Is Faith In The Future Realistic?

image courtesy Benjamin Jarl, unsplash

CHERYL LYON

“Climate change is moving faster than we are, but we don’t give up because we know that climate action is the only path.”

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General

The seeds of a different future are planted and they are local. And the fertilizer of their present soil is believing − having faith − that the future can be different.

Faith increases when we act on it, individually and especially with others. Action-in-common encourages us to try new things. It can give renewed purpose to one’s life in these deeply unsettling times.

Local actions have always contributed to pushing communities, even whole nations, into new thinking and altered directions. Labour strikes in Winnipeg in 1926 brought about more just laws and working conditions for all Canadians. The feminist movement’s “waves” rippled through local communities and continue to resonate in society. Student strikes on university campuses in the ‘60s and ‘70s radically altered post-secondary teaching and learning. Voters who elect younger and diverse representatives to government, including municipal Councils, invariably bring the fresh and daring thinking necessary to meet unprecedented challenges like climate change.

The youth-led Friday Strikes for the Climate are having impact in many cities. Today’s young activists are tomorrow’s voters. Granting them the right to vote at age sixteen would affirm their faith, bolster their hope and provide them with power to determine their own future. The Indigenous Knowledge-informed work of youth at the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC) is foregrounding the sacred duty to keep Life liveable for coming generations. Trent University and Fleming College students and faculty are doing active research easily shared and applied in the local area.

Hope needs faith and vice versa.

Consumerism has commodified even hope! Tour companies take tourists to Chernobyl and sell them t-shirts! Tourists to the Kawarthas bring gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing water toys, after travelling in CO2- emitting vehicles to hopefully escape from hot weather, even as that weather gets inexorably hotter due to the greenhouse effect of that CO2. It’s hard not to despair.

Faced with the potential disappearance of the human presence from this planet, hope will not be sustained without faith. We humans are still being enormously creative in our responses to the climate crisis. Read some of the Greenzine’s stories for local proof.

Hope may comfort us or alleviate despair. We can acquiesce to an attitude of “hoping is all we can do” with the end of the world in sight. Or, we can believe, as so many youth do, in our own human agency that moves us to act, as individuals and together. Based on countless examples, we can have faith in the Earth’s ability to heal herself when we give her the time, respect, or just leave enough of her alone to recover from our relentless assaults. Faith is Hope with a hoe and a solar panel handy.

Holding faith in the future can be more subversive than hoping.

Resistance to the “powers” that shore up the destructive status quo e.g. Big Oil, mega-farming, is often inspired by strong faith in direct action to shift power back to communities to politically and personally effect change.

History has been changed by belief of what could be. Democracy, emancipation from slavery, feminism, all arose out of belief in our ability to change the world. New art is born of faith in a vision. Now, we are enacting a new story of what it means to be human in nature/creation − Homo sapiens, wiser in knowing that we are one with Nature. Humbler too.

Faith, what I believe, is muscular. Saying “I believe I can do something” packs more power than saying “I hope I can do something.”

Believing is “home base” of both action and resistance. It pries us out of the coercion and seduction of profit and consumerism to examine what real needs are now compared to “before times.”

Faith can seem absurd in these climate catastrophe times. But aren’t “these times” about as absurd as they can get?

We may have cut all the flowers, but we know, not hope, that Spring comes again (although it might, sadly, become a very different Spring if we don’t act now.) Seasons are still changing annually, as long as Earth orbits the Sun.

And that, I’m pretty sure, is something we can have faith in for at least another 3 billion years.

Is Faith In The Future Realistic? © 2023 by Cheryl Lyon in the Greenzine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 


We welcome other contributors on the topic of the “virtues” necessary in the climate crisis.

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1 Comment

  1. I appreciate Cheryl’s article. Intentions (rather than wishes) are similar to faith (rather than hope). I am hopeful that our collective faith, intentions, actions in 2024 will make a positive difference.

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