Send a Letter to the Future

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Please join Xavier Cortada, the vCIES Artist-in-Residence, in creating a participatory “Letters to the Future” mural! Write your letter to the future and it will become a part of the collaborative mural, which will be unveiled at the CIES 2021 conference.

Send your letter to the future today! 

 

Today, too many are in denial about the human impact on global climate change. By writing to someone in the future, we can’t deny their existence. By writing to them, we create a connection to them. Being able to connect with our progeny – whether human or more than human – raises the stakes for us now. It lengthens the “care horizon” beyond our lifetime. It encourages us to do all we can now to protect our planet, its future generations, and the species we coevolved with. In many ways, the current pandemic brings the future closer to us. Human impacts on the planet will inevitably unleash more and more diseases as temperatures rise and ecosystems collapse.  

Write an open letter to someone living in 2120. Tell them who you are, where you are from.  Let them know what you are experiencing today and how you envision the future. Although the letters are written for those not yet born, the true audience are those breathing in the present.

Read Letters to the Future

Dear grandchild,

This is John Mugo, writing to you from Ndindiruku, a tiny village in Kenya. I am writing in this terrible moment of adversity, as they say in Kiswahili – majuto ni mjukuu’ [regret comes later]. We are embarrased, that despite all the technological advancement of our century, we are all locked at home, because of a virus. Literary all of us, globally. But then, it may be good for us, after all. We have valued money and wealth over life, the family institution has been neglected. Now we are at home, as family. The world is now one again, the rich and the poor, the more and the less developed. We call each other brother, and stand with each other. How great! I hope you will discern the important things in life, and leave enough time for them. But all in all, you will keep safe, while disaster strikes.

JOHN MUGO, KENYA (MARCH 28, 2020)

 

Dear Red Rock in the Canyon,

I am writing to you from 2020 because I know that in 2120 you will most likely still be where I met you, and I can’t say that for sure about many other things right now. I know you’ve been in that canyon for a very long time and I thank you for welcoming me into your home. The world is changing at a fast pace right now, and I am writing to you because I am sure you’ve witnessed so much change throughout your life. I mean, you are a red limestone rock, so I know that you have been under saltwater when the canyon was bathed by sea millions of years ago. And I know you were under great pressure to even become limestone. I don’t know what you’ve lost or gained in those processes, and I guess that is the benefit of only having met you when you had already become all of those things. A rock under the sea. Limestone. Canyon dweller. But that is something that I have studied about you after we met. That is not what I learned with you. On the morning that we met, you called to me. I was walking by, admiring the canyon’s colors and shadows, and amongst all of those things, you called to me. You taught me about silence, about stillness, about humility. I truly appreciated the gesture and cherish our encounter once more today. In the changing and uncertain times that I am in right now, I wish that I can change as you did, and continue to have encounters like ours. Please know, I’ll always come when you call.

ESTHER PRETTI, USA (APRIL 16, 2020)

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By participating in Letters to the Future, your submission will be shared in a public online blog, will be included within a public art mural (partially or wholly) and will be included in qualitative research studies. Letters to the Future submissions that will be used for research, academic presentations or publications will de-identify participants names and identities. Sharing your blog is voluntary. You must be 18 or older to participate. If you have questions please contact Ann Nielsen at Ann.Nielsen@asu.edu or 480-727-1366. This study has been reviewed by the Arizona State University IRB. You can contact them at 480-965-6788.

Dear You,

I hope this letter finds you well.  By the time you read this you will know what happened to us.  I am writing to you on Earth Day in the year 2020.  This is a holiday designed to remind us of the Earth and to sustain its health and beauty.  Right now we are not doing so well with that…we have been greedy and selfish and have destroyed much of the Earth.  Because of our carelessness we have encountered a virus that is killing us.  Now many of us are living under quarantined conditions. For those of us that survive we must look towards a different way of existing WITH Mother Earth.  You are a product of the changes I hope we make.

I hope and pray that we grow and make the changes we need to make in order to protect our Earth and each other.  Right now we are beginning a grieving process, our perhaps I should just speak for myself.  I am grieving for the mistakes I have made that have contributed to the Earth’s destruction.  I am grieving for the lives we have lost.  I am grieving for the gross disparities we have in our current world.  I am grieving for the disruption to “life” as I knew it.  I know I have to grieve because I have to expand and change.

