The outlines of our future are unavoidable:
The planet’s climate and life support systems are steadily degrading as the chemistry of the atmosphere shifts under the weight of human discharge. Our mastery of the planet is about to contract accordingly and with that, humanity’s margins will be under steady assault. Instability, limitation, and disintegration will become increasingly commonplace. Indeed, the physical, social, and economic challenges bearing down on us may very well outstrip our communal vision, destabilize our civilization, and destroy the values we cherish. Humankind has never been more at risk.
Nor, ironically, have human possibilities ever been more expansive.
Our circumstance requires no less than a reformulation of our collective and personal lives in the image of our better selves. Communal reordering and the survival of humanity as we know it are now synonymous. And this reframing of the social contract and reduction of our collective impact is an opportunity to realize our dreams, values, and aspirations as never before. The task is as unprecedented as the circumstances that compel it, but it needs to be undertaken not only with a sense of urgency and crisis, but with heartfelt vision and the joyful anticipation of our own betterment.
This extraordinary moment requires us to be what seems extraordinary in response:
We need to use less and share more, reconcile with our antagonists and empower our heretofore disenfranchised. We need to enlarge our engagement with each other and shrink our impact on the planet; relinquish our illusions of superiority and acclaim our universal worth; reduce our weaponry and expand our compassion; lionize diversity and dismiss prejudice; maximize wellbeing and minimize privilege; stop seeking to gain an advantage and start weaving a common thread; pay close attention to what is going on and resist closing our eyes during the scary parts; don’t spend resources we don’t have and spend those we do have for the widest possible benefit; seek affinity and dignity; avoid delusions of grandeur and domination, however well intentioned; nurture humility; live closer to the ground; help all comers; and keep our minds and hearts open.
Without such a regeneration of our collective and personal selves, we are doomed to fall short of the changes our future requires from us. And that necessary transformation can only proceed with the assertion of four communal priorities:
Halt and, where still possible, reverse the deterioration of the earth’s natural systems and the climate they generate;
Pursue international security through cultural contact, financial interdependence, and transnational law and law enforcement;
Empower the social base with participatory structures that concentrate decision making and administration among the citizenry;
Reduce the differential in wealth between nations and between classes, valuing everyone, without exception.
We are both the problem and the solution, and our best chance of survival requires nourishing commitment to this agenda, to honest self examination, and to each other, individual by individual, community by community—as much a spiritual quest as a political instrument, pursuing an ethos devoted to the compassionate reconstruction of our social footprint. We need to generate a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of behavior, and reach out to all, invoking our commonality, turning no one away, utilizing those existing institutions responsive and malleable enough to be different, and inventing new ones when necessary. The only other option is a catastrophe of unprecedented dimensions.
The challenge is enormous, but no bigger than we are when we so choose.
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