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Posted - 09/13/2016
VISIONS: Reflections from SustainUS Storytellers


On the final day of our Pause retreat, members of our SustainUS COP21 delegation took the time to write and then perform our visions for the future and our places within them. These are our #ZeroBy2050 stories: what does it actually look and feel like to reach a fully decarbonized global economy by 2050? We gathered the loving energies and powerful relationships that had been nurtured over days of dialogue and movement and shared our visions for a more equitable, sustainable, and just world. Below, you can find a diverse expression of these Visions for an alternative and better future. 

Aly Johnson-Kurts
I am working toward a world where people live in harmony, where they are locally based and globally connected. I am working toward a world where communities are collaborative, and build and strive together. I am working toward energy democracy that side steps the need for a power grid, and places power in the hands of the people who want energy to decide how to create it for themselves. I am working toward a world where resources are not seen as commodities that can be privately owned and exploited, but rather shared and governed by those who live where they are based. This world feels appreciative of each being for who they are.
Our current system is happening because of deeply ingrained capitalist mentalities combined with classism, sexism, racism, ableism, etc that allows for exploitation. It is happening because people do not recognize their power – they don't vote, they don't disrupt, they don't organize. It is happening because people don't recognize the fragility of the structures that keep power holders in place. I envision a world where we do.
The urgency of the moment is heavy. People are dying. We are losing the possibility of cultural transfer to the next generation – for me this includes maple sugaring, sledding, fishing, and more. I envision a world where I can pass these cultural traditions to my children and communities.
The path forward includes empowering people to seize their ability to change the status quo. It includes activating our networks. It includes disrupting dominant narratives and building communities that people want to join. It involves building the world we envision.
We are young, fun, striving, able to work around the clock when necessary. We are disruptors, builders. We inspire, we are inspirational. We are able to come together. We are smart, we are thinkers, we are cultural informers. We are moral authority stepping into the work of our lives.

Anthony Torres
When I speak of America, or am I speaking to myself again?
An identity born from trauma and migration, reflected in sincretismo, and defined by transformation.
A life not much different than what I see in my own body.
Over here, away there.
A vision of an alternative future.
When desire is regenerative.
When victory is collaborative.
When justice is compassionate.
We live stories of extraction, exploitation, and extinction.
Funded by neoliberal capitalism,
Wielded by heteropatriarchy,
Enforced by white imperialism.
We, I, you must work on the frontlines, behind and with the charge of survivors, to deconstruct the story, the nightmare we’ve built around us.
To write a new fiction, a new vision, on the same plain, the same world, our eternal hell/eternal paradise.
A beautiful mosaic, a rag tag resistance, a narrative that will function as glue, a movement that will be our love actualized.

Morgan Curtis
I’m working towards the enlivening of every human, of them recognizing their gift can be put to the service of protecting and renewing our interconnected web of life. I believe that each of us can meet our deepest needs through moving into a new story, placing ourselves as agents of change in The Great Turning. The threads of our movement have too long been isolated, activists vs. meditators vs. farmers. I believe they must be interwoven, and see myself as a weaver. I want to work towards the actions and movements that intertwine them: direct action of love and compassion. I want to disrupt our old story, old ways of being, through loving resistance that stands in the way of injustice while shifting consciousness. This vision realized brings about courageous communities, deep networks of support, united in love and conviction, rooted in place but profoundly connected to other communities enacting change around the world. In this vision I am a connector, working to bring together stories of creative resistance - both by connecting people with physical gatherings and through the sharing of stories from afar. I want these connections to give people the strength and moral imagination to set themselves and others free from the paths imposed on them by our interlocking systems of oppression. I am an edge walker, toes in many worlds, able to both dive fully into a new story but also to return to the halls of power and bring with me new and ancient ways of being. I want to be both a mentor and a mentee, lovingly connected in a supportive lineage of change-makers. I want to be able to offer physical skills and gifts to the world - of growing food and crafting goods and fixing what’s broken. And creative gifts - of words, music, magic. I want to not be scared of making mistakes, and to trust at the deepest level that I know what the world needs, because I am the world and the world is me.

Karina Gonsález
The future I work towards is one where the dominant narrative of humanity is one of unity and not separation. One where all relationships whether they be between humans, humans and animals, humans and the Earth etc, are all seen as mutual agreements for growth. One where the political system prioritizes well-being over endless growth and GDP. In order to create this world we must disrupt the current dominant narrative of what it means to be human on this planet and to empower others to step in their power to collectively create this future together. We must continue fighting, organizing, and mobilizing even when we don’t have all the answers; because most of the time we won’t have the all answers but that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to create a more beautiful world.
Dyanna Jaye
I was born in 1992. I was born two two geologists who connected over the study of the long, miraculous history of our ancient Earth and the stories held in the her rocks. I was taught to see myself as part of a brief human timeline, a blip on the radar of an ancient Earth.

