Shift in Society
I am writing this post as we enter the worst climate disaster in human history paired with a shift in our financial structure as we have known it. We are, I hope, on the brink of a carbon neutral existence and I also know that will come with great discomfort to many of the financial systems we have in place. I am 44 years old and have grown up on the cusp of two generations, right at the edge of the shift. When we were in college, we were the last to learn hand drafting and also were introduced to the computer. We had the internet for the first time as adults, email, and the futuristic “connected” global workplace. We graduated just after a recession and jobs were plentiful. When the last recession hit, we had jobs, but those jobs kept us stagnant in wages and upward mobility. I was among the first generation of liberated women to navigate murky gender biased waters, making far less than my male colleagues my entire career. I am highly educated and under employed, still paying off grad school loans. My husband and I put each other through graduate school, having two kids in a broken health care system, desperate for dependable jobs to provide basic healthcare needs for our family. With every job we’ve had there is a small pile of retirement money sprinkled across random financial investment companies. However, we don’t plan to retire and are building a home that can sustain us into the future and possibly our children.
As we sit on the brink of the next future, I feel the burden to be the first to accept this new reality, one with little or no retirement, one with no promise of a job, one with little financial investments. I know I am supposed to feel fear and dread for what this looks like, but what I feel is the need to understand that this shift has been coming for some time. We have pushed all systems to the brink and something has to give, we have to change. I am not fearful of not having stuff, I am not fearful of not being able to eat a hamburger whenever I want, I am not fearful of not having a car or the burdens that previous generations have left us with.
Our current infrastructure is one designed for dependence on oil, but I believe we can shed these constructs. I think we are creative enough to redefine and redesign our society and no, it won’t look like it does in the movies, piles of trash all around us living in some container seeking refuge from reality in a digital existence. I find all of the ways in which we have defined modern life to be full of people seeking escape, seeking a way to hide and constantly “transform” oneself. I think many of us feel this way because we have not been allowed to follow our own humanity. We have innate human needs and the deepest desire to have a greater purpose. I know that our human future depends on this shift, although a great one, a real shift that will change the way we live.
I want to read news that doesn’t shed this future scenario as doom and gloom but rather as the way we are going to live, and in many ways that is much better than the way we live now. I want the news to be forward looking and problem solving, perhaps helping us understand better how we can live better. How will we solve these problems, how will we paint a picture for the future that is not dependent on financial success as our parents did but one of success in life and what that looks like. I would like to see a future where we value each other and the talents that lie deep within us, encouraging and supporting the independent efforts of those around us who need that support. As designers, we know that housing is one of the biggest issues facing our cities and will impact the future generations. This crisis must be addressed so that we can build our cities as sustainable places with true socio-economic diversity and places we can all live in and add to. This future city will look much like past cities, as these places came out of human connection and interdependence. Our cities need to support us and be the places we all nurture and care for. Our future cities are sustainable, responsible, and resilient. They are places where we all know that everything we do has an effect on not only us but our eco-systems. We are responsible for each other.