It is in solidarity with you who today view the adult world with apprehension and wonder about the future that I write this text. I ask for your permission to offer my experience as a History teacher and researcher on scenarios for the future, which made me write the book “Auroville, 2046. After the end of one world“. I am 55 years old, have two children who are young adults, and I witness the intense awareness of youth about what awaits us, long before they reach my age. The testimonies are touching, and the COVID19 pandemic was an accelerant of this preview: if a virus can do what it did in the world, imagine all the tragedies announced by scientists, such as climate changes.
I want to start by sharing a visionary episode that happened to a young and brilliant student, twenty years ago, who wrote under my supervision a monograph about the urban development of the small alternative community of Capão, in the Chapada Diamantina, Brazil. His dedicated and competent work earned him a warm approval from the jury of the Urbanism course at the State University of Bahia. As usual, the supervisor embraced the student welcoming him to the world of researchers, which he entered with evident talent. When I asked him about his plans, about a possible master’s degree, he surprised me by saying he would live in Capão and probably be a tourist guide. Astonished, I told him that he was so intelligent and talented that he should become a teacher, to which he replied with something like “dear professor, if I am smart enough, I cannot plan my life to serve this world in decomposition”.
This episode touched me because, although at the time I was leading a large program to encourage conscious consumption in the Brazilian university environment, I had no such clarity about the future. I will approach the subject of the future of young people based on the path of this young student, who is today living a simple and happy life in Capão. If you allow me a piece of advice to begin with, I will say: Do not plan careers and achievements tied to the world as it is – or was, before the pandemic – because it will no longer exist, and this choice will not be beneficial for you, nor for Life, as a whole.
Deal with the “end of a world” is not an easy task, but I can assure you that if the prospects are gloomy, it is also possible to see light approaching. As the ancients remind us, after every night there always comes a morning. If the keywords of the near future will probably be destruction and uncertainty, they will also be resilience and creativity. When barbarism knocks at the door, we will be forced to regenerate, and in the face of great imbalance, only cooperation can enable us to be reborn as a civilization. Cooperation will also be the keyword of the future, and this is promising, but it will require courage and determination. And, also, the development of very feminine skills, such as caring and welcoming, that build networks of affection, friendships, family, and solidarity with the human family and Nature.
Despite the catastrophes that are implicit in the idea of the end-of-the-world generation, this can also be seen as a great liberation for the youth. They will be the first generation that will not have to format themselves to the world of their parents, a dull option for any young person with imagination. And so many have had their lives and professional careers guided by conveniences … whether from the market, aiming to work where one potentially earns more money, or from prestige, following the family’s footsteps, to inherit respect, differentiated conditions, and also high remuneration.
In these old paths where young people projected their futures, many times frustrated expectations and unhappiness were created, due to the betrayal of individual talents. In any case, the expectation of money and prestige has always been for the few, leaving the overwhelming majority frustrated and unhappy. Now they are a chimera accessible perhaps only to a very few young people from families that manage to save their fortunes despite everything and thus finance the “prosperity” of another generation. Throughout history, many young people have had to give up their talents in order to integrate into their home community – also their sexual choices, their artistic inclinations, and their most creative dreams. Today, because of the impact of uncertainty, they tend to be freer to choose their paths.
The dreams of “success”, of “successful careers”, of enrichment and prestige, have been stimulated by the capitalist culture that has built the disaster we are witnessing. The market model where the sole objective is to profit is not resilient, especially in times of so many transformations. In the radical change that the future will surely bring, it is foolish to waste the intelligence and talent of youth on traditional perspectives. In a world to be rebuilt, all the energy and creativity of the young will be very welcome, especially if they welcome the future as uncertain and, therefore, develop resilience – that ability to accommodate to the shocks of life by getting the most important things out of existence: learning, love, wholeness, joy of living and socializing.
Most likely the prosperity of the future will be conceived differently. It will be much more linked to the idea of being able to regenerate Nature and human relationships on a sustainable basis. Producing healthy food, clean water, clean air, recovering soils and forests, recreating biodiversity – the world’s great wealth – will be much more prestigious in the future. Building solid human relationships, in solidarity, with people near and far – will be another prestigious skill. Being an artist, bringing to the world more fantasy, unsuspected possibilities, dives into the soul… All of this will be precious and much more valued, giving youth more arguments to rebel, as they have always done, but bringing a new legitimacy: to affirm themselves serving the world by doing what their soul asks.
The word uncertainty will appear much more in our lives and we will finally learn how much wanting to control it is an illusion. Better to be open to the unforeseen and make the best of it. When systems become destabilized, especially the Earth system, predictions will be more difficult, even with all the technological advances. I move on to a second piece of advice, if you continue to allow me: I strongly recommend that young people develop their intuition, this human ability that is considered to be feminine, so little used, and even despised. Intuition is a kind of intimate vision, made possible when mind and heart are in tune. It involves body and soul, and with intuition it is possible to choose the best path in the face of uncertainty, doubt and fear. This ability can be developed through daily exercises when the mind is calmed down and other wisdom is put at our service. It will be an important factor in increasing resilience and the serenity needed to listen to greater wisdom in the face of adversity and possibility. She is also a great friend of creativity and thus of art, science and invention.
