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Hostages to the future — Thoughts on the Theme — December 2022

We can’t escape our future. The sum of our collective actions as humans acts as another force of nature, influencing the big physical systems that underpin the small blue, watery planet we’ve all come to know. We are in the process of making our own collective future.

Our collective status as hostages to the future was on display at the United Nations’ climate meeting, COP27. As Wired reporter Gregory Barber put it, many rich nations arrived not having made good on promises to reduce emissions. Poor nations arrived angry at past failures to put their issues on the negotiating table—particularly plans for rich polluters to pay for damage caused by climate change. COP27 ended with a high level plan to compensate loss and damage. Al Gore announced a nonprofit climate data effort called Climate Trace. Some progress was made on agreements to cut back on methane emissions.

Useful steps towards easing human disruptions of physical systems were made through these negotiations. With the perseverance, organizing, and advocacy that was on display at COP27, our future may become more bearable. What is not negotiable is that actions today effect tomorrow—we can’t escape the future.

So many critical decisions affect our climate future. We should be taking ownership of our future in reality, and in our narrative, heeding our peers and our community and our elders. Several articles talk about public ownership of the railroads, coops to transform local business, social housing to redress longstanding discrimination.

Several articles look at the transportation sector with its huge contribution to emissions—why are our leaders talking about a major new airport? Or hiring experts to tell us we need more warehousing and trucking? Thad Curtz examines the gap between Thurston County’s good intentions for addressing climate and where the county is falling short. And maybe falling farther behind.

The articles about the work of tribal nations and historians engaging students, reflections on home, even highlighting why a new School Board Member makes an important difference—all these connect us to our place on earth, which is essential if we are going to make a future that is bearable for everyone. And the other critical thread that runs through this issue is about democracy—the book and the foray into Chile’s experience directly—the other essential for a bearable future.

How are we to embrace our inevitable relationship with the future? One way is through dialogue. Dan Leahy has been involved in conversations with a collection of elders who have led lives of activism across the country. Gathering on Zoom, they introduce themselves by describing their vision for our future. Dan’s final advice about “what actions should be taken” is far more helpful than most answers to that question:

The vision: A community of resistance acting as custodian for neighborhood land, housing and community spirit.

How to achieve it: Face to face dialogue. Agreed upon principles. Active engagement in the work.

What actions should be taken: Keep expanding your reach. Recruit organizational mechanics. Clarify the shape of the enemy.



Theme for Spring: Walls

For our Spring issue, let’s consider a famous line from Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Walls: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”

But before that line, there is much more, including this: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out/And to whom I was like to give offense…”

We are hoping for reflections or articles from you that in some way speak to the issue of building walls —in any context.
Deadline: February 1, 2023

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