Sunrise comes, every day as it has forever. Today, though, it shines upon a world huddling in places of uncertainty, fear and befuddlement. “What,” many wonder, “will tomorrow bring?”
Short term, acute pain for many is unavoidable — economic, social, physical and the ultimate end for some. All this shall, unfortunately, come to pass regardless of what we could have done, what we could have known, and that which we had no control over. Mourning, regret, an unavoidable sense of a stolen future — these realities will sting, bite and burn us for a time. Acceptance of that which already happened will free us, though, to consider possibilities previously unseen.
“Design Unlikely Futures” proclaims a bumper sticker — not an opportunity we often get. 2020, however, has just provided us with a rare window in which thousands, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of us may get to do just that. Necessity being the mother of invention, many of us have already quickly realigned our expectations of how to work, how to shop, how to exercise, how to build and retain healthy interpersonal contact in a distanced digital world and, importantly, how to simply sit with ourselves.
Many more have found a new appreciation for self-care, cooking, home-care, cleaning, family time and our neighbors. Employers have found previously unproven generosity, understanding and compassion for their staff and families. Indeed, unlikely futures abound right now, and this is not a bad thing!
Despite many having previously desired to make some improvements of the sort aforementioned, too few had the time or impetus to really try. Societal public health demands of late, have however, given us unprecedented chance to make long-awaited progress in many areas personally, socially and physically. It is up to all of us to see it this way, but the chances of lasting positive changes being developed right now are real!
Personal change at one scale thus discussed, let us turn our attention to broad structural changes not previously thought possible in such a short time-span. Transportation, telecommunications, global supply chains, healthcare expectations and funding, and the division of tax dollars among things of relative necessity — all these and more stand to be fundamentally and quite probably semi-permanently altered for the better in just months.
Without even so much as asking, global scientists have a valuable data-point appearing in hundreds of data-sets: atmospheric pollution, energy demand, industrial effluent/discharge and other key metrics of how well we treat our Home Planet are all seeing temporary improvement. We have just proven that we Can, if need be, reduce harmful emissions meaningfully in months, not decades. Seeing is believing, and this unparalleled, unplanned, experiment may yet yield surprising visual, mathematical and scientific evidence which can guide us for generations to come as we seek to build a world in which perhaps 8 to 9 billion of us cohabitate without destroying it. Let us, armed with the accidental yet invaluable new data, design unlikely futures which brighten the future for our children and their families.
The sun rises tomorrow on a world living on the brink of possibilities hitherto untold, unseen and unfelt. Awakening to it, let us rise to the challenge of learning all that we can from this incredulous, difficult time that our families, friends, communities and indeed the Earth itself are more closely aligned forever than they were yesterday. A cold, uncomfortably harsh, and bright sun it may be, with the warmth coming later, but it rises nonetheless on a positively unlikely future!
Trevor Yčas lives in Boulder.