Being a Good Ancestor: Extending the 'Now'

By Ellie Church, GLOBUS Correspondent

What do you wish your ancestors had done for you? 

What will our descendants wish of us? 

What legacy will you leave? 

One of the key issues behind the inertia of action on the sustainable development agenda is a democratic focus on the short term. The policy struggle to see the future anywhere past 2050, greatly hinders our ability to implement sustainable practices. Such ideas filter down into society, where our sense of community is currently very temporally limited, as we struggle to extend our idea of ‘now’ past days, weeks or months.  

It’s a well-known fact that the earth has been around for 4.6 billion years, but our brains cannot comprehend such numbers. To provide some perspective, the number of humans who have lived and died amounts to 100 billion. The currently living sits at a mere 7.7 billion, and the (predicted) unborn is a huge 6.75 trillion. This brings about the idea of tempus nullius – empty time – as those future generations have no voice they are disenfranchised from the now. Therefore, how can we extend the ‘now’?  

At the ‘Long Now Foundation’ they have coined a very simple way, by adding a 0 in front of the year, when writing the date. Instead of 2019, we would have 02019. This automatically expands the future to at least the year 99,999 in our thinking. This is an easy action which could switch our myopia to more long–termism. How else can we encourage actions that treat the future like they are already here?  

Before action though, we need to focus on creating a new mindset. At the inaugural Change Festival, Warwick Arts Centre, 2019, a Council of the Future was created based on encouraging the imagining of a better future. The members created a declaration of what this role included, and adapted, this provides a great set of statements to encourage us all to be better ancestors. 

The mindset of a good ancestor: 

  • I wish to liberate the future from the clutches of the present.  
  • I will empower people to realise that we are a collaborative species and that we are not alone in our actions. The future is a collective project.  
  • I understand that there are multiple possible futures for ourselves and others. These are not fixed. The future is flexible.  
  • I want to ensure that there is a choice for future generations by encouraging people to think differently about them and the world.   I want to encourage people not to be locked into inherited mindscapes or old structures of thought.   
  • I want to inspire people to not be defeatist in the face of system change.   
  • I want to build relationships and stimulate imagination for a more just future. I want to be the conduit for conversation.   
  • I am an ambassador for the future – I want to inspire hope by imagining better worlds and alternative visions.  

How many of these can you integrate into your everyday life? 

There is no opt out of the future, so let’s make our descendants proud of the work we did. 

Header Image: Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

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