So, I write to you, my great grand child, to remind myself  that you are dependent on what I do.  We are connected.  I ask your forgiveness and I hope your world will be different than mine.  I hope that our ability for compassion, grace, connection, love care and gratitude live on…

ANN NIELSEN, USA (APRIL 22, 2020)

Dear You,

I don’t think we ever realized how little we valued the choices we could make, when we could make them. Each individual choice, each collective decision, each community action, could have set us on a different path. The cumulative effect of these choices has resulted in where you are today, and sitting here in 2020, I wonder what emotion you are feeling?  Are you angry that we didn’t make the right choices?  Are you grateful that despite the worst case scenarios, when push came to shove, we did right by you? Or are you apathetic, as we are, but facing a more dire situation on this little blue dot we call home?  In fact, apathy is the biggest enemy we have to making the right choices.  Between the forces who push for greed and selfishness and those who pull for equity and justice, is an ocean of apathy, all of those who don’t think their choice matters. We have wasted our lives, our time, and your future, when we sit on the sidelines and imagine that our choice doesn’t matter.

So I write this letter to you – to ask you, where did our choices take you?  And if you could tell us, now, here where we are, what choice we could have made to make your life better, what would you tell us?  With what urgency would you berate us?  Or did we manage to fight apathy in time to help you live your best life?  What did we do to you?

Respond when you can. Warmly,
SUPRIYA BAILY, USA (MAY 6, 2020)

Dear Child,

You are now about 15 years old. When my daughter was 15 years old, she lived in Finland. She went to a high-school in Tampere and had lots of friends. They connected on their mobile phones, sending photos, tik-taks, instagrams, snap chats. She walked to school, passed a park and a rapids. They ice-skated during the winter on the frozen lake. She travelled to many places on airplanes and had friends from around the world. She loved animals, she had a little dog. She exercised and ate well to live a long and healthy life.

I hope you are well, Child.

ZSUZSA MILLEI, FINLAND (MARCH 28, 2020)

Dear being of the future,

I am writing to you on the 28th of April 2020 from a city called Najran, Saudi Arabia, in a very dramatic time. I feel like sharing my concerns with you as we go through a series of events like in a fantastic movie and await for it be over. We faced a global pandemic called Covid-19. I hope it will end.

HANI ELSAYED, SAUDI ARABIA (APRIL 28, 2020)

My dear Grandchild,

This is your great grandma from the country of Georgia, writing to you in 2020 when living in the US. As I am writing this, I am thinking of the life back in 1920, exactly hundred years ago. How much has the world changed since then and how big will the change be in 100 years from now? If my great grandma was writing a letter to her great grandchild, what would she have felt? Would she have felt something similar to what I am feeling now –  remorse and disappointment over missed opportunities and reckless lifestyles of own generation? Every generation has its own things to be ashamed or proud of. Unfortunately, my generation is the one with erroneous priorities and the most damage done to our planet.  No matter what we do at this point of our lives, we are facing and will be facing irreversible losses. But the hope is still there. The hope for partial recuperation. I hope we will seize at least some of the future windows of opportunity and create opportunities for new opportunities for your generation. And then hopefully you will write a letter to your great grandchild filled with pride  rather than disappointment over your generation’s decisions and actions.

KETI CHACHKHIANI, ARIZONA, USA, MAY 14, 2020

Dear Reader,

I am writing to you from Kampala Uganda, a beautiful land locked country located in East Africa. This is 2020, a year that will remain in history that you will probably read about. The times I am writing this the whole world is going through a global pandemic called COVID19. The world is undergoing a period of great anxiety and panic at the moment with many nations loosing their loved ones. I am happy to note that, as I write this, our country has not lost a single victim to the virus even with our poorly equipped medical facilities. Other nations in the world have lost their loved ones in thousands. Ours has been the hand of God Almighty. Our medical system is so poor that we have just a couple of averagely equiped intensive care units in our poorly equipped hospitals. We are happy to note, however, that many patients have been healed of the virus, thanks to our vigilant medical team.

