Questions for a Resilient Future

The Questions series is a community-based forum asking and responding to questions for a more just and resilient future.

How do we come together in a changing world?

In an era of compounding crises, the need to come together to build strong coalitions and communities asks each of us to radically reimagine what belonging—to one another and to our Earth—means. Today, much is seen as waste including others in our movements, communities, and even families. A culture of disposability intensifies distance and separation. In this moment when we need connection more than ever, we invite you to pause and consider: How do we handle each other? 

This publication was produced with generous funding support from our partners at the Kalliopeia Foundation.

What are the lessons of loss?

Loss is a part of the contract of living. To be alive means to live with the inevitability of loss, experiences that can lead us deeper into life’s mystery and closer to each other. Moreover, we live during a time of rapid change and compounded grief—whether due to the threats of climate change, pandemics, food insecurity, war, and mass shootings, or more personal losses such as divorce, foreclosure, illness, intergenerational trauma or the deaths of loved ones. This series, curated by Editorial Fellow Manòn Voice, is an invitation to deepen our capacity to honor and face loss courageously and recover our vulnerability and connection to sacredness, each other, and the world.

An abstract artwork depicting ten people standing in water. For nine of the people, the water is chest-high, and for one person, the water reaches their neck. The image is divided lengthwise by the water, represented by shades of blue, and—above the water—shades of red and orange. There is greenery in the foreground. Additional colors in the image include yellow and pink. Black lines outline the people’s faces and necks, and in some cases, their arms.
A close-up of two pairs of hands, both with palms up. The bottom pair of hands is larger and holds a smaller pair of hands. The smaller pair of hands holds a cedar sprig.

What stories does the land hold?

Across the world, Indigenous people share something in common: our connection to land and our Ancestral territories. We all carry a relationship to land; to the place that we call home, and the places that carry us. This collection of Indigenous voices, curated by Editorial Fellow Christine Luckasavitch, shows the stories of the land that we carry with us and that guide us through our lives. These stories connect us to land, to each other, and to all of our relations.

How do we understand the Cosmos as our home?

As humans travel beyond Earth into Space, where the origins of our world lie, how do we respect, honor, and protect the expanse of the Cosmos? How can we reincorporate the Cosmos as part of our contemporary human story? Responses to these questions offer reconnection with the Cosmos through emotional, spiritual, cultural, historical, and scientific perspectives.

How can we live respectfully with the land and with one another?

In his capacity as Editorial Fellow, Julian Brave NoiseCat has called eight expert witnesses to a tribunal to examine capitalist and colonial relationships to the land and one other. These testimonies endeavor to understand what has gone awry in our human societies, as well as to inquire into what other forms of knowledge, values, and interrelation might form the basis of a more just and reciprocal relationship between land and people.

How do we create communities to which all of us can belong?

These days the experience of alienation is common. Most of us no longer walk upon the land our ancestors once did nor drink from their streams. Many of us do not know the people we live near, let alone the lands and waters we live upon. Yet, we long to belong. We seek home everywhere we go. Underneath this yearning lies a sense that we exist to be part of something greater than ourselves.

What does it mean to be a farmer in the twenty-first century?

Regenerative farming practices that are life-enhancing need to take root on a wider scale. We recognize that these practices need to replace those that are degenerative—harmful to soil, water, and diverse forms of life, including humans. As we endeavor to share ideas and stories that will carry us into a resilient future, we invite you to consider our contributors’ perspectives on farming in the twenty-first century.

What happens when we see ourselves as separate from or as a part of nature?

We evolved within the community of life, and yet we humans often consider ourselves separate from nature. Are we unique? Is this distinction helpful? How do our ways of thinking of ourselves in relation to other life influence the identities we carry and actions we take? 

What kind of ancestor do you want to be?

In the face of challenge and struggle, how can we draw on our ancestors for knowledge, resilience, and hope? As we look to the future, what will we offer to our descendants to draw upon in their own challenging times? What are the stories we will tell today, and how will we enact those stories?

Does fracking violate human rights?

In partnership with the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Session on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking, we are exploring whether or not there are human rights issues at stake in fracking. In what ways does fracking affect climate change, ecosystems, and human health? Join our contributors in considering the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on human well-being. 

What can evolution tell us about morality?

