Envisioning a better world: the indispensable effort

This editorial by Editor-in-Chief Anne-Sophie Garrigou is published in The Beam #10 — Local Heroes of Climate Action.

“When a dark future seems all but inevitable, hoping for better seems like setting yourself up to get hurt”, writes the feminist author and journalist Laurie Penny in Bitch Doctrine. When it comes to climate change, we simply can not stop hoping for a better tomorrow and working on solutions to try to reverse the situation. And I should add here that it is not — and should never have been — about saving our ways of life.

Today, millions of women, indigenous communities, children, and low-income families across the world are already affected by the climate crisis. Biodiversity and the state of many ecosystems around the world are fully at risk with around one million animal and plant species threatened with extinction, many within decades. So yes, I know! Reading this, listening to the youth from the Fridays for Future movement to the pacifist activists from Extinction Rebellion and especially to the scientists who have been working on this issue for decades, the future seems dark and it is frightening. But we are all responsible, and more than ever before: we all know that we are. Yet, in 2018 we produced more greenhouse gases than we ever had, at a rate three times that of population growth. This is not anyone’s opinion. It is the inconvenient science.

At what point in history did we all go mad? Why is it easier for many of us to imagine the end of the world rather than the end of capitalism? We grew up in societies in which people who were thinking of alternative futures were marginalised. So while many of us joined the climate strikes in 2019, we continue to look down on individuals who have decided to become completely vegan, to never have kids, and to stop flying for good.

Today, we do not have any other choice than to see this crisis that humanity is currently facing as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to give new impetus to sustainable innovations, an opportunity to rethink the existing structures, an opportunity to open up breaches to transform the system for more equality, an opportunity to look beyond the western perspective and understand that there are other ways, and finally, an opportunity to listen to the people, on the ground, who are already working to change the world. This is what we’ve strived for with this new edition: finding the local heroes of this transition time and learning everything we can from them.

We talk to environmental activist and geographer Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim from Chad, a woman determined to put up a global fight to preserve indigenous communities. We follow 28-year-old Luis Muñoz and 24-year-old Jeffry Onil on a long journey bringing light to isolated communities in the Central and South American tropical rainforests. We talked to Indian physicist and inventor Dr. Priyadarshini Karve about the main challenges of achieving clean cooking for all, in such a complex economic, environmental and social context. We visit families with limited financial resources in Roubaix, France, and learn how circular economy, and adopting a zero-waste lifestyle, have changed their lives for the better. We interview National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale, on her experience documenting the local heroes of climate action. And we visit a former cattle rancher in Texas dedicating her life to pioneering solutions to help farmers and ranchers opt out of animal farming.

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All of these people, and everyone else we feature in this tenth edition of The Beam, are real change-makers and pioneers. They are imagining the alternative futures we need, starting at an individual and local level. This should inspire us all to become better citizens of the planet. And believe me when I say that these individual and local actions are just the beginning. They are a precursor to changing politics. Imagine what difference it would make if those thousands of flowers blooming at the local level could be encouraged by actions at the national and international level?

Our best — and last — shot at overcoming the climate crisis is by having the courage to challenge the system, to dare to imagine better tomorrows, and to make impossible demands. In times like this, we do not have any other choice than to work really hard on imagining better worlds. We need systemic change and we need all of you here, reading this, to show up to save the day!