Field Notes from a Regenerative Future
On August 26, 2020, 30 young futurists between the age of 15 and 26, from 17 countries, gathered on Zoom for a day of workshops led by 4 facilitators. The workshops began at 10:00am EDT and ended at 10:00pm EDT. Working with Civic Paths, a research group at the University of Southern California (USC) that explores continuities between online participatory culture and civic engagement, the workshop participants employed Civic Paths’ methodology which is anchored in speculative design and world building principles. The aim of the workshops was to imagine what a Regenerative Future will look like, determining and defining the fundamental principles of Regeneration and the dynamics that will power future systems such as governance, infrastructure, education, economics, energy, food, technology, and community. The result was the creation of six events from a Regenerative World: Portals, Sex Workers, Sustainable Animal Agriculture, Universal Design, Prison TikTok, and Community Farm.
Following are the field notes from Lauren Levitt an Annenberg School of Communication Fellow for 2020–2021 who is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies at USC and served as a facilitator of the workshops. Ms. Levitt’s field notes describe events that occurred between August 26, 2020 and the year 2060, ones which have moved us toward a Regenerative World, followed by an analysis describing the key principles and dynamics of 2060 based on these field notes as well as on the results of an ongoing workshop series with young futurists from around the world. Ms. Levitt has also included a selection of the data that informed the analysis and conclusion.
Ms. Levitt has not visited the RGF_1 settlement but plans to do so in the near future.
FIELD OBSERVATIONS FROM THE EVENTS
by Yaa Addae, Iqbal Badruddin, Ansh, Aarman Roy, Pia Mileaf-Patel, and Sterling Murray
A young girl who is involved with her community garden is visited by her future self with a gift that will serve as the solution to her car-overrun city, which is destroying the garden and its community’s ability to grow their own food via debilitating pollution. The gift is the ability to create teleportation portals, free for everyone to use, and key in the dissolution of borders (at least in the sense we currently view them).
by Ojeyinka Iyanouluwa, Jerry Wong, Ariadne Papatheodorou, Sukhnidh Kaur, Michael Brittenham, and Remi Riordan
Two online sex workers (from different countries) meet digitally and decide they need to start their own community away from current government/societal structures because of the oppression and violence they face due to the criminalization of sex work. The two move to Antarctica to start a new community for sex workers and also create their own internet that provides open source knowledge to all. In time, a larger community of sex workers move to the community. Their new society (based in the principles of sex work) serves as a model for the rest of the world on ethics, community, safety, and consent.
Sustainable Animal Agriculture
by Taha Ahmad, Amber Akilla, Zoe Yu Gilligan, Igor Furtado, Megan Schaller, and Wilson Oryema
Climate change has devastated the agriculture industry and created a worldwide food shortage. The son of a farmer moves to the city and gathers a group of engineers to work with his farming community and find a way to end the food crisis. They develop a method to mass-produce cheap, nutrient-rich cultured meat — a more sustainable alternative to animal agriculture that will curb crop shortage by cutting back on the amount of crops needed to feed animals. Bi-products from growing meat in lab can be repurposed as animal feed for animals on farms. The lab-grown beef ends the violent beef-related religious conflict between Hindu/Muslim communities (who hold different stances regarding whether it is okay to eat beef).
by Panteha Abareshi, Matthew Eid, Belema Boywhyte, and Megan Schaller
A young woman with visible and invisible disabilities struggles to find affordable housing in Los Angeles that accommodates her physical and emotional needs. As a wheelchair user, she needs an elevator or ramp to navigate the physical space of a building. As a woman on the Autism spectrum, she needs to live in a place without the risk of sensory overload — be it flashing overhead lights, jarring doorbell sounds, overly bright rooms, or unstable temperature. The woman, along with a community of peers with audio, visual, emotional, mental, and/or physical disabilities who have been displaced by housing, works to create a radically inclusive, radically accessible co-op using principles of universal design. Every person’s experience with disability is different — this co-op caters to each member’s individual needs and does not settle for one-size-fits-all accessibility solutions (i.e. not everybody who is deaf communicates or interprets communication the same way).
by Lauren Lin, Marcel McClinton, Yasmine, Patience Alifo, and Remi Riordan
A prison inmate named Michael, gets his fellow prison inmates together to start an uprising using TikTok. To the outside world, the inmates are making trends with fun dances and catchy sounds, but in reality they are sharing coded/secret messages and instructions to other prisons. The key message is to collect wood from the woodshops overtime, until they have enough to burn down the prison and escape. An executive at TikTok catches onto the plan and decides to help them by putting the videos on everyone’s For You Page to advance the uprising and gain outside support. As the prison Michael and the inmates are being held at burns down, the evil warden stays inside to try to put out the fire and dies saving the evil system he served. Michael, his fellow inmates, and all the freed prisoners come together to create a new system based in restorative justice, rehabilitation, and education rather than the current carceral system based on punishment. Michael and his fellow freed inmates also begin to teach young people how to organize and protest online so they can continue tearing down unjust systems.
by Samuel Bager, Namisha Uttamchandani, Priyal Thakkar, and Stephanie Murray
A group of young professionals in their 20s-30s who live in a large city are struck by a global pandemic. The pandemic also places corporations into a land-grabbing scheme where they buy land at exorbitant prices from farmers hit by the pandemic’s effect on their labor. This results in prices of produce going which also creates obstacles around accessibility to fresh food. It is also hard to have fresh food in an apartment building in a busy city. The community decides they want to have a more circular economy where they grow their own food, reduce the amount of waste, and compost the small amount of waste they do have. In return for having the smallest amounts of waste, the government will give people money which in turn will help the economy be more self-sufficient. They also will know exactly where their food is coming from.
ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
Since 2020, the world has undergone dramatic change. 2020 was a moment of crisis, characterized by broken systems and plagued with problems such as climate change, racism, wealth inequality, and a global pandemic. However, it also presented an opportunity to repair or replace broken systems, leading to a better world. The politics of 2060 range from progressive (socialism, for example) to radical and even revolutionary. The unprecedented transformation that was necessary to create a regenerative world is symbolized by the fire in “Prison TikTok,” which burned down the prison and was the catalyst for a reimagining of criminal justice.
As we at Irregular Labs hypothesized, the concept of “regeneration” has implications for the environment and beyond. Environmental sustainability is evident in food production, architecture, and transportation in 2060. Food production is characterized by sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty, a movement aiming to end food insecurity and care for the environment by giving communities autonomy over their own food production. We can see these principles at play in the community gardens of “Portals,” the invention of a cheap and nutritious meat-substitute in “Sustainable Animal Agriculture,” and the urban farming in “Community Farm.” Moreover, recycling, composting, and government subsidies help to reduce waste, as indicated by the composting and reduction of food waste in “Community Farm” and the use of the meat alternative byproduct as feed for animals in “Sustainable Animal Agriculture.”
Architecture has been made more environmentally friendly by using sustainable building materials such as bamboo rather than toxic ones like concrete and by incorporating principles of energy conservation into design. Buildings regulate their own temperature, and there has been a reduction of embodied energy in the built environment. Finally, new technology has decreased the environmental impact of transportation. There has been an increase in public transportation, including high speed rail. At the same time, there are fewer cars and an increase in electric cars as well as non-mechanical forms of transportation such as bikes and water bikes. Additionally, people need to travel less because life is more local than before. These new forms of transportation technology help combat pollution, particularly air pollution, as we can see in “Portals.”
In addition to transportation technology, there have also been considerable developments in communication technology. These developments have materialized in entertainment in the form of simulated experiences such as virtual reality and augmented reality, in the development of artificial intelligence, and in technological solutions to current social problems. For instance, in “Sex Workers,” online sex work was used to mitigate stigma and violence against sex workers, and workers built their own internet to facilitate the creation and circulation of open-source knowledge. In “Prison TikTok,” incarcerated folks used TikTok dances as a form of communication during the prison uprising, and the freed inmates taught young people how to creatively organize and protest online so they could continue to challenge unjust systems.
One major principle of a regenerative world is community, and all of the data we collected reflected this theme: from the community garden of “Portals,” to scientists working with a local community in “Sustainable Animal Agriculture,” to the sex worker community in “Sex Workers,” to the community housing in “Universal Design,” to the community centered justice reforms in “Prison TikTok,” to community food cultivation in “Community Farm.” The unity and togetherness of community foster a sense of peace and harmony in 2060, and society is characterized by cooperation. This cooperation is evident in the collaborative labor of sex workers in “Sex Workers” and the co-living situations in “Sex Workers” and “Universal Design.” Furthermore, transparency is an important value, as indicated by the emphasis on open-source knowledge and consent in “Sex Workers,” and research participants advocated practices such as combatting disinformation online and the participatory budgeting of communal wealth.
However, community in 2060 is not homogenous, but rather diverse and inclusive, so solidarity across difference, based on mutual trust and camaraderie, is crucial. What is more, the individual still plays a key role in society, as evidenced by a focus on the self (“self-employment,” “self-care,” “self-expression,” “self-sustainability,” “self-improvement,” “self-love”), a desire for personalization (“personalized healthcare”), and the value placed on privacy in “Sex Workers.” And despite the predominance of decentralized power and communal solutions to problems, some research participants still see a role for government in 2060, whether this means regulating markets (for housing and corporations) or protecting the environment.
Because the society of 2060 is diverse, equity is critical for bridging disparities in privilege. The most obvious type of equity is the equitable distribution of material, immaterial, and economic resources. Material resources such as food, housing, healthcare (including mental healthcare), and transportation are distributed equitably, as well as immaterial resources such as knowledge and art. Economic equity has been achieved through the redistribution of property and wealth, income equality, and an end to debt. From “Sex Workers” we can also see that all labor is valued, that there is less emphasis on money, and that bartering and cryptocurrency are used as a means of exchange.
In addition to wealth equality, 2060 is characterized by equal access, particularly for the differently-abled, as we can clearly see in “Universal Design,” but the question of access also extends to access to healthy food, as highlighted in “Portals,” “Sustainable Animal Agriculture” and “Community Farm.” Participants further expressed a concern for racial equity, especially for Black and Indigenous folks, and there is a stress on geographic equity, both in terms of decolonization (no borders in “Portals,” “land back to indigenous peoples,” “challenging America’s soft power”) and urban/rural divides.
There is also gender equity in 2060. There has been an end to sexual harassment and assault (“no more Harvey Weinsteins”), as we can see in “Sex Workers,” and there is paid period and parental leave for all genders. Lastly, there is sexual equity in 2060, as evidenced by the decriminalization of sex work in “Sex Workers,” and religious equity, as we can see in the resolution of Hindu/Muslim conflicts over beef consumption in “Sustainable Animal Agriculture.”
Closely related to equity is the theme of justice. This is expressed primarily in terms of the abolition of prisons, as seen in “Prison TikTok,” and of the police, as in “Sex Workers,” and the criminal justice system was replaced by one of restorative/transformative justice in “Prison TikTok.”
Following are some of the artifacts from the 2020 workshops with the global team of young futurists.