Has the story of human evolution moved beyond “survival of the fittest?” What if instead of seeing humans as ultra-competitors, we saw ourselves as an ultra-social, super-cooperative species? Join us as we examine human morality through the lens of evolution. Read our contributors’ thoughts as they explore the biological and cultural foundations for the development of morality.

What are our moral and civic responsibilities to water?

The droughts experienced by communities worldwide serve as an urgent reminder that we need to more fully comprehend the ethical underpinnings of our water policies. Now more than ever, our actions in relation to water require an encompassing moral foundation—one that includes an understanding of people and water as interconnected parts of a greater whole. Join Center Contributors in considering how our responsibilities to water can help us make better decisions for the whole community of life.

How can zoos and aquariums foster cultures of care and conservation?

Every year, an estimated one tenth of the world’s population passes through the gates of zoos and aquariums. Aquariums, zoos, and other conservation institutions are uniquely poised to influence our capacity for concern, empathy, affection, and, ultimately, care for others. Join Senior Scholars Jeanne Gang and Sylvia Earle and our other contributors as they consider how zoos and aquariums can foster a culture in which people care for both each other and for the rest of nature.

What are the connections between culture and conscience?

Explore the relationship between culture and morality: How do humans discern between right and wrong? How do these decisions shape our communities and cultures? How does culture influence our values?

Can democracy in crisis deal with the climate crisis?

How can a struggling democracy tackle one of the most critical challenges the world faces? Contributors from across the disciplines share their ideas on the interconnections between rejuvenating the democratic process and addressing the climate crisis. How do you perceive a moral pathway forward?

How is nature critical to a twenty-first century urban ethic?

Today, for the first time in history, most people are city-dwellers. How do we nurture urban places that foster meaningful connections among humans and nature? Chicago is one city searching for creative answers. Inspired by two of our partners in Chicago, the Forest Preserves of Cook County and Chicago Wilderness, the Center asks a national audience: How is nature critical to a twenty-first century urban ethic?

What does Earth ask of us?

For centuries, people in extractive economies have asked everything of the Earth—food, shelter, spiritual solace, water, weapons, birthplaces and burial grounds. The question so seldom asked is the reciprocal: What does Earth ask of us? If we are to nurture relationships of renewal and reciprocity with the natural systems that sustain us, it’s very much worth asking what the Earth (literally or metaphorically) summons us to do or to be.

What does it mean to be human?

How we see ourselves is the foundation for our values, our choices, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with the rest of nature. Here, we offer a space for those who wish to take on a serious challenge: to critically examine the assumptions of ourselves and others regarding what it means to be human.

How far should we go to bring back lost species?

The sixth great extinction is upon us. According to the UN Environmental Programme’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, up to 150 species go extinct each day. This is a startling loss of biodiversity, on a scale not witnessed in 66 million years of geologic history. If we can revive an extinct species, should we? With this series we invite you to consider our moral responsibility, as the drivers of the sixth extinction. In promoting and protecting biodiversity, where would you draw the line? How far should we go?

Mind and morality: where do they meet?

What can we draw from science, lived experience, and contemplative practice to get a better glimpse into the mosaic of our minds? Explore the relationship between our moral lives and the interworking of our minds.

Does hunting make us human?

There is little doubt that hunting played a decisive role in our species’ evolution. But with the spread of agriculture and the domestication of animals, the necessity of hunting diminished. Does hunting still contribute to our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with nature?

How can we create a successful economy without continuous economic growth?

Every politician is touting their plan for economic growth. Is economic growth the answer to our challenges? Is economic growth the only way to produce jobs? The only path to a vibrant society and culture? Is continuous economic growth even possible?

To build or not to build a road… how do we honor the landscape?

Truly sustainable infrastructure honors place, community identity, biodiversity, and ecological resilience. Over a dozen experts and thought leaders from across different academic disciplines and civic perspectives share their ideas about when and how roads can be healthy arteries in a thriving, living landscape.

"Gene drive" technology will let us edit life in new ways, but should we use it?

The emerging science of gene drives promises human control greater than ever before over the traits and environmental effects of non-human organisms. While the technology is rapidly being developed, the ethics of its implementation remains to be defined. Join Center contributors in considering if and how we should apply gene drive technology to edit life.

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