WHAT IS FUTUREPHOBIA?
loss of trust,
and predictable outcomes of 'business as usual'
In 2019, I offered my students in a Puerto Rico design lab 4 minutes of film to tell a story about change. Any change. They said, "we want to tell about how design thinking is helping us to believe we have a future." Unscientifically, but as part of their work to make their film (click here to watch it), the students interviewed their classmates. Almost everyone reported being concerned most about climate change and its potential impacts. They were concerned enough that they avoided thinking about the future and what it might bring, although it interrupted them (especially at night) anyway. Almost all reported concerns that school was "not helping."
Research shows that 3 out of 4 youths globally are "concerned to very concerned" about their future.
Most 10-12 year-olds report feeling sad and scared when they think about the environment.
In areas struggling with systemic oppression and colonialism, the numbers are even higher.
In the case of "futurephobia," the combination of emotions is so intense and complex, and the threats both individual and collective, experienced and imagined, past, present and anticipated, that our rational mind can't absorb it and instead pushes it away.
People from marginalized and targeted groups, people living in the teeth of environmental injustice and climate impacts, and those fighting for environmental and social justice, are pushed to the side and their stories and solutions made "alternative." This only adds to the powerlessness that leads many to:
What Can we do to revitalize our planet and ourselves?
A lot, it turns out. Education at all levels is our best hope for widespread transformation. Only education touches almost every person in a community. Educational institutions are well situated to bring various perspectives together.
When we are faced with a crisis, learners and educators both can draw on the roots of life for safety, togetherness, and the agency to change outcomes. Living and learning closer to nature and the regenerative pathways she shows to us, helps us to engage our vital powers to co-create just and abundant worlds. We can be well again. Learning and taking action together is how it happens.
"During and after the storm, all I could do was draw. I just drew and drew. Design Lab gave me my voice back. Now I know I have ideas that can help." --Paola, Escuela FMC, Puerto Rico