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RIO+20 The Future We Want

RIO+20 the future we want

Ingrid Rowland: The Future We Want

Ingrid Rowland

The future I would hope to see is a future that looks forward without severing its connection with the past, aware that memory is essential to survival.

It is a future in which we can at last look on the world again with awe and reverence, rather than an endless will to dominion, a future in which the seasons still continue to follow their ancient rhythms, the Milky Way is still luminous in a deep black sky, parts of the world remain undisturbed and undiscovered, the Arctic still breeds polar bears and walrus, the tropics still shelter under rainforest, cloudberries still grow on the tundra, lions and tigers still impose their fearful symmetry on the wilderness, Leviathan still sports in the seas among the fishes, the great old trees still grow.

Ingrid Rowland on Earth Day in 1970 We will have learned that we need not pave over, occupy, exploit, explode or reshape every single place and every creature on Earth. We will have learned how to ensure that there is enough food, water, shelter, and purpose for all of us. We will choose our leaders, men and women alike, without the harsh coercion of despotism or the soft coercion of demagoguery.

The people of the developed world will once again look at one another and the universe with their own eyes rather than their i-Phones, putting machines in their rightful place as tools. I would like to hope that humanity can, however slowly, learn and progress, growing in kindness and humility, remembering that curiosity and wonder were our first delights as infants, not the extremities of war.

Tragedies will still happen. Mortality will still govern our universe. Sorrow is built into our existence, and sorrow will continue to be essential to our own nature. But we do not need to increase our sorrows, or the sorrows of the universe, by our own fear, stupidity, cupidity, cruelty, arrogance, and waste.

Ingrid Rowland lives in Rome, where she is a professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture.  She writes on classical antiquity, and Italy in the Renaissance and Baroque periods.