8 December 2007

Letter to the future

By Jacqui McCarney

Letter writing was never my forte, but I have just finished writing a letter to the future, 2050 to be exact, to my great grandchild, who, if statistical probability is anything to go by, is, at this time, approximately eleven years of age.

It is a letter, now wildly overdue, unfinished from a seminar, based on the teachings of scholar, activist and modern day prophet, Joanna Macy. The intention is of course; to bring our awareness back to our emotional connection with our descendants and at the same time, see ourselves from the perspective of future generations.

I have described to young Alfie, it helped to give him a name, what it is like living in 2007, at the time of what, Joanna Macy calls "The Great Turning" and more importantly what my part is in all this. Macy imagines that future generations will look back on this period as a time of "epochal shift from a self-destructive industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society".

If the science of climate change is right, and there seems to be, pretty well unanimous agreement about this from the scientific community, it does indeed look like we urgently need to be shifting away from growth and towards sustainability.

But this is not just about changing our behaviour; in order for these changes to be sustainable we need a revolution of consciousness. For two hundred years we have seen improvement as growth, expansion, speed and individuality now we must see improvement as stability, contraction, awareness and community.

Yes, technology might come up with magic solutions in a decade or two, which appears to be the hope of western politicians, most notably George Bush.

And the market might decide that catastrophic climate change is not good for business, but so far, market solutions are not promising, according to Naomi Klein, big investors are pouring money into private security and defence companies and not into sustainability. This gives rich countries and individuals the gadgets to fortress themselves against the effects of an increasingly unstable world.

Then what about China and India's carbon footprint? They are copying, what we of course started - industrialization, so let's hope enough of them also want to copy our powerdown solutions too.

Our responsibility to future generations is clear. While we are not entirely responsible for the state of our climate, we are the last generation who have any power to act and determine what the future might look like. There is no time for postponement, by the next generation it will be too late. The tipping point for runaway climate change is very close. Some scientist's say the window of opportunity is ten years, others say it may already be too late.

Whatever the case, there is still only one defensible solution, practically and morally, and that is to adhere to the recent United Nations recommendation to reduce carbon emissions in industrialised countries by over 80 per cent now. And in so doing begin to set in place the framework for a safe, sane, coherent - "life sustaining society" for our children.

Some are already trying to do just this. Transition towns, founded by Rob Hopkins, in Kinsale, Ireland, is now establishing itself in the UK and is attracting interest from across the globe. This is a planned, whole community descent, into a low energy life style, with reduced dependency on fossil fuels.

There are already twenty towns and cities with transition status and a further 90 undergoing the initial stages. This is not about sack- cloth and ashes but about making low carbon living imaginative, fun and community based. Rob says that the early stages is about "Unlocking the collective genius of the community" and this also involves the expertise of the older generation, who remember growing sustainable communities during the 2nd world war with minimal oil supplies.

We can co-operate our way through, or fight our way through the climate threats ahead. The time for deciding is running out and we must be quick.

Parenting by its very nature is an emotional investment in the future, and in the build up to the festive season, it is worth remembering that happiness this year is not enough we want our children to have the possibility of happiness in the future too.

I have just put a PS on Alfie’s letter. I asked him, if he is safe? I asked him if he had a garden - or if he had a gun. That answer is going to depend on what we do now.