As of this past Sunday, it has officially been 10 years since Ray passed away. For me personally, the grief I felt from his passing gave way long ago to admiration and appreciation for the legacy he left. It’s a legacy that my family and I are fortunate to experience every day. And as I wrap up this mini-series reflecting on this milestone, I want to do something that Ray often did - look ahead and imagine what the future might hold.
My cliffhanger last week was about how we might harness for good the rapid change unfolding in the world. I want to give an answer to that question, but at the outset, I want to make it clear that this is not the only answer. It’s my best guess at one of the most important necessary-but-not-sufficient conditions for solving many of the environmental and social challenges that lie before us. I’m speaking in general terms here, but I strongly believe that in one decade, if we’ve made meaningful progress on these challenges, the following will be true.
We will have learned how to truly listen to all of the important voices in our societies that have long been ignored or discredited. When I say that, I’m speaking of three types of voices in particular: racial minorities, women, and youth. Let’s take them in turn.
In many countries around the world, including my own here in the United States, we continue to have a racially inequitable society. Many others more qualified than me can speak to the intricacies of systemic racism and how best to make progress. For my part here, I simply want to say that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) offer a wealth of cultural practices, diverse perspectives, and frontline experience. We don’t want them on the sideline - we need them in the game! Yes, racial equity is important as a matter of justice and fairness, but it’s also important to bring new ideas and expertise to the table.
Women similarly offer a fresh perspective that we need to make meaningful progress. In this respect, I want to draw attention to our global economic system and its negative characteristics.* Our western, neo-liberal economic paradigm is extractive, exploitative, wasteful, and addicted to growth. Now, if you had to categorize those traits as more masculine or feminine, which would you choose? For my two cents, those tend toward the masculine,** and it’s a result of putting predominantly male voices in positions of power for so long. If we want to fix those flaws, I believe we need feminine leadership that will bring healthy balance to our global economy.
Finally, we have youth. I feel like this category is a bit different, but no less critical. For one, young voices are important because of...well...math. They’ll live through more of the 21st Century than older generations, and they deserve to have a say about the future in which they’ll grow old. Youth also tend to be more nimble, technologically adept, and energetic, which are all valuable traits when the world is rapidly changing. Experience counts for a lot less when the world is in flux, so maybe we need to empower those who aren’t burdened by it!
And here’s the thing - I actually think we can do this. I sense that, more and more, people are becoming aware of the value that diversity brings. We need ALL voices at the table, because we ALL have a role to play in healing the earth and in becoming a more just species. If we all just lean into this, I honestly believe we can harness the power of this moment, and in a decade’s time, we may find that the world is becoming a better place.