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Hello! We’ve all heard the environmental futurecasts and they aren’t looking good. They are paralyzing us! Instead, can we imagine a different, better future? Humor me while I pretend to write you from the year 2050 and tell you how we can create that better future. Maybe we need more hope and less fear to get us there.



This is the year. The one that people warned us about. We knew earlier in the century that the future of the climate, the environment and wildlife looked bleak. Back in the early 2020s, the pandemic raged on, wildfire smoke poured through the western U.S., people wasted gas in drive-thru lanes, hurricanes repeatedly pummeled Florida and I approached my 60s. The future predictions were dire. Heartbreaking. People walked around soul-crushed, in a daze, in denial about the changes that were happening. But, as they swam through hopelessness and numbness, they were also oblivious to the beginnings of the good changes that led to this year, 2050. People didn’t realize they were living through the point in history when humanity was the most powerful. At the time, we literally had the fate of the world in our hands. Scary, but powerful. Behind the veils of scorching summers and dusty skies, people worked. They invented and vented. They got their hands dirty. And if they had money, they took what they could spare and found solutions. Other people started to take notice and became inspired to make changes themselves. It was hard to tell at the time that changes were afoot. It always is. Whether the changes were for the better or for the worse, incremental change is hard to notice, like that proverbial frog in the frying pan.

It was in the year 2022 that the world twirled around one day and more energy was being produced from renewable sources than from coal in the U.S. The news snuck by most people. They were getting on with their lives after the pandemic. In fact, after months of pandemic lockdowns, when people admired clear skies and reveled in nature, there was a frenzy to get back to life as ‘normal’. But ‘normal’ was different. They didn’t commute as much. They spent more time outside. They used the rapid adjustments of the pandemic to look for new, better ways to live. If we could make those changes, those sacrifices, perhaps we could make other changes. And they did.

People decided electric cars were the next big thing. The surge in demand was so great that car makers couldn’t keep up at first. There weren’t even enough electric car charging stations and batteries were slow to charge. And yet, people wanted them. The demand not only led to more electric cars and hybrids rolling off the production lines, it led to an explosion of transportation innovation. Consumers drove the car companies to change what they were selling rather than the car companies creating cars and then selling us their ideas.

Meanwhile, larger changes were starting. In the U.S., The Inflation Reduction Act included a lot of options for people to switch to solar for energy and to convert their homes from fossil fuel-based energy to electric energy. In my home, we hatched a plan to change out our aging gas-powered water heater for an electric one and run it off our solar panels. Next would be replacing our home heating and cooling system to all electric. Then we told all our neighbors why and how we did it.

In 2023, Swiss voters approved a net-zero climate law to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and to aim to be climate neutral by 2050. They made it. As their glaciers melted, people accelerated the changes and they beat their own deadline of 2050. Meanwhile, other countries were already there. By 2023, eight countries had already reached net zero: Bhutan, Comoros, Gabon, Guyana, Madagascar, Niue, Panama and Suriname. Then came large companies that committed to becoming net zero. In 2023, 42% of Fortune 500 companies reached net zero or publicly proclaimed they intended to reach net zero by 2030. Like I said, good things were happening, but they barely made the headlines.

One ironic development in the 2020s was that people realized nature already had many of the solutions to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere. We knew forests, grasslands, peatlands, the oceans and other ecosystems had always been part of the carbon cycle. So rather than treating those ecosystems like they were endless and expendable, the world accelerated their protection. Even the challenging goal of protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 was reached. People also began to restore these spaces and recover endangered species just like they had recovered animals that were a breath away from extinction last century, like bald eagles, California condors, blue whales, American alligators and sea otters.

Another solution came from “Wee beasties’. “Wee beasties’ is the nickname given to microbes by their discoverer in the 1670’s, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Soil microbes help plants draw down carbon and store it in the soil. To enable soil microbes to do their work, more farmers started to plant a diversity of crops, reduced tilling, and grew cover crops to protect soil. Soil loss was slowed, crops grew better and “wee beasties” had a chance to do their work. Those efforts contributed a full 10% to the global draw down of carbon from the atmosphere.

As drought, wildfires, stronger storms, and flooding ramped up in the 2020s, a few pioneers turned to a unique idea….regenerative ocean farming. Imagine a multi-level, floating, low-tech, hurricane proof structure built 6 feet below the ocean’s surface. Lines and nets hold a vertical ocean garden of seaweed, scallops, oysters and mussels. To grow these healthy crops, there was no need for freshwater, pesticides or fertilizer. One crop, seaweed, could be used for food, for bioplastics and when a small amount is used in cattle feed, those cattle produced half the amount of methane (a greenhouse gas 80 times worse than carbon dioxide). For those who sought out an ocean farm lease and invested $20,000 in materials to build small commercial ocean farm sites, the opportunity made a huge personal difference. But even better, the World Bank’s report in the 2020s came true. Once 5% of U.S. ocean waters were being used for regenerative ocean farming, the protein equivalent of 3 trillion cheeseburgers was being grown, it created 50 million new jobs, and it absorbed 135 million tons of carbon each year.

Once younger people took the reins of leadership, change happened rapidly. They were not bound by ‘how it has always been done’ and could clearly envision how things could be done imaginatively. With nothing to lose, they stood on boxes to reach microphones so they could speak to their city councils, they built websites to inform people about endangered species, they raised money for causes they cared about, and they planted forests. Many of them started at 8 or 9 years old. Inspired, we adults followed their lead. Adults really only needed to listen to their ideas and help them. Young people knew the stakes and worked hard to save their future.

So, as with many turning points in the past, when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, change happened….one country, one city, one household, one person at a time. There was a way to pause the future we were sliding towards and to dial back some of the damage that had been done. We found ourselves at our most powerful point in human history, broke out of our apathy, and stepped into greatness. It wasn’t impossible and it wasn’t inevitable.
Terry Lawson Dunn, Founder
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