A great potentiality of the future can already be experienced today: learning over the Internet, taking advantage of the spirit of cooperation that reigns there and that is natural in human beings. This spirit of cooperation is widely practiced by many alternative communities. Today, these groupings where ecovillages stand out, are already engaged in various win-win economic modes of sharing and redistribution; in regenerative ways of dealing with Nature to produce food and forests; in integrative modes of education and health that draw on the innate wisdom of children and our bodies to learn and stay healthy; in collaborative practices of self-knowledge that rely on the idea of transforming oneself to transform the world; in the democratic governance of local collectives that inspire transformations on larger scales; in the moderation of consumption required by the zero waste imperative; in ecological and collaborative open source technologies, creative commons, etc.
It is highly likely that in the future there will be many shortages of what was common, due to the succession of predictable crises of food, water, fuel, the volatility of money, restrictions on mobility, etc. In this case, what was abundant and harmful will fortunately gradually run out: oil, plastics, disposables, waste, superficiality, exacerbated competition, senseless consumption. We will open our eyes to see abundance where it was unsuspected. All the possibilities of recycling that transform waste into useful objects will be valued in the world where dumps and landfills will be treasures. And so, what was little valued by the “king market”, what gives little or no money, but brings meaning to life, will become essential: the handicrafts, the work on the soil, the arts in general. And also, that which does not bring any material wealth: contemplation, quietness, doing nothing, the pleasant and happy interaction among friends.
Think, dear young people, the appetizing world may be coming around … A world in which the “inner technologies” of Mirra Alfassa’s dream for the most important ecovillage: Auroville, become a way forward. The “Mother” of Auroville said that a time would come when we would harmonize our external achievements – the incredible technologies invented by humankind to deal with the outer world – with inner technologies, ingenious and sensitive ways of dealing with the inner world. This immense universe that is inside each one of us is interconnected with others and can evolve. This is what Gustav Jung told us in his concept of the collective unconscious, as Rupert Sheldrake tells us today in his concept of morphogenetic fields, or as the ancestral wisdoms have always told us. Evolution moves towards more lovingness and human history itself shows this if we follow the historical evolution of the idea of the right to Life, for example.
You, the youth of today, can help humanity to make great strides in the direction of lovingkindness. I invite you, dear youth, to open your eyes to see people and communities that have already been living post-capitalism for years and even decades. In fact, these communities have only updated concepts present in the ways of life of the original cultures that were suffocated by colonialism. They understood that harmony between us and the Earth, between ourselves and others, and between the various parts of ourselves – body, soul, heart and mind – is the only way we can survive together and thrive subjectively and materially. And to be happy and to allow others to be happy too. The world is failing, but also starting over, and you will make that history not only by overcoming capitalism, but also patriarchy.
Where you are is also going to be especially important for opportunities. Until now big cities and megacities were the place of those opportunity, but they are heavy and dependent structures, with extremely low resilience, unsustainable. They are increasingly expensive, polluted, congested, violent, and nothing on the horizon points to this getting better. On the contrary. Medium and small cities, ecovillages, life in the countryside, all offer greater resilience to environmental, economic, social, political problems… Having a green belt offers food more easily, having a closer government favours democracy, having families and friends closer favours cooperation, and neighbourhood life is much more intense in smaller urban spaces.
An economy of proximity is more solid, the so-called short circuits strengthen the local economy and distribute income. For this very reason there will be a tendency to decentralization even in large cities. With the pandemic and the acceleration of remote work, via digital technologies, millions of people left the cities and settled in quieter places while maintaining their possibility to work and interact. When they had to stay isolated at home people took much more advantage of local commerce and neighbourhood relations. All this is already impacting the future, showing that there are ways out when the accumulation of crises is transforming megacities into places with many more problems than opportunities.
This scarcity of what was abundant and abundance of what was unsuspectedly useful tends to be a feature of the future. As an example, let’s think about food and bring up something that is already a success among the most creative youth: the PANCs, “Plantas Alimentícias Não Convencionais”, or the incredible edibles, the “incroyables comestibles”, etc. Do you know that little plant that is just around the corner, resistant, and growing without care? It can be a very nutritious PANC. When science tells us that due to climate change it will be difficult to continue growing the foods we are used to in the places where they have always been grown, our eyes can be opened to other nutritious possibilities. This is what is happening in many parts of India today with rice, the national food. Many experiments are being done to replace it with millet, a much more nutritious and climate-resilient grain that requires much less water and provides much more nutrients than rice, and it was despised.
It is when catastrophe becomes anastrophe, reconstruction, that each young person can find the place of joy in doing what they love and thus serving the world, without choosing a career for prestige and money, as has been done for generations. Without making any other life choices of any kind with feeling the crushing weight of past generations, just being inspired by what they did that you admire and honour. You will be the gardeners of tomorrow, who know how to regenerate, who deal with conflicts using the heart and not the liver, who realize that each individual gesture builds the collective world. That the internal world is reflected in the external world. And they engage themselves to do the best for themselves, to do the best for the world. I trust you, and I also wish you good luck. We are together.