The Future is Still a Safe Place

Two wolves nuzzling faces

— by Richard Landry —

A few days after the presidential election, I received an email from Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future. It was one of at least a dozen emails I received during the week from various nonprofit organizations, all expressing some version of despair or defiance over the election result, infused with anxiety and fear over what would come of it all in the end. But Marina’s letter was different. In it, she wrote:

The future is still a safe place. It’s a place where we can imagine beyond the confusion of today to create a world that everyone can inhabit with their bodies, their hearts, and their spirit.

At times like this, despair, paralysis, anxiety, fear—they are easy emotions to access, because as human beings, like it or not, we come from the Earth, and we feel viscerally when it is in danger. And so it is. The crises of climate change and species loss are taking us to a tipping point where something will have to give—either our perspective on the rightful place we occupy on this lovely planet; or our literal capacity to survive and thrive upon it.

We might ask, “What can I do?” and we might ask that question in a very pained way, because it might seem as though there is nothing that one individual can do to reverse the course of ecological degradation we are on, to bring the Earth back into balance for the benefit of all who live upon it, humans and animals alike. We might especially feel this way when we see what forces are arrayed against us. What can we do? The question might linger in our minds like an echo in an empty chamber.

But as Marina reminded me, and reminds us all, the future is still a safe place. If we are able to go beneath the surface of our painful emotions and access the connection to the Earth that lives within us all, then we can begin to feel the joy of living that all beings on this planet feel, and from that joy will come a million possibilities. We are gifted as a species with the logic and intellect to put that joy of living to good use. We can not only imagine a world beyond the confusion of the day—we can create it, too.

Many thinkers about the future have said that when the institutions of government fail us, business will begin to take the lead in creating a world that works for all. I think we are at a moment like this. I think that all of us have much more power individually than we might believe. We make powerful economic decisions every day, in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the vehicles we use to carry us to and from work. At work, we make choices every day. When we come home at night, we choose what to feed our hearts and minds. We have enormous power as individuals, and even more as a group.

When we embarked on our new online community strategy, it was with the idea that we would join together in council to discover new ways of living on the Earth. The Earth demands it. The animals are calling us to council. Over the coming weeks and months, we will invite you into conversation about the future of life on our planet, and about what we can do to create a world that everyone—humans and animals alike—can inhabit with their bodies, hearts, and spirits. We will do this with hope in the future. And we invite you to embrace this hope with us, too.

Richard Landry is a social innovation consultant to environmental organizations and a member of the Earthfire Institute Advisory Council.

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