I wrote this piece for the 150th Anniversary Issue of The Nation. Our radical future is now. We must live the values that we espouse in our activism. Otherwise a “just and equitable” future will always be in the future. What we love can’t wait for the future.
I am 22 years old, and I have been a climate activist for ten years. My call is for a radical future now.
I look into my future, and I am scared. I know that climate change will define my life no matter what. I also know that this is true for everyone on our planet, especially the global poor on the front lines of fossil-fuel use.
Meanwhile, millions of people around the world unite to protect what they love. We insist on new institutions that respond to the climate crisis, enabling humans to prosper within Earth’s limits. We fight for a government that sees beyond short-term self-interest.
This future embodies different values that enable the turn away from a carbon economy and address root causes of the crisis. Equity, justice, life and empathy are at the core. Perhaps we can never fully achieve these values. Knowing that does not diminish their necessity. We must learn to value one another and our Earth in a different way.
If we relegate new values to an abstract, theoretical future, then they will always remain there. In the future. My radical now tries to bring this new moral framework into the present. Wave to the car that lets you cross the street; wave more vigorously at those choosing to take buses and trains to work; reach out to a friend whom you haven’t seen in a while; listen to all the voices in the room. The big things are equally important: create fiery campaigns that allow for all interests and levels of involvement; build a movement driven by “love for” not “fear of.” What we love can’t wait for the future.