1992 was a year of global coming together. The year that countries of the world united in recognition of our shared ecosystems and declared intention to freeze earth warming gasses. Yet, all of my life, in these 24 years of growing my own flesh and bones, the Earth has seen rapid industrialization and a doubling of these heat trapping gasses.
Our burning atmosphere, acidifying oceans, and migrating populations in the millions are blaring alarms that we cannot continue down the business as usual lies we have been told. My generation has inherited a great crisis of the human species. But opportunity dances with crisis and I see before me a great opportunity to transform the rooted systems for how we live together on the planet.

I do not believe in apathy, but I see all around me a story of disempowerment that tells us that we have no control. Things cannot change and there is no alternative. But my generation is foolish and free. We are globally connected in a way humans before us have never experienced. Our identity stretches across borders and we hold in our hands the tools to rewrite the rules for how the world works.

Industrialization takes the character of an unstoppable monster and the global economy is treated as if it has a mind of its own. But we see these as instruments of human creation. And we are human too. We are creators and innovators and we can build a way of bing that is just, that takes not more than it needs, that lives in harmony with our ecology.

I am fighting for my home in Virginia. A region I longed to leave growing up. It’s true that Virginia has not always agreed with me, but this is exactly why I should stay.

Virginia, mother of Presidents and birthplace of democracy in our Nation. We’re northern-southerners or southern-northerners. Holding a great tension between two cultures tearing at the seams.

I’m fighting for truly empowered communities. We generate the power needed to support our lives and livelihoods; We own our wealth and we grow better tasting food to be shared in vibrant community feasts; we are strong and we are organized. Our government will be a tool for the people as we reclaim public policy as our community agreements, centering the well being of our people at the heart, over the profit of our industries.

In a culture that tells me to go it alone and to consume to prove my self worth, the wildest, bravest thing I can do now is build deep community. Young people, united in a vision of a just Virginia will be the unstoppable force to reclaim our region. We will dance in the face of despair, host potlucks, live collectively, lock arms in disobedience, and voice by voice, we will build a new story for our state, our lands, for Virginia.

Ryan Camero
I want to act as a force of synthesis to the disparate despair in our world. I hold deep faith in the unifying powers of healing hurt, immediate and echoing, and wielding a voice that sharpens the details of a restored and renewed world. This world escapes viral industrialization in favor of a harmonious hyperorganism- modeled after the unwavering balance of the ecosystems of life. It meets this balance through a fundamental transition of the means of our food, energy, and transport- new systems that keep rivers flowing into oceans and mountains intact to touch the sky. It feels like hope translated to reality, and needs over consumption as a formative value. I want to be a reminder that if we as humanity have shaped the existence of so much made from our imagination, from our beginnings to where we find ourselves now, then we can tap into those sacred forces now to usher in a new vision of what could be. I want to act as a mediator between what exists and champion this new existence in the work I engage in.

Garrett Blad
For generations now, my family has made a living in the breadbasket of the United States. Working hard, growing crops, and raising their children to do the same. My grandfather recorded the rainfall and temperature everyday for decades by hand. He understood how changes in both could affect growing crops in LaPorte, Indiana. Now with warming temperatures and unpredictable precipitation, this stability is threatened. And with it, the legacy of my family.

For my entire life world leaders have tried to fight the climate crisis together. On December 12, 2015, I stood under the Eiffel Tower, holding hands with French climate activists chanting "un, et deux, et trois degrés, c'est une crime contre l'humanité" as world leaders signed the first international agreement inside Le Bourget conference center north of Paris. However, I felt furious. The agreement does not keep us from rising above the red line of 2 °C warming. It doesn’t not ensure us a stable climate.

I’m working towards a world where all life can flourish under a stable climate and in clean and life-giving environments. I’m working for a world where Indiana is a leader in community-owned clean energy, permaculture, aforestation and other climate solutions. A world that smells more like lilacs and honey and less like burning oil. A world where no child in Indiana needs to fear that the food they eat, the water they drink, or the ground they play on will poison them.

And I know addressing issues like climate change will not just foster stability for my family, it will mean building strong communities, nurturing the gifts of every person, and reimagining what we value in our society.
I am working for a world where a gay boy in Indiana doesn’t have to ‘come out’ to his friends or his parents anymore. I am working for a world where creativity and authenticity are rewarded instead of power and control. Where the architecture of our minds is no longer built and policed by the status quo, but rather is constantly challenged and cultivated. Where alternative thinking is uplifted, not squelched. Where gender and race and status and sexual orientation and physical ability no longer define the limits of our potential. Where wealth is distributed to those who need it. I’m working for a world where humans live without a need for locks or televisions, where every person belongs to a community where their needs can be met and their contributions celebrated, where loneliness is eradicated.

