It is something of an article of faith for me that I expect hard times in the coming decades. I would be pleased to be wrong, mind you, but I don’t expect I am. Of course, those hard times won’t be evenly distributed, just as they aren’t today, and some of us will struggle more than others while some of us will be more successful than others. Some of us will even see improvements in our lives—especially, I suspect, among those who are willing to hold a flexible definition of what is meant by “improvement.” But even those of us who see improvements, or who struggle less, will almost certainly be doing without many of the conveniences and commonalities of our time. More and more of us will have to make do without, learn cheaper and less intensive methods of accomplishing tasks, and outsource less of our lives. Some of the pleasures and comforts we take for granted today will not be available to us in the future. Times will change, and we will be forced to adapt.
That said, plenty of what we do or have today will remain available to us in the future. Not all will be lost, and not all that will be lost will be so in our lifetimes. Trying to guess what will stay and what will go is likely a fool’s game, but it’s a game I’m interested in playing today. And perhaps with some appropriate rules, it will be a bit less foolish than it might otherwise be.
So here’s my question for you: What won’t you lose in the coming years?
Given the likely consequences of climate change and other ecological destruction, a destabilized political and economic system, cultural upheaval, intermittent energy and resource shortages—or at least erratic pricing for such—and geopolitical upheaval leading to changes in national power and status and new wars that may touch us domestically, what pleasures, enjoyments, and habits do you expect not to lose in the coming decades?
To clarify further, the goal isn’t so much to guess what unsustainable part of your life today you think may hold out long enough for you not to lose it, or that you may stay well off enough to retain. Rather, I’m interested in learning what elements of your current life you believe are sustainable in the long run. What is it you take pleasure in doing right now that you think can survive disruption and upheaval, economic and political troubles, a backfiring ecosystem, and all the other troubles we’re likely to face?
In a sense, this post is a corollary to John Michael Greer’s “Seven Sustainable Technologies” post from 2014, and part of the idea is to critically examine what elements of our lives we believe we are least at risk of losing. While that may even involve some of the technologies on Greer’s list, this isn’t a question limited to technology itself; it’s also about our habits and pleasures, our work, our connections, the particulars of the individual worlds each of us lives in. I think there’s an importance, too, in understanding what we are least at risk of losing, to the degree that we can predict such things. In doing so, we can better understand where we might best place our efforts now, sinking them into activities and personal infrastructure that have the best chance of surviving deep into our futures, rather than being yanked out from beneath us.
Even better are things that bring you pleasure while also helping make your living. Gardening, of course, is an excellent example of this. It’s something that will be sustainable into the future (though any one individual still might find it cut off as an option, due to a variety of factors) and good gardening can help feed oneself or a family. As an activity that can bring pleasure and reduce one’s dependence on the superstructures of our society that may yet malfunction and crumble, it’s a prime example of something unlikely to be lost and worthy of increased attention and investment.
But what else? Chime in below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you expect to persist. Make it personal, not a list, and don’t feel that it has to be something you believe will be sustainable for all. We all have our personal circumstances. Give us not just your answer, but some of the ways in which it weaves through your life today and brings you pleasure and fulfillment. Tell us why you think it will persist. Tell us how you think it will help you. Tell us why it makes you happy.
As you might expect, all answers will be considered for publication in a future issue of Into the Ruins as letters to the editor (unless explicitly stated that they are not to be considered). I hope this sparks a conversation. At a time of disruption, it’s important not just to focus on what might be lost, but on what will persist. Those things, after all, will be the basis of our ways forward. Imagining them is one of the primary purposes of Into the Ruins, and the things we are able to keep in the coming years will be the basis of the stories of our future. Let’s begin talking about them.
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