The nation is under lockdown with schools and most business shut down, including restricted movements.  Our children are not sure when schools will open. Whereas other nations have their children study online, the biggest number of our children cannot even afford electricity, or a computer to be able to access any form of learning. their future is heavily blurred!  The Ministry of Education has shared some learning materials so as to keep children learning, but many of them are anable to access them. Only a few who can afford a television and/or a computer can access them. If this pandemic does not end soon, we shall have a generation that will be left behind and will never catch up with the rest of the world. My son, who in his last year of primary school, asks me every day “when am I going back to school?” I literally have no best answer to give him. He is so anxious about his final national examination that will see him join secondary school!  My prayer is, this ends soon and that he does not miss his national examination.

With love,

MARY KULABAKO, UGANDA (APRIL 28, 2020)

Dear Citizen of 2120,

I am writing you from Phoenix, Arizona.  It is the middle of May on a warm, sunny day and the current temperature in 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  I have been working from home for the last 8 weeks due to a pandemic known as COVID-19 that has spread through the entire world infecting 1.47 million people in the United States and killing 88, 237 as of today.  We are devastated and practicing social distancing in hopes to limit the spread of this virus. A vaccine seems to be 12-18 months away.

Despite the negative impact this virus is having on the healthcare system, job losses, school closures, travel restrictions … pollution and greenhouse gas emission have fallen as countries try to contain the spread of the virus. 

This pandemic is claiming people’s lives and has changed the way we were living just two months ago.  Through this experience, I look toward a future of hope as we reflect on the way we have lead our lives.  I hope that we can start to make little changes that will have a big impact in the world we live in.  We can recreate practices in our daily lives by enforcing the use of reusable shopping bags, and refillable water bottles, re-looking at opportunities to work from home and changing the way we educate our students that is more personalized. 

For years, we have heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” we need to add “refuse” and “rethink”.  By adding these two concepts to our lives, we can expand our ability to become critical thinkers when making choices that will reduce our carbon footprint.  It is my hope that this pandemic leaves you with a world that has been able to reverse some of the negative impact we as humans caused due to our selfish choices.

RUHI KHAN, UNITED STATES (MAY 20, 2020)

Dear fellow human being,

Am writing to share with you that, nothing is new under the sun except that it only changes and transforms. So, what do we learn from this? We should never give up, never be arrogant, never forget that everything is temporarily on earth even the one writing and reading this letter. A human person is so great with potential but can be so foolish when wisdom is not with him/her. When is not in touch with the source of her/his being and the future life, as to live as if everything ends here. Not acknowledging the supreme power over human nature. What then should you do? Be human. Love, laugh, care, share, give time, sacrifice, accept limits, be humble. In addition, be Empathetic; empathy; The ability to understand and share the feelings motivations, needs and emotions of others. That helps you and them to live in harmony and to build health relationships. Be Creative. Being creative is allowing your intuition to reveal possibilities to you or to be in the flow. Be a Life-long Learner; that is having the motivation and ability to learn and grow throughout your life, and this is so essential in fast changing world. Be Responsible and Kind. Responsible, Capable of being trusted. Kindness, the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Be honest and have Integrity, honesty, the quality of being genuine or free of deceit and untruthfulness. And lastly be Self-Aware. Self-awareness; having conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desire.

Lastly remember that money and education cannot buy human qualities. You learn these with people and you pass them on to others yet these are at the heart of our being and of a happy life.

GRACE FRANCIS MKOSAMALI, TANZANIA, MAY 14, 2020

My dear great-grandchild,

My name is Stephanie Marie Knox Steiner. I was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1979, and as I write this I am living in Colorado Springs, CO. Your grandmother was my daughter, Daphne, born in 2018. I think you will remember her. If my calculations and assumptions are correct, you are a young adult in 2120. It is hard for me to imagine the world you are living in.

It is hard for me to imagine the world I am living in right now. The past few months, we have been dealing with the global coronavirus pandemic, which I am sure you will have ready about in your history books (if such things still exist). We are really taking things one day at a time. It feels a bit like living on a sand dune, the ground constantly shifting beneath our feet. We are self-isolated here at home with your great-grandfather and grandmother, who is not quite two years old. She is so adorable, and so smart. I want us to be able to turn this around, for her, for you.

