In my April column I shared my vision for our world in 2050. This month, as promised, I will share visions from members of the community, which were a combination of innovation, restoration, community, health and ecosystems. They represent a change in our attitudes toward and relationships with nature, justice and making the streets safe for all.
If we all start to think about what we want to see by 2050, instead of fearing what will happen, I think we can collectively make it come to fruition.
James Hartford, River Architects
It is 2050, and I am so proud of our achievements. We managed to rein in emissions to keep the rise in global warming below the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold and through innovation drew enough carbon dioxide from the air to give us a buffer. Breakthroughs in thought and engineering gave us safer and universally available renewable fuels, carbon-sink concrete and mineralized carbon unlocking, and unimagined capabilities.
Reforestation was the biggest success, not only strengthening the natural carbon cycle but stabilizing and sometimes reversing habitat loss and improving biodiversity. Getting businesses and industry to accept their responsibility was the greatest tool in addressing the worst of climate change, but we need to stay vigilant. My hope is that the same can-do attitude that prevented the worst-case predictions can be focused on getting plastics out of the environment. It is a big task but we are up to it. I am amazed at what we were able to do in just 27 years.
Erik Brown, Philipstown Climate Smart Task Force member
My hope is that by 2050, society will be mostly on the same page and we will have moved away from spending energy on raising awareness and community outreach. I hope that environmental recovery and restoration will be the focus, and that viewing our natural world chiefly as a separate place from which we extract resources (sustainably or not) will seem antiquated.
Jade Silverstein, food systems consultant
By 2050 I hope we are using the creative potential of the digital industrial revolution for innovations that prioritize healthy ecosystems and healthy people. I hope that our approach has shifted from telling our children that the world is burning to one where we take the responsibility to change, and the kids have an opportunity to create a world that is full of all the good they could dream of.
I hope that the future is something so good that it’s beyond my capacity to imagine it. Call me naive but I think that we (and the kids!) have a chance at a positive, healthy future.
Rebecca Ramirez, co-chair, Philipstown Trails Committee
It is 2050 and we finally see Complete Streets all over, not just in our greatest cities but even in the rural parts of the U.S. and beyond. For centuries, our streets were designed for cars and people were walking and biking them knowing that they might be sacrificing their lives. Pedestrians demanded a change in our transportation alternatives and elected officials and agencies worked closely with residents to answer the call of leadership.
We have finally made streets for all and children are riding their bikes to school, parents are driving less and the roads are full of life and people, instead of single drivers.
Dar Williams, singer-songwriter
I can’t help it. This is what I see in 2050: a sustainable, just, inclusive, diverse and biodiverse planet.
Whole living systems are more sustainable. Urban planners used to make decisions from the sky. They’d go up in a plane and create blueprints for cities. For decades now, planners have been observing the way people actually move around, and in my travels I have seen cities become more walkable, bikeable, green and livable.
In step with greener, more breathable cities, we have sustainable systems of self-governance that are coming online. We’ve gone from alternative economies of sprawling communes to a looser, broader, better- organized exploration of the commons, where we seek the higher standard of living that comes from participating in the give-and-take of community life.
However, this future will only happen if we follow this mantra: Keep going. Our role as translators is to live in a way that we think will be sustainable and just in 2050. We will get funny looks; we will be told that our ideas are problematic, unpatriotic, “unscalable,” too little, too late, too useless.
If we can deal with the incredulity and mockery we get as first adopters of renewable technologies, and when we are experiencing the joys of “making a living not a killing” (as Utah Phillips used to say), participating in the growth of a strong commons where there is an ethos and understanding toward the collective good, then by 2050 I predict that we will have balanced all the atmospheric gasses, cleaned the air, water and Earth, and protected enough habitat to protect and coexist within healthy, biodiverse ecosystems.
And then, with more planetary health, renewable resources and the expanding circles of social trust, we will have a much better foundation on which to continue our reckoning with injustice and violence.