The environmental challenges facing humanity today are so massive and widespread and present us with so many uncertainties about the future, small acts on a local scale may seem insignificant. But in fact many of the most effective approaches to climate change, water and air pollution, and species disappearance have historically occurred on a relatively small scale, as national governments and large international organizations have failed to initiate or enforce larger scale solutions.
Future of the Planet
Humanists recognize that historical models, crosscultural comparisons, and images of plausible futures, that often take the form of stories, can powerfully transform social values, recalibrate understanding of foundational principles of justice and sustainability, and rewrite inaccurate narratives about human relationships to and interdependencies with ecosystems and nonhuman species.
Archive. of. Stories.
With that in mind, contributors to the Archive of Hope and Cautionary Tales have undertaken to create a digital archive of stories about how scholars and community members are collaborating on projects that work towards increased environmental sustainability and social justice.
Each story illustrates a linked set of sustainability and social justice principles which might serve as a template for work in diverse communities around the world. Both the archive and the principles are provided here so that other institutions and communities can utilize them as they consider how best to respond and act in the face of their own daunting environmental and climatological challenges.
Each story and collaboration can be compared, rescaled, and analyzed for their power to transform social values and human behaviors and increase abilities to imagine alternatives and solutions to complex challenges.
Principles & Values
One pathway toward hope for the future of our endangered planet is to operate according to Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice Principles and Values. The following list has been derived from a range of international manifestos and agreements as well as from the principles that have emerged from the environmental humanities.
But hope is always linked to caveats and complexities. In practice, humans typically encounter competing goods and values. Well-meaning principles may produce unintended negative consequences. There are few silver bullets that meet all challenges in a single strike. Creating a roadmap for the future requires deep engagement with all stakeholders and varied (and sometimes conflicting) cultural systems. It requires respect, compassion, and flexibility so that principles do not become unwitting traps.
How can the global population be stabilized while simultaneously respecting individual liberty and cultural diversity? • E.g., how to untangle the relationship between population and resource consumption in the sustainability/justice debate
How can the value of liberty (of individuals, nations, communities, races, religions) be balanced with the necessity of restraint (to achieve communal and global health and well-being, peace, justice, and a sustainable social order)?
How can food security/affordability for all be achieved with smaller scale, organic, sustainable farming techniques? • E.g., how to balance concerns about genetically modified foods and other manipulations of the natural food supply with the concern for feeding a growing global population