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In the lead up to COP26, CIRCA is dedicating their global art and culture platform to a month-long public investigation of the urgent question ‘WHERE DO WE GO FROM NOW?’, featuring key responses from artists, writers, thinkers and various cultural leaders. The project harnesses today’s global moment of unpredictable flux to propose routes toward more inclusive, more creative and fairer societies, placing a focus on the shared “now” of this unique post-crisis moment, rather than the divided “here” of our individual circumstances.

Find out about today's artist response to ‘WHERE DO WE GO FROM NOW?’ below.

Where do we go from now? Circa 2021
By Clare Farrell

The writer and academic Theodore Zeldin once wrote, “all the times in history that violence was avoided, curiosity won.” 

Since the world’s leaders came together to create the Paris Climate Accord in 2015 there has been an ongoing increase in global emissions and vast investment in new fossil fuels from the finance sector. The climate and ecological crises are unfolding rapidly around the world. We are living in a violent system that is set on self destruction. Curiosity, empathy and compassion have become necessary survival skills. What is now required is the greatest act of global cooperation and solidarity in all of history.

Something’s got to change, so, as a designer (and sometimes artist), I’m struck with a question about culture. What can our culture do in these times? How could we change the culture we’re swimming in? Can it help to create positive change? Away from pervasive greed, narcissism, fear, scarcity, separation, inequalities and wastefulness. We need to learn to love one another again, and in order to do so we must meet and engage in dialogue. A dialogic culture, rooted in care, is urgently required to help us to overcome polarity and facilitate cooperation. To encourage the most beautiful open, honest, critical dialogues on an ongoing basis. For society to meet itself again and again and ask, what do we value? What values should we live by? What would we like to be doing collectively instead of this ongoing mass death project?

We are working to a deadline that we have already missed, and nobody can agree what the extension should be. We can decide to make rapid change, or we will certainly have rapid change forced upon us, indeed we have committed to massive change and we can already see it and feel it. What would an approach to our future look like that held a liberatory spirit at its heart? 

A recent report from UNICEF says that 1 billion of the world’s children (that is half of the child population of the entire global human family), are at acute risk of climate impacts right now. Those children and young people are also at acute risk of mental health impacts. A fact that is increasingly recognised as linked to the inaction of our so-called leaders, with regards to climate change and the biodiversity crisis. The data is clear, so far we have been unable to simply stop making it worse, and we are doing so at an ever increasing pace. There are sacrifice zones all over the world where rich countries and companies decided that it was okay to continue the colonial legacy of “extract and destroy”, often murdering anyone who gets in the way. Devastating landscapes, destroying livelihoods and maximising profit as quickly as possible and then leaving dereliction in their wake. A system, which preys on those less powerful, but ends up ultimately becoming a self terminating system. Industrialised violence has become self destruction.

The evidence is brutal and overwhelming for many to engage with. Life on Earth is being exterminated by human systems and behaviours, so it’s certainly time to ask, “where do we go from now?” isn’t it? We are at a critical point in human history, and responsibility sits daily on the shoulders of everyone who knows the truth of the matter. It’s not too late to act. But we must act in deep relation with reality, as if the truth about our planet is real. If your life, and that of those you love depended on your actions, what would you do? In Extinction Rebellion we ask ourselves this question, because they do. How can we stop the harm and begin the repair, we have our work cut out. 

It may sound surprising to some but the mass participation, open rebellion we have created together as Extinction Rebellion is made of love. It is created with deep care and compassion. When we do disruptive, non violent work we aim to open the hearts of the world. To help awaken our society to the trajectory we are on, to bring people together in positive resistance, and to collectively engage with the grief of these times. Without love you cannot grieve. It’s transformative, and a connection to death helps us to truly cherish life as sacred. And our least well known demand is for citizens participation in our democracy, through deliberative, inclusive processes. A dialogic solution. 

Looking at the economic thinking on alternative systems we can see ideas emerging such as a well being economy, economies of care, the donut model, degrowth. It’s clear we need to scale back material consumption, and that questioning GDP as a measure of progress and success is an urgent task. Whilst these conversations are happening more and more it seems to me that nobody knows how you might move from the place where we stand today, in September 2021, to an entirely different way of being together with each other and the world. And do it fast. This makes me sure that culture must be critical in all senses of the word, and dialogue the cherished heart of it. 

There is a globalised worldwide project to attempt precisely this. It’s called the Global Assembly, and it uses sortition (lottery style selection processes with stratified final selection) to find citizens from all over the world. Then invites those peoples to meet, become informed by experience, knowledge and wisdom and discuss the most urgent issue of our time. which is to act as swiftly as possible against catastrophic breakdown of the biosphere. For nations to come together and truly address their own issues and those of their citizens requires radical opening up of the conversation about what it means to be human. What it means to be alive, why we’re here and what we want to feel on our deathbed. We need to become enchanted with one another, and all of life on Earth. How can we love each other if we don’t meet?

 This is also a way of connecting people in their own power. A terrified and traumatised public who feel no sense of agency can be easily encouraged to vote for a fascist, so finding ways of powering each other up is an urgent matter. The structures of political and corporate power today are favourable to those with psychopathic character traits. But the average person on our planet knows well how to share, how to care for others, and how to negotiate life’s difficult decisions together. Participatory politics and dialogic culture are a key to healing whilst we find a way forward, a form of social technology and innovation. What’s more, they can be bolted onto existing structures without needing to replace them.

We have the social technology we need, we must find the tactics to make it possible, and the courage to try. So join in rebellion, demand to have a say in our collective future. You are more powerful than you think, and there are ways forward so long as we come together to reclaim our humanity.