Between action and imagination: getting onto middle ground

What will the relation between humanity and nature look like in the future? During a talk delivered at the ‘Possible Futures’ programme of Into the Great Wide Open festival, Chris Julien introduces the planet B expedition with artist Špela Petrič. Here you can read a fragment of his talk.

When we start talking about the possible futures of humankind in relation to the wider living world, I think we have to consider ‘possibility’ both in the sense of uncertainty about what the future will hold, as well as in terms of our capacity to influence these futures. That’s why I want to ask how we might find some kind of middle ground in the uncertain times ahead, places that we can inhabit in collaboration with the natural world. It’s a central question for us at planet B, which is a mission to establish a laboratory as a museum where artists, citizens and scientist work together in developing inclusive and ecological ways of life.

Facing today’s planetary crisis of climate and ecological breakdown challenges our ideas of what’s normal and what is possible. Is the way we live today really normal? Is it possible to maintain this normality into the future? And at what cost? What does it ask of us to face such an existential crisis? The term crisis comes from krisis in ancient Greek, commonly used to indicate “the turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death”, from krinein "to separate, decide, judge.” A crisis then is a moment of decision, where things fork and break open, and this tearing of ‘the fabric of what’s normal’ challenges us all to be both imaginative and resolute.

We need our imagination first of all to break free of ‘the normal’, to start unlearning our daily lives and habits, to accept that things are not-normal. Not only accept, but make something positive out of the prospect of living differently, abnormally. What’s more, we need all of our imagination to even start thinking differently about our place on this planet, how we relate to the living world and all our fellow critters living in it. In this sense, we have to re-discover our imaginative capacity, or creativity. In stead of the romantic notion of individual genius and divine gift, we should re-acknowledge that creativity is exactly our species’ amazing capacity for adaptation. By our imagination, we’re able to anticipate change and respond to it in non-predictable, not-normal ways. Among the living world, the human capacity to anticipate change and respond to it is truly our signature feature.
 

The full talk is available on the planet B website