SShortly before his death in 2007, celebrated novelist, iconoclast and World War II veteran Kurt Vonnegut gave a final interview. “My country is in ruins,” he said. “I am a fish in a poisoned fishbowl.” Vonnegut was 84 years old and sounded sharp when talking about inequality and political myopia, adding that in American history “one thing no cabinet has ever had is a Secretary of the Future, and there are no plans at all for my children. and grandchildren “.
“Why should I worry about future generations?” asked comedian Groucho Marx. “What have they done for me?”
The future is all downstream. Marty McFly and Doc Brown took us for a great ride in the hit movie Back to the Future, using their flux capacitor and flying DeLorean. But time goes one way and money can’t buy it.
Gratitude, on the other hand, goes in a circle. “In a culture of gratitude,” writes Robin Wall Kimmerer in his bestselling book Braiding Sweetgrass, “everyone knows that gifts will follow the cycle of reciprocity and come back to you.” Kimmerer, a registered member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, adds that “both the honor of giving and the humility of receiving are the necessary halves of the equation.”
This, then, should be our task. Put the intergenerational We above the I of today and create community through generosity. Write a Declaration of Interdependence that reminds us to take care of each other, to listen to each other; choose leaders motivated by empathy, honesty, science, wisdom and truth, not by power and greed. No more conspiracy theories. No more myopia. No more fossil fuel subsidies. No more unwinnable trillion dollar wars.
No more lies.
“The Department of the Future would initiate a realignment of priorities in all aspects of society,” proposes geology professor Marcia Bjornerud in her compelling book Timefulness. “The conservation of resources would once again become a fundamental value and a patriotic virtue. Tax incentives and subsidies would be rebalanced to reward long-term management over short-term exploitation. “
Each year, the Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in one year. In 2021, on July 29 was celebrated the “Day of the Overrun of the Earth”, which means that we are on the way to consume 1.6 Earths instead of having a sustainable one. Last year, in the midst of a pandemic, it occurred on August 22, three weeks after 2019, showing that we can reduce our global carbon footprint and our ecological burden. In the 1970s, Earth Overdraft Day fell in December, when we were largely living within our means and not stealing the future.
By fostering higher education and enforcing sensible regulations, a Department of the Future would help foster a morality deeper than greed and concern for the Now. Comprised of indigenous scientists, humanists, historians and elders, it would invite us to climb a peak higher than the Mountain of More. It would end, or at least mitigate, what author and activist Naomi Klein calls the “intergenerational theft” of anthropogenic climate change. and instead it would usher in a green energy revolution and regeneration that would make fossil fuels obsolete.
It is not unprecedented.
Some 300 years ago, the Iroquois demanded that their leaders take into account how their actions would affect “the unborn of the future nation.” This “seventh generation rule” looked both past and future, from great-grandparents to great-grandchildren, a perspective of approximately 150 years.
For too long we have been shortsighted and have mistaken our intelligence for wisdom. As such, many of our solutions have later turned into pesky problems: non-biodegradable microfibers ingested by fish throughout our oceans, plastics that fill the stomachs of starving sea turtles and whales, lead-based paints and other compounds that make you sick and kill. children, cancerous “permanent chemicals” in our groundwater, sunscreens that bleach coral reefs. They were all considered wonderful until time gave us clarity and cause for alarm, and changed the equation.
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, calls the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a “red code for humanity.” The main culprit: our addiction to fossil fuels.
That is why President Biden, facing grave threats to our democracy and our livable Earth, must do what has never been done. He must look deeper into the past and more clearly into the future than any president has. You must gather the lessons of history and the paradox of progress, listen to the science, create jobs (so far so good), and improve the lives of as many Americans as possible. How? Employing wisdom, science, decency, hope, and truth. And more than a little sand.
“The future depends on what you do today,” Gandhi warned us. By carefully examining our troubled past and learning from it, we can create a Department of the Future that will help us achieve a long-term vision; to become better caretakers of our democracy, our planet, and our great-grandchildren’s tomorrow.
The future is out there, looking back, asking us, pleading with us, to see beyond ourselves.
A frequent contributor to The Guardian, Kim Heacox is the author of many books, including The Only Kayak, a memoir, and Jimmy Bluefeather, a novel, both winners of the National Outdoor Book Award. He lives in alaska
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism