Picture this: It’s the year 2035. I would be 50 years old, and can imagine I’m experiencing the world quite differently than I am now at age 30. Imagine that you also are 20 years in the future, walking down the street in 2035 on a bright spring day and you suddenly have a moment of pause and reflection. It’s one of those personal touchstone moments, where externally the patter of life continues on as normal, but you personally for whatever reason flash back to the world as it was 20 years ago, and quietly reflect for a moment on how far things have come.
Now picture this: It’s 2035, and things are awesome. It’s a radical proposal, actually. We spend so much time perpetuating cultural narratives of gloom and doom, Hollywood produces a new apocalypse movie every week it seems, and even the progressive changemaker community I consider myself a part of spends a lot of time griping about how politics are owned by corporations, worrying that our natural world may be damaged beyond repair, genuinely struggling to disrupt systems that perpetuate class and race-based violence and prejudice.
And it’s true, in 2015, things were pretty bad.
But #DareToImagine this:
It’s 2035, and there’s a tangible sense that the tide is turning. Imagine that the work you have been engaged in for the past 20 years is showing significant results. All of the amazing people you know — organizers, activists, innovators, changemakers — all of that work and people you were inspired by in 2015 have made major strides in the past 20 years. It’s a really wild thought experiment, I realized yesterday as I facilitated a group of 10 people through this 20-minute exercise at #FeastUnite gathering in NYC, prepping for USDAC’s upcoming national action campaign. When I tap into this visioning, here’s what comes up for me:
The tangible sense in public space of a true melting pot — truly diverse and integrated spaces with more eye contact, a felt sense of trust and dignity, subconscious class and racist prejudices no longer defining our default interactions. Urban green spaces are valued, commonplace, and cared for collectively. Farming is cool, and there’s a big wave of the next generation moving outside the cities taking up the charge of growing sustainable, healthy food on a mass scale. The UN Development Goals set in 2015 really made an impact, and we’re learning what it means to live with our changed but still incredible, vibrant and resilient planet. The world is significantly less violent than it was, with radically strict gun control laws in the U.S. that seemed as impossible as a black president did at one point, but now it would be silly to fear a public shooting, it simply doesn’t happen anymore.
It’s not an idyllic utopian state — there is still work to be done. But you can feel in the air that a real cultural shift has taken place, that there is momentum in service of equity and empathy, and that now even more can be done.
I believe that this is possible. I believe in our capacity as dreamers, as strategic thinkers, as conscious creators to design new ways of being. I believe that there are so many options in front of us much, much bigger than the social systems we’ve created to date.
Here are things that feel too bold to say: I believe the U.S. could provide significantly more publicly funded social services that would come to redefine acceptable standards about the quality of life and dignity of all human beings. I believe that through a lot of hard work, it’s possible to heal the deeply damaging racist structures that were baked into the founding of this country and have been perpetuated for centuries. I believe that white people can come to terms with the guilt and damage caused by ancestors past, learn to take more ownership for all the ways institutional racism is perpetuated in the present, and begin to celebrate the individual responsibility and agency we have to dismantle that.
None of this is inevitable; there’s a lot of work to do over the next 20 years, and surely beyond.
But the good news is: the world will change. We hear all the time: “the world is changing fast,” “things aren’t what they used to be.” They sure aren’t. They couldn’t be. Change is the nature of our universe and all beings.The more interesting questions are: What will those changes be, and how many voices can be involved in visioning and creating the world’s next iteration?
When I started envisioning this yesterday, I was surprised at how much fear came up that made it really difficult to begin, get specific, and go even further. I think I am afraid, because maybe it won’t come true. I am worried about the problems of the world in 2015, and some days they just seem to get more complex and irreparable. Hopelessness is real, and maybe one of the greatest cultural dangers we have to grapple with today.
And so of course, this is why the process of envisioning is the most critical and perhaps the most radical thing we can do. As the great imagination gurus tell us: “Our capacity to create new worlds is directly influenced by our ability to imagine them.” If we actually want to use our agency and voice to help define what the world will look like in 20 years, then imagining is a mandate. Even if it’s scary, even if it feels silly, even if it feels impossible or that the world we want is so very far away.
Beginning October 10th, Emissaries from the Future will be popping up in strange, unexpected places all across the country, inviting thousands to join this radical act of collective visioning. It’s a bold charge, but I believe we’re up to the task. #DareToImagine new possibilities. Dare to dream real alternatives. Dare to let your heart open to that biggest, brightest possible future for all of us. I can’t wait to see what we come up with…