Happy New Year everyone! With 2021 coming to a close I figured I’d write a bit about how I maintain hope for the future so maybe other people can have some hope too going into 2022. Fair warning a lot of what I talk about here is going to be U.S. centric so if you’re tired of hearing about the States this may not be the post for you. Also, talking about the positive parts of the future is impossible without talking about the negative; so things may get a bit sad here.
I’d like to start by talking about the current state of future thought. Something I noticed, especially now during Omicron COVID is a cultural sense of fatalism. For COVID the general consensus has become “we are all going to get it anyways, so why keep wearing masks?”. Of course now that Omicron is started in full force around the U.S. we see the reason why. Our healthcare system cannot handle everyone getting sick at once. My 90 year old Great Aunt is currently in a hallway at a hospital because all the rooms are full of COVID patients. She cannot get the care she needs because everyone is sick. Even if Omicron itself is not as deadly as previous COVID variants, it still materially affects a lot of other people to give up. People are being denied life saving surgeries right now because of how overloaded our healthcare system is. Fatalism is a self fulfilling prophecy. By giving up the fight for hope you only accelerate the demise. This is why I believe hope for the future is so important, because without hope we are doomed, but with hope we may yet stand a chance.
Spark of Hope
Of course finding a future to look forward to is hard enough in and of itself right? I mean most pop media in the U.S. fully embrace the fatalism mentioned before. Cyberpunk is no longer considered a warning of a future that may come but as a present force. Gone are the days of Star Trek, where humanity achieved utopia and set out for the stars. Every news story about the Climate Crisis is spelling nothing but our doom. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Humanity exists because it fought for the future, not because it gave up when everything was tough. But to have hope we need another spark to start a fire. Or rather a lot of smaller sparks in different facets of society, because everyone needs something unique to look forward to. I by no means know what that spark may be for many, but I can tell you what started my fire. A little art movement called Solarpunk.
My Fire for the Future
Now it’s most likely you haven’t heard of Solarpunk before. Originating in 2008 from an author know as MS Beluga Skysails, Solarpunk was coined as a term opposite of Steampunk. Where Steampunk embraced a possible future where technology did not advance past coal fired steam engines, and the Victorian style of societal structure was all present; Solarpunk embraced a future where technology has advanced for the betterment of humanity. This idea evolved to encompass a lot of what Open Source fights for, like technology made by people for people, with repair-ability and ecological sustainability at it’s forefront. It eschewed the idea that technology should be about money, rather positing technology is for bettering society, and that cannot be obtained where a profit motive is present. In 2019 as Solarpunk gained more popularity a defining document was written known as The Solarpunk Manifesto. While I highly suggest reading the entirety of it I will quote my favorite two lines.
“We are solarpunks because optimism has been taken away from us and we are trying to take it back.”
“We are solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair.”
Upon first reading these lines I had tears in my eyes. This document showed me that there is people out there who are still holding on to hope, and who will fight to the ends of the Earth to see the future become a better place. It sparked a fire of hope in my soul, one which I dutifully tend to this day, no matter how hard it rains. I had a goal to fight for, and a movement to fight alongside.
I hope that what I have talked about here will at least inspire some to look for a bright future. Because without hope our only other options are denial or despair. I’ll leave you with an image showing a possible future, if we fight for it. Image from Jessica Perlstein.