I want to tell you more than anything that I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t do more, although I tried. I studied climate change as a college student – maybe when I was your age. In the late 90s, it was not as commonly understood, but the science was already clear at that point, that we were warming the planet and needed to take action. For years – decades! – we did nothing, until this virus stopped us in our tracks. We could have done so much more, so much sooner. I wish we had. I wish I had been able to do more, sooner, and for that, my dear, I am truly sorry, to you and to your generation and those after you.

The virus was merciless – it killed the young and old, at times seemingly random. It forced us as a society to stop – to really stop. Will this moment be one of awakening? Of reckoning? Will we take this time to rebuild in ways that are life-affirming? I don’t yet know. It very much feels like it could go either way at this point. Those in power will not let go easily, will not go down without a fight, and they may take us all down with them, in their greed and hatred and disillusionment. But, if you are reading this, which I assume you are, that gives me hope, that at least enough people survived to carry on, that there is enough of a planet to continue to inhabit.

Today, it is April, and snow is falling on the mountains of Colorado. The Earth is such an exquisitely beautiful place, my child. I was so fortunate and privileged to see so much of it when we were allowed to travel, when we were allowed to leave home. I hope you get to see that beauty, wherever you are – for one thing my travels have taught me is that everywhere is beautiful.

Be well, my dear great-grandchild, Please know I am sending you love from the past. Know that you come from a lineage of love, and that your ancestors love and cherish you.

With love,
Your great-grandmother Stephanie

USA, APRIL 13, 2020

Dear sentient being of the future,

I am writing your in April 2020 from a city called Tampere, Finland, in a very typical grey day. I feel like sharing my concerns with you as we go through a series of crises and await more to come. We are living the global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus (also called Covid-19), we are also living a climate crisis and in addition there is a lot of smaller scale (hopefully) crises going on here and there: political crisis, education crisis, empathy crisis, identity crisis. As I am stuck at home like billions of other people across the world due to the pandemic and work from home, somehow I seem to work differently even when nobody in my family is requesting my attention: I check the news and other forms of virtual platforms and media more often than usual, probably as a means of procrastination on my work… And the news and posts often make my thoughts ramble in the most unexpected directions, most of them related with human behavior:

– I find myself wondering about how we humans became dependent on money and how we have developed this incredible need to have things and how somehow we think we are safe if we have lots of money and things, and yet, here it all ended… we are all confined to our houses in an attempt to save the human species – true, some people are  in big houses, some people in small houses – all all of us, however, anxiously awaiting for a vaccine that save us, fragile beings.
– Then, I also think about the questions of inequality and on what is usually taken for granted. We all must stay at home so the virus doesn’t spread so fast. It makes sense and I support this measure… but then again, what about the children who can’t have distance learning because they do not have a computer, tablet or phone to connect with their school? What about the children who have such poor conditions that their house doesn’t physically allow moments and places of quietness where they can focus and think? What about the children that live in problematic families, with difficult environments? What about the children (and the adults) who live with violent and abusive family members? What about the families who will lose their sources of income and will struggle for the basic needs soon, if not already? All this is so complicated and complex…
– There are so many other questions in my head, which became more intense in the past few weeks… At the end they all seem to bring me to the very same thought: the nature of humanity and how is it – or not – changing. I read, for instance, news about how in some countries the virus treatment is given to some people but not to others: to the rich before the poor, to the white before the black, to the young before the old and it inevitably leads me to thing how wrong this all feel.. .who makes these choices?
– I hear news and read posts about how here and there health professionals are praised by their neighbors or friends or families through this or that act of appreciation and I think it is not enough, it is never enough. We individuals and governments should everyday, in a very open and direct way, thank all health staff that everyday literally put their lives at risk so maybe ours can be saved. But we should also show our appreciation to all the other professionals who do the same in the most varied ways – the supermarket workers, the truck drivers who deliver the food we need, the farmers who are farming for us, the policemen who have to make sure people are indeed doing the most heroic acts of their lives: stay home! The teachers who suddenly had to learn new ways of teaching, and so many others that had no choice but quickly adapt.

And I finally think about the future, what else will the future bring? Will we humans always be able to adapt this easily? Is this an infinite skill? How will we come out of this crisis? And I wonder about you, sentience species of 2120. How and what are you? And what do you think of us, humans, now that you have an idea how we were and what was going on with us in 2020?

ÍRIS SANTOS, FINLAND (APRIL 20, 2020)