The experience with COVID-19 has illuminated many dark corners of the current economic and development narrative, allowing us to see deep splits in the fabric of the old story.
The outbreak of the virus, while causing alarm worldwide, is showing how political and corporate leaders can take radical emergency action to protect human well-being. Can care be placed at the centre of the new narrative?
In China, the 25% cut in carbon dioxide production due to quarantine provided the first blue sky in Beijing in the past 20 years
. If this trend continues, analysts say it is possible that it will lead to the first drop in global emissions since the 2008-09 financial crisis and inspire long-term behavioural changes.
The same thing that creates chaos also cleanses and reveals everything that was not firm, making room for the new.
COVID-19 is pushing us towards change. We feel that the old world narrative is dying, and that a new story needs to be written. As Charles Eisenstein suggests in his book The More Beautiful World That Our Hearts Know Is Possible
, “perhaps profound changes will only happen through collapse." We are facing a calamity that can only be solved through collaboration and using creativity as a tool.
Life, in all its unpredictability, can sometimes seems like an uncontrollable gale that moves everything when we least expect it. However, if we look at these chaotic states more closely, we can see that the wind is actually an agent of transformation. Trees wear and give up everything that was no longer alive, leaves dance in the air. The furious gusts created by the Earth's own energy can penetrate the smallest cracks and find its way through the densest forests.
The crisis is like this great gale: the same thing that creates chaos also cleanses and reveals everything that was not firm, making room for the new. To be able to transmute the perspective of the gale for the rebirth that it can represent, only using our collective creative power.
If we see creativity as this life-promoting force, we can actively see our roles as agents of change in the empty space between stories.
We perceive the old story dying, and we feel the uterine pains of giving birth to something new.
Why don't we use our co-creative power to turn the collapse of the old story into a catalyst? How can we take advantage of this moment when there is an empty page for the co-writing of new futures?
The virus is calling us to collaborate, putting aside our masks to see ourselves as one collective entity, interconnected through the web of life. Although we are not all in the same boat, since the least economically and socially privileged are the most vulnerable, this experience has taught us to realise the systematic impact of our actions, and has awakened our senses to the real meaning of what community is really about. For example, Nickolay Mlandenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has spoken about inspiring examples of cooperation across Palenstinian and Israeli conflict lines
in a common battle to contain the virus.
Creating the conditions conducive to life are a result of co-creation and collaboration.
If, when we have a ‘common enemy', we can achieve miraculous unions (learning in pain), why can't we unite with the aim of generating more life?
Interbeing: nobody is an island
It is all too easy to identify as separate from each other and the world through the use of the word ‘I', but creating the conditions conducive to life are a result of co-creation and collaboration. Through this lens it is clear that we, including all of life, are all connected - we are all interbeing. This term was brought to the world by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who recognised the interconnectedness of life when he said “I am, so you are. You are, therefore I am. That is the meaning of the word interbe."
When we understand that what I do affects the other, and that the other effects me, we start to understand the reciprocity of our actions and realise doing good to others is doing good to ourselves
Thus, the web of interdependence in life becomes clearer, and the concept of a separated other becomes more blurred.
Leave no one behind
In southern Africa, an anthropologist proposed a game for the children of a tribe. He placed a basket full of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever arrived first would get to have all the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they did not compete and push one another. Instead they joined hands, ran together and then sat down to enjoy their treats.
When he asked why they had run like this when any one of them could have taken the prize for themselves, they said: 'Ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if everyone else is sad?'
Ubuntu in the Xhosa culture is translated as “I am, because we are."
Through listening and deep observation of nature we can be inspired by the ways that other beings deal with life's challenges.
Thus, we understand that the future is something to be built by many hands and not imposed by a few, through the economic logics of individualism and extractivism, or by the standardised educational systems based upon the antiquated logics of the industrial era.
Practical action within the contexts of each community
On a local scale we can open spaces for co-creation and collaboration, to create unique systems for ourselves that are suited to the locally specific needs and desires opposed to the standardised centralised systems that are sprung upon us with disregard to local context and bioregion..
This can be done on a small scale through the localisation movement, where each neighbourhood or small town unites in assemblies to co-create its future. The social movement Cities in Transition
is based on applying the principles of permaculture on a community-level scale. This encourages local production and consumption and empowers communities and neighbourhoods to cocreate the systems and structures they need to be resilient in the face of climate and economic changes.
Rob Hopkins, creator of the movement, has been pioneering his ideas in the town of Totnes in England through engaging and empowering the community through creating assemblies and community meetings to imagine the town’s future. The movement has already had countless achievements: from creating its own currency, reforesting the city center and installing solar panels in houses financed by community funds, to collective decision making about which businesses can operate.
Nature as inspiration
Another way we can collaborate is by inspiring ourselves in nature. The discipline of biomimicry shows us that through listening and deep observation of nature we can be inspired by the ways that other beings deal with life's challenges.
We can search for patterns by observing and studying our own home, the planet Earth and the beings that inhabit it. In this process we begin to see the wisdom of nature as a teacher to be consulted rather than domesticated. By drawing inspiration from nature, that has evolved to be resilient and life-creating, we can create our future communities, businesses and lives to embody these qualities.
We can take advantage of this unique time to breathe, look inside and feel deeply into the questions of how do we want to live into our future.
These are yet only a few solutions that we can use to co-create our future. The truth is that we still don't know what's to come and how to do it, but we can only learn by stepping through the barriers of our comfort zone in normal life and empowering ourselves to make changes on a local scale on an adventure of experimenting. In recognising our inherent interbeing with each other we can show up together, for each other and all of life.
For the majority of people who are currently in retreat from their busy lives and avalanche of commitments, we can take advantage of this unique time to breathe, look inside and feel deeply into the questions of how do we want to live into our future. How can we imagine a future that encompasses local community life? How can we be inclusive of all in our community? How can we become resilient together, locally in the face of global challenges and hardships?
We need to know that in many moments we will not have answers to these questions. But this is not really a problem. As Daniel Wahl says: "Questions are the way to collective wisdom".
About Futuro Possivel
Futuro Possivel (Possible Future) is a Brazilian platform for research, translation and dissemination of regenerative narratives from multiple perspectives and realities. We anchor the process of weaving future and ancestral narratives that contribute to the construction of possible and desirable futures for Planet Earth, recognising human and non-human agencies in this regeneration process.