Let’s talk about possibility, about the young women in Metiabruz — a poor, orthodox Muslim neighborhood on the outskirts of Kolkata — who excel at coding and are now the main breadwinners for their families.
Let’s talk about innovation, about the proliferation of off-grid solar energy in rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa, poised to displace the use of toxic and environmentally harmful fuels and deforestation.
Let’s talk about reclaiming our impact, about the power of ’voting’ with our purchases to support ethical, sustainable, responsible businesses or consciously re-evaluating our daily demand for finite resources. Our use of plastics. Our waste of water. Though these daily decisions may seem inconsequential, in a world 7.6 billion strong and growing, it matters. As do many, many, other decisions.
Let’s talk about courageous non-judgement. Inclusivity. Love. The type of love that allows us to respect and champion our fellow being. Love beyond its commodified derivative.
There is a sorrow that settles deep in our stomach each time we witness and turn from the exploitation of peoples or animals or nature, but in acknowledging this grief there is space for honesty, for transformation, for connection, and for innovative collaboration that evinces intelligent and powerful action. Together, in our actions, we write the story of our generation and our world. In this there is cause for reflection, but if we are brave enough to remain curious and humble, there is hope we may yet build a future that is more sustainable and egalitarian than the present we currently inhabit.
In an increasingly interconnected world, it is possible for each of us to impact a life lived half a world away. Our actions today decide if that impact will ultimately advance or impede the betterment of our world and all who call it home.
When you look into the eyes of a young child, you see the unbounded potential of love. It is a love that sees beyond color or creed, beyond politics, beyond the illusion of separate selves. It is a love for life itself. Birds echo it, sunsets paint it, plants thrive on it, our cells celebrate it — it is the gift of life and our intimate interconnectedness. We adults have simply forgotten. We are too convinced of our judgments and stories, too enamored of our systems and limitations to see the awe-inspiring possibilities before us.
Often, challenges such as climate change mitigation and global poverty are positioned as zero-sum equations; benefit to others comes at personal sacrifice. But as regards climate change and global poverty, this is hardly the whole story. The truth is, the coming decades will bring tremendous change; how that change manifests depends largely upon how engaged and empowered we each choose to become, now. Today. Sure, we can upgrade our light bulbs, buy local, send money to charity, but to create meaningful and lasting change, we must be courageous and curious enough to go further, to open our eyes fully to the systems we’ve created — systems of energy, of commerce, of communication, of services and technology — SYSTEMS OF SEPARATION —to find a way to use, reshape, or revolutionize them to be more responsible, compassionate and sustainable, for the benefit of all.
Never in the history of our species have our individual actions had a more visible and far-reaching impact than today, and yet as we grow more connected through our devices, we become less so in our hearts and minds. The shift toward convenience and cheap, disposable goods has led us to poison our bodies, our earth, our fellow man, and our minds. Intentional or not, there is an undeniable link between a lifestyle of privilege (broadly defined) and the suffering of others around the world. And yet as the world inches toward the possibility of global catastrophe — from climate change, food and water insecurity, pandemics, global poverty or some combination thereof — our political and personal dialogue is becoming increasingly inward and isolationist.
We must be brave. We must be unapologetically compassionate. We must connect to that place within us all that truly cares about something — the laughter of a child, the embrace of a parent, the poignancy of a song, the vast tranquility of the stars — and inject that into our work and our vision for the future. For if we do not, those things that we so dearly care for may be lost forever, or made to bear the future burden of our mistakes.
To accept that we — each and every one of us — are capable of mitigating and even eliminating some suffering in people or planet is not to reject capitalism. Rather, it is to evolve it. Failure to address the exploitative, pollutive, unsustainable, unethical practices spawned by unfettered capitalism will undermine the entire system, resulting in disaster, epidemic, warfare, and despair, consuming the wealth and health that capitalism has generated.
With equal parts courage, discipline, inspiration, and humility, the challenges on our horizon may galvanize us all into action that could see the creation of future wellbeing for our planet and all who call it home. We can harness creativity, passion, innovation, and everyday living to catalyze immediate change that would build toward a better future for all.
Such a future is possible.
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. — Eleanor Roosevelt
*The author is indebted to the work of Charles Eisenstein — particularly The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible — and Krista Tippet — particularly Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. If you enjoyed this piece, please check out these books!