I recently completed an 8-week course titled Surviving The Future – A Deeper Dive. This course, based on the book Surviving The Future by David Flemming, was created by that book’s editor Shaun Chamberlin. Students joined from across the globe and each week featured a guest speaker, shared reading, poetry, music, videos and discussions via Zoom.
The overarching theme of the course was collapse: the collapse of the systems that uphold our current societies, especially looking at climate change as the initiator. From my perspective, there is a deep connection to Just Transition. Just Transition recognizes that our current systems are unjust and it is this injustice that is at the root of the collapse. Systems built on endless growth and extraction cannot grow forever and there is a limit to how much can be extracted. Just Transition brings the principles and practices necessary to transition from our current extractive paradigm to a regenerative one regardless of what is coming or what it may look like.
A few thoughts that echo in me still: An honest look at the current state of humanity, at the very least, is to welcome the unknown. Undoubtedly there were numerous conversations regarding climate change. A lot of science and data about the population and what is actually sustainable. This drove a topic that came up numerous times: hope vs hopelessness. But beyond the outlook one chooses to have or feels for the future, there is this overwhelming sense that it will be different. What action is the right action to take? I heard this expressed a lot.
Just Transition can seem like a means to fix what is broken, but to me, it’s more that JT principles are a way to express what many of us would simply choose to act like, be like. It is a different way of being. They exist not merely as a reaction to an unjust world; they are principles of the world we are imagining. This imagining was the basis for many who are choosing to live their lives not by fear, or panic, or despair, but by a deeper question of “How do I want to live now, in this moment?” Rob Hopkins, a guest speaker, co-founder of the Transition Town movement and author of the book From What Is To What If, spoke with joy about possibility and what he has seen around the world, past and present. Isa Frémeaux, another guest speaker, spoke to the power of activism and what it can manifest.
Speakers rooted in direct activism, or presentations rooted in data, or broad conversations about various details of the state of the world and what’s to come so often, in the end, pointed to loving each other. Love, not as some fuzzy thing that would magically “save the world”, but that loving each other, loving the planet, loving all life is truly the most important thing we can do. Over and over again I heard this sentiment expressed and not without a heavy heart.
Vandana Shiva, one of our guest speakers – a scholar, quantum physicist, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, ecofeminist, and anti-globalisation author put it very simply: we need “Truth, Love and Solidarity.”
It still amazes me how, even on a screen, through Zoom, feelings of truth, love and solidarity can be shared. I found a deep connection with so many people willing to engage in these heavy topics. We didn’t always agree. Agreement is not necessary for connection. Healthy dialogue involves sharing opinions and a willingness. This willingness asked us each to be vulnerable at times. Grief came up a lot. Stephen Jenkinson, a guest speaker, spoke very directly and profoundly about death. There is much grieving being done and much to do. This is challenging for a culture that is so grieving illiterate. But together we bonded and inspired each other and grieved.
I am not one to bother with hope or hopelessness. And the situation before us is perhaps unprecedented. Shaun Chamberlin, organizer of the course, uses the language of Dark Optimism. These words seem good enough to me. That to be conscious of the moment invites a darkness, but we can also be conscious that this moment is filled with opportunity. Transitions are never easy. My personal growth moments have not come with rainbows and sparkles, they have come hard. I can’t imagine it being any different for the collective.
Please keep an ear out for our radio show – The Good Work Hour. On March 28th, I’ll be joined by Shaun Chamberlin. We’ll talk about the course, love, and the concept of Dark Optimism.