The 2020s are going to be about struggle but if we do it right, it will be collective and (mostly) joyful
Everyone who follows science and environmental news knows that predictions for the next few decades are grim and scary. Climate change, by most accounts is happening quicker and more unpredictably than scientists had anticipated. People are already suffering around the world as climate disasters and oppression increase. Humans are being presented with two dominant pathways: one egalitarian and co-operative and the other authoritarian and destructive. So far, if elections are an indication of the mood of the people, we are choosing the path of authoritarian neo-liberal capitalism. This can be strikingly seen in the rise of racism and xenophobia. At a time when climate refugees are increasing dramatically, some people are choosing hate and cruelty.
The next decade is going to be about struggle, there is no doubt about that. Not just struggles between groups of people, but struggles of farmers to grow food in the face of climate chaos, and struggles of people to survive climate disasters including wars over resources. There will be people struggling against increasingly authoritarian nation-states. I don’t know and can’t predict the end result of those struggles. No one knows what will happen to humanity. We are in a time of extreme uncertainty.
But struggle doesn’t have to be negative or scary. In struggling against the destruction caused by the capitalist-colonialist system, there can be moments of exhilarating joy along with the moments of heartbreak. People have been struggling against domination, exploitation, and oppression for hundreds of years and it seems that for many the struggle for freedom was worth it even if the immediate outcome wasn’t always what they had hoped. Even if we created an egalitarian, decolonized, borderless socialist utopia tomorrow, there would still be chaos caused by climate disasters. This is inescapably true. A process has been unleashed that cannot be fully contained. No matter what superhero movies have told us over the past decade, no single person and no technology yet-to-be-invented, is going to save us.
But I have certainty about one thing: it will be better to collectively struggle for freedom against this brutal, life-destroying system than to struggle alone. The most amazing moments of exhilarating joy will be collective. They will take place in the streets at protests, including protests that last for days, weeks, and months like we are seeing in Hong Kong and Chile. They will take place at barricades for Indigenous land defence and reclamations. They will take place on picket lines and during strike support organizing. They will take place at activist camps and teach-ins. They will take place in community gardens and over shared meals. They will place when people get together to create art, make music, and dance. They will take place where children congregate to play and laugh together. They will take place in street parties and critical mass bike rides. They will take place as people gather to honour the land. Moments of collective joy will take place in ways we don’t yet know or understand. Through collective struggle we can glimpse other possibilities for humanity and the Earth.
A handful of rich individuals working to uphold a system of extreme wealth accumulation got humanity and the Earth into this mess. Only collective action of the many can help us get through it in a way that allows for collective flourishing of humans and other-than-humans. No superhero, no leaders, no politicians, no tech “geniuses”, not even brilliant scientists will save us. We have to save each other.
Other worlds are possible!*
* Arundahti Roy remains an inspiration for this call to action. Her words of “another world is possible, on a quiet day I can hear her breathing” still inspires today.