It may seem wild to propose that we have hope in 2017. Many of us who believe in social and environmental justice are at our most hopeless. Climate change is worsening at rates faster than most scientists predicted; neoliberalism – which I like to think of as capitalism on steroids – is continuing to have devastating effects on people, communities, and the environment; human misery, oppression, and exploitation are increasing seemingly unabated. And then there is the incoming president of the United States who will be taking the already harmful neoliberal policies of the previous U.S government to new extremes – and threatens to rapidly dismantle the gains of the Civil Rights and feminist movements.
So why am I choosing to be hopeful and asking you to do the same?
Humanity is at a crossroads. By definition a crossroads means that we can go one way or another (or forge our own path) but cannot continue to go straight. While many factors have led us to this crossroads it is climate change that will force humans to drastically change course. The future is scary but it is unknown. The path we go down as a species has not been decided for us and even though it seems we are heading down a destructive path based on corporate greed, hatred and tyranny, this is not inevitable. In fact, it is possible for humans to choose another path – a path based on equality, solidarity, co-operation, a celebration of diversity, participatory democracy and environmental regeneration. We can choose a path in which we end systemic forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, and homo/transphobia. We can choose a future that is egalitarian- where people share wealth, collectively and democratically deciding how to run our communities. And even though the climate change science is grim, we can choose a future in which humans live in balance with the Earth, helping to foster health, dynamic ecosystems.
This may sound hopelessly idealistic but I consider it hopefully optimistic. Mass social movements have made significant and revolutionary changes to human societies in the past – and I believe they can do so in the future. The history of social movements teaches us that they can spring up out of seemingly nowhere. Change can happen very quickly.
The fact that humans are at a crossroads, that our future is undecided and uncertain, is what gives me hope. I believe more people will choose a future based on freedom, cooperation, and equality than one based on greed and destruction. The process of building social movements may seem hard, frustrating, and sometimes pointless but we should take heart in the millions of people around the world who are engaging in similar hard work. Now is a time to radically envision the kind of future we want for ourselves, our communities, our Earth and to commit to creating it. Collectively we can forge a new – better – path and in that spirit I invite you to imagine radical possibilities for 2017 and beyond.