious. People are dying. It is the unavoidable, terrible and terrifying prospect that we must accept the future holds. In fact 2021 has highlighted emphatically that this future is already here.
Exactly how this will play out is up to us, but by 2050 the contours and structures of a more positive future are starting to emerge. Or they aren't. And if they aren't, then we, the human species, will have failed our beautiful planet and the ecosystems that it currently supports. I have to believe this does not come to pass, the only way I can believe this is by imagining a vastly different world. I hope we can all agree on this, continuous iteration on today's defunct structures of organisation, wealth and power are not going to adequate. Certainly these have been transformed in my imagined future.
So it's 2050, anything is possible. What does your future look like?
2050 and beyond is the distant future. Longer away than I have been alive for. Remember 1990? No internet. No Social Media. No way we could work from home. A lot has changed. Although you could argue these changes have been superficial, and primarily driven by technology. The social context within which we exist and draw meaning from remains largely unchanged. The 9-5 work week, the unequal division of capital and the ever increasing burning of fossil fuels. Driven by the past; industrialisation, colonialism, the two world wars and the subsequent simmering conflicts between the ideologies of communism and capitalism. The past will never cease to exist, but the adaptive influence it can exert on the future can be diminished. If that's what you want in your future.
It's 2050 and anything is possible. Everything is up for debate, open to be challenged and able to change. Because, remember, the world is getting hotter and people are dying. This is the unavoidable and terrible context that we must all ground our futures. But equally its your imagination and whatever future you can imagine is possible.
So what does your future look like?
This isn't an easy question and I don't have any easy answers. However, I am convinced it is worth some cycles to think about this. To talk about this with our families and friends. To create collective imaginings, together. And use these imaginings to inspire actions today, shifts in the present that begin to make these possibilities more likely.
"a collaborative effort to imagine and design a world of prosperity, peace, sustainability and beauty, achievable with what we have from where we are" Solar Punk Andrew Dana Hudson
We need positive visions. Because truly anything is possible. If we don't have an idea about positive possibles we would like, then it will be all to easy to get swallowed up by the immenseness and impossibility of the challenges ahead.
We don't need to know how to solve all the problems, we just need to take the first step. However, if we don't have an idea where we want to end up it will be very easy to get lost in someone elses ideas.
We need to learn how to speak to each other, to listen and really hear. Without resorting to tribalisim or conflict.
I am idealistic. Optimistic. And unashamedly so.
We need to think outside the box. And we need to do it together.
The first step we can consciously take on this path is to practice. Imagination is a muscle, often ridiculed and under worked but when given permission it allows us to explore beautiful possibilities and create immense potential which no rational, scientific approach rooted in the existing world view could hope to discover.
It is humanities superpower and in my future playful, collaborative imagination has been rightfully recognised as such and imagination practices have permeated all areas of human society. It is a fascinating time to be alive.
But I'm intrigued, what does your future look like?