This is a place for each of us to try to engage in situated imagining—to find a place, preferably outside somewhere, where you won’t be interrupted for some time. Think about the place where we have the most roots, where we feel most connected, and I want us to imagine what it could look like in ten, twenty, thirty years, if many of our dominant systems have drastically changed.
Then, let’s use the space here to share the results with one another in the thread to see how they interweave with one another—where they complement, where they contradict, where they can build off each other.
I live on beautiful Vancouver Island in BC, Canada. We are lucky to already have some things in place to encourage better foodways, but there is a lot of room to grow. My initial thoughts about this question are that in any imagined future it would be essential to involve the original stewards of the land (in this case, the The Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwakaw'akw people). Despite colonialism's efforts they are still here and still hold so much knowledge about the land and how to interact with it without capitalism and market economies. I believe that with their knowledge and the knowledge of settlers who come to the table with humility, the new world could be beautiful.
What do we need? Food, water, shelter.. clothing, elder care, child care, community, energy, entertainment?
Here we have drought in the summer. However rain catchement and a more careful use of water could provide for a lot of our water needs. We would look at our watersheds and build with them in mind, ensuring we take care for everyone downstream.
For food, if given the chance to heal, our access to the sea could be our greatest strength. Underplanting our street trees (many of which are currently inedible horse chestnut) with nut trees, encouraging home scale growing of fruit and vegetables, and transforming our farming spaces into hubs for carbohydrate rich foods that are less able to be grown on home scale like wheat and corn. We have a lot of urban deer and home scale chickens, ducks, goats, rabbits and pigeons could all provide protein and fertility (I don't currently eat animal products but am trying to include others' needs in my future, and can't say for sure how I would eat in this future). Any trees cut down for building supplies or firewood, would have their stumps inoculated with edible fungi.
Shelter is full of exciting possibilities. We have a severe housing crisis and many of my neighbors live in tents year-round. Meanwhile more and more units are turned into airbnbs. These should be converted back to long term rentals, with supported housing options for people dealing with mental health and addiction issues (though my hope is that this future world will reduce the factors that bring on these issues). I also see increasing the size of our households (turning spare rooms into bedrooms for roommates and family members). This could also interact with child and elder care. For many cultures having elders around to assist with child care is still an essential. New homes would be limited and built with cob, excellent for earthquake resistance and requiring very little off-site materials.
Clothing, both the creation and maintenance on a household scale was the norm less than 100 years ago. We still have talented spinners, weavers, designers and sewers in our community, and they have the knowledge and skills to teach us how to maintain and create quality garments. I personally have begun slowly switching to what my Irish ancestors would have worn (wool and linen) and just having proper clothing aids in keeping my body at a comfortable temperature. Both flax and wool could easily be grown in our climate, instead of importing gmo cotton. (An amazing read on this subject is Fibreshed, highly recommended!)
Luckily our energy is primarily hydro, however I would like to imagine that we would share this energy with other communities with less easily accessible energy sources, so finding a less energy-intensive way of living would be essential. By localizing production of much of our necessities, we could save our energy for things like transporting essential medications. We could retrofit our houses to take advantage of the sun's heat in the winter, and protect us from it in the summer. With the reduction in pointless jobs that currently absorb so much brain and body power (I don't think we need another startup) we could walk or cycle places we would have driven.
We could begin being active in our entertainment instead of passive. Writing plays, songs, performing dance. Stand up comedy. I could see a folk music revival where everyone feels comfortable singing no matter how out of tune. Artistic expression wouldn't be limited to those who attended art school.
I want to thank you for giving me the space to use my imagination. I walk a lot for work (dog walker) and spend so much time wondering and imagining, hatching schemes and ideas and often never sharing them. I'm sure few if any will read this through but it was cathartic to put it out there. The community we need is already out here, we just need to share our ideas with other dreamers and we'll find what we're looking for!
Excellent thought. Will share with my students in Global Food Security
I loved this post, and especially the quote from Peter Gelderloos. His book sounds like a title I've been wishing for. The 'situated imagining' is a beautiful way to get right to the root of what so many artists, writers, and natural farmers I know do in their work. But the clincher was the admission that his ideal "contains the ideals of other people that are contradictory to my own." Yes!
We also just closed a two month exhibition called "A City Designed by Trees" which imagines how the city might transform if we learned to listen to nature. It might be of interest:
Heavily influenced by living in Japan and Korea, I've been writing and making art about "the possible city" for some years now, and this conversation reminds me of the many books I've seen in this realm this year. A few of them I've been happy to contribute bits and pieces to (Biodivercities by 2030; Nature-based Solutions for Cities; and a bunch of collaborations at The Nature of Cities, all collaborative efforts by people doing work in their localities, and well worth reading)...
All of which makes me think that you are onto something here. There is indeed a global movement of independent movements, many of them watching, listening, doing, and learning from each other's experiences of how to move forward.
It is currently possible for Bostonians to go weeks or months without thinking about, hearing about, or seeing the Atlantic ocean or Boston Harbor. As a coastal city we are deeply disconnected from our waterways. The Charles River, a major recreation area, is visually separated from the ocean by dams, bridges, and buildings built over the river. Stony Brook, a major tributary of the Charles, has been routed underground and out of site so successfully that people who live above it don't even know it's there.
In thirty years, this disconnect from our waterways will be impossible. Rising sea levels will be felt first by the luxury neighborhoods of Back Bay and Seaport, where buildings built on the landfill will become structurally unstable as their foundations shift and crumble with the changing water table. The culverts that have held Stony Brook underground for almost 200 years will not be able to hold increasingly intense rainstorms, and the easement above the brook will be used to excavate the waterway, beginning a slow healing process of natural drainage and wildlife restoration through Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. The Fens, Boston's de-factor stormwater catchment basin and ancient marshland-turned-park, will expand and reconnect with the Charles River.
The reclaimed waterways will come with decaying infrastructure, odor, and health hazards. But there is beauty in the reclamation of the waterways as well. The dams along the Charles have been removed, allowing the tides of the Atlantic to reach inland and slowly rebuild marshland along the river's banks. Global shipping has slowed greatly as consumerism and capitalism are in decline, so Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor are quieter and safer for wildlife and people to enjoy. Right whales have returned to their traditional feeding grounds in greater numbers each year. The Boston Harbor Islands are being restored as the ecological gateway to the estuary, under the leadership of the Massachusett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag people. Bostonians now think about our waterways every day-- with some fear, some awe, and a deep commitment to restoring their health.
When I think of “where I have the most roots, where I feel most connected” the instinct is to think of family and friends, but I felt that feeling in the places of nature I came to know with the most familiarity, which would be particular parts of CA and NY. I hope that at least in CA, grocery store chains will be replaced by farmers market, as the place of food purchase for most. NY is more of a food desert so that’s a problem, but maybe they could invest in infrastructure that allows them to grow despite their difficulties. In the next decades, they will see their climates pushed and changed, one drier and hotter, and one with shorter more spastic winters. In the next 30 years, those places and all of us everywhere will be reeling from the damage we’ve already done. If our systems have dramatically changed, I would hope to see more restoration biology around the world, more resources dedicated to those of us already trying to protect and restore natural areas. And I would hope to see the end of using animals for absolutely anything. No more meat, animal agriculture, animal testing, anything. I know that has a lot of consequences, but it’s using, often torturing, another being without consent. There’s nothing right or okay about that. If we have done that, I trust we will have enough compassion, empathy, and love for each other as humans to have drastically changed our systems.