I am not a farmer, but I want my grandchildren to look back and see that their grandfather and his grandfather before him fought for the same idea, for the same legacy - just with different machinery.

Daniel Jubelirer
My Vision is a World Where..
I give myself permission to be wildly hopeful, passionately open to the possibilities of non-linear change that affects the minds and hearts of all humans, and along with this, the systems that we make up and enact.
In this time of great crisis, I want to be  loving, compassionate and thoughtful in all action. I know I live in a time when my actions matter more than ever, and I want to be intentional, moving with the creative impulse inside me so that I don’t waste my energy. In this movement I want to be someone who lets go of scarcity thinking and fear-driven thinking, which leads me to conclusions that we are beyond redemption and hope.

My vision is to build out Soil for Life as an interactive media project engaging diverse communities across the West Coast in building soil in urban and suburban areas to tangibly reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, while also building community, local resilience to globalized food systems, and creating access to health, local foods. Through interactive art projects, story-telling and creative media, my vision is to inspire millions of people to get their hands dirty working on local earth-based solutions. Water catchment systems, soil and reclaiming privatized land for public use can all make a huge difference in the climate fight. Getting off fossil fuels is about half of what we need to do, the other half is to totally shift our food systems and relation to land.

My vision for my life is to be a bridge - between local action and global policy, between youth and elders, between and across lines of racial, class, religious and political difference. A bridge between intellectual knowing and embodied, emotional wisdom. A bridge between east and west coasts, between activists and educators, a bridge of connection and understanding between those who perceive themselves as in conflict.

My vision is a world rooted to local communities that are by-in-large self sufficient, where everyone has a meaningful role, where everyone is making a contribution, where each person is safe.

My vision is power-with, where all decisions from the smallest local issues to the largest global policies happen with enthusiastic consent and participation from the people who will be effected. Force, punishment, violence and shame are no longer needed to make people adhere to other people’s agendas.

My vision is starting small, where I am, and letting the changes ripple out to effect more and more people.
My vision is slowing down and listening to my own inner guidance and voices of wisdom of what action to take, month by month, year by year. I continually adjust course as the winds of life change, but I always have my eyes on the big vision. I dance with the winds of life but do not let them throw me off my path.

My vision is using the tools of mediation, restorative justice, and popular education to empower young people in my community to truly have their needs met, and to invite them into roles to make meaningful social transformation.

I am working towards a future that has a rhythm, a soul and a culture that is earth-based. We recognize that we are all indigenous to this earth, that we all come forth from millions and millions of years of earth-life-intelligence. In how we treat each other, use resources, travel and move, eat, sleep, and raise our children, we do it with the recognition that this life is a gift and is sacred, and that we owe our whole existence to the basic elements of life: the earth, soil, water, air, and the sun.

In this movement, I want to  shift the story of our time by how I live my life in every moment. This vision of the world I want to live in is so beautiful. And more simple. What do we truly need to have our basic needs met and build supportive and inclusive communities? I make my path by walking it. I vow to fearlessly face the uncertainty of the future with my heart wide open, to listen and take thoughtful and bold action.

Soumya Sudhakar
My vision is a feeling of excitement. It is excitement for this really innovative world where I can walk in my neighborhood and see all the solutions that allow us to live with zero fossil fuels. What's more, it is excitement for people living more meaningful and intentional lives that are deeply rooted in their communities. I am already starting to feel excited so I know we are on our way.

Laura Cross
This movement in Virginia
will start with young people.
We are building cohorts of young people
who reject the injustices in our community,
This movement will end
the relationship between the fossil fuel industry
and the Virginia state government.

This country’s oldest general assembly
will be a public gathering of communities and care.
We will sit in a goddamn circle,
and our founding fathers will reel in their graves.

We will remember ourselves as social beings
and remember the community in our bones.
It looks like repairing the harm
of the old system in my grandfather’s house,
occupying the old world with new energy
– in the presense of my lineage of patriarchs and settlers.

It looks like our needs being met.
It means community owned energy.
It means organizing my family and organizing our resources.
It means honoring what my mom has given to the world by taking care of her.

My sister will come back from Ecuador in two years
to a new story and join us on a clear path towards a new future.

This triangle shape of land we call Virginia,
where they say this country began, will transform into a new beginning.
Like my grandfather’s home,
we will occupy these places of pain and love its dark corners with new life.

Virginia is for lovers – they say.

Well it hasn’t been but it will be.
Kendall I will love your daughter.
Ginny, I will put my body on the line with you.     
Mom, I will continue to learn how to care for the world with you until it is your time for rest.
Virginia – my sister, my mother, my state – I will love you and stay with you, and erase the pain from your body.
And day by day, Virginia will be
For lovers.