This has been a difficult week for those of us who want to save life on earth. Somehow the latest, greatest hope for the future of life is in the hands of one man — a senator, not even a the king!! Given how few Americans voted for him, it is absurd that Joe Manchin has so much national influence. But when you consider the extent of American power and their historical and current responsibility for the climate crisis, it is completely grotesque.
When Senator Ed Markey joined climate activists outside the Capitol on Oct. 7, he said“There is no middle ground between a world that is suitable for life and a world that is not suitable for life.”
But there is the world in between — and now we are in it. It’s a world where everything is weak, as if if you touch something, everything could collapse. It’s one where you feel uncomfortable when you plan months in advance because you can’t imagine the future. Today, coming up with a ten-year plan seems ridiculous – like building a house on quicksand.
As we move from crisis to crisis, it’s hard not to wonder if it’s the end of the world. But for the only species that has a record, for better or worse, of intentionally changing the planet, it’s cheating. The real question is not what it is the world it works, it is about what we’re doing. It doesn’t matter if the world ends or begins. It is whether we create it or destroy it. And the answer is, of course, both.
The climate crisis is a crisis of many things: science, economy, politics, immigration. As the author Amitav Ghosh said, “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of imagination.” To be clear, this does not mean innovation or invention – we have a bunch of ideas for solar panels and microgrids. While we have all of these pieces, we don’t have a picture of how they come together to build a new world. For too long, the struggle for climate has been limited to scientists and policy experts. While we need those skills, we need a lot more. When I review the field, it is clear that we desperately need more artists.
We talk a lot about building a “future for life,” but what does that actually mean? Not much for those of us who barely survive today. Moreover, I do not want a future in which one can only live. I want a beautiful world. I am sick of nightmares and I am ready to dream again.
I would like to introduce the concept to everyone building the world. At its core, the construction of the world is what it sounds like: the process of creating an imaginary world for a work of fiction. It is a practice to take ideas in your head, sensations from your imagination and allow people to see what you see, to feel what you feel. It is about creating new things as much as destroying old structures and assumptions. It is an art, not a science.
It is often considered that the construction of the world is the domain of science fiction, but every work of fiction, even non-fiction, requires it. You have to build the world the way your character sees it, because as every novelist knows, building the world is more about the characters than the environment. It’s the same in life: none of us experience the world the same way, so we live in our own little versions.
We must apply the construction of the world to the planet on which we live. While artists may be the most successful at it, this time they can’t do it alone. We will all have to push our imagination. Here’s one way to start: close your eyes and think about the world as you see it. Remember that building the world begins with the main character. (It’s you!) So ask yourself: Who are you and what do you stand for? And now, what do the people around you stand for?
Imagine your surroundings. Observe everything that is beautiful and everything that is ugly, terrible, uncertain: storms, fires, injustices, screams, gnashing of teeth. As you consider your environment – including the laws of society and the customs of culture – you take into account how you feel in it, how you communicate with them. Think about what you can change and what you can’t. Open your eyes. Breathe.
Now close your eyes and imagine the world you want to live in. You start with the same main character. (Still you!) But maybe the people around you have changed. What do they value in this world? How do they treat each other? What is important in this new world and what is not? What does energy look like – not just electricity? How does the air feel on your skin? what does it smell like In my world, there is laughter and lightness in the air, and it is not burdened with those harmful chemicals that make my nose burn. Remember your version — every detail, every feeling. You will have to come back here until you make it real.
When you open your eyes, ask yourself: Is there anything from that world that I can bring into this one? That’s your job now. If we want to make the world, let’s do it right. Let’s make a masterpiece.
This story originally appeared in Nation and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration that strengthens the coverage of the climate story.
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.