By Christine T. Holbrook
This semester I took Sustainable Future (SUST210) taught by Professor Graham Pickren, a course of study required to complete my bachelor’s degree in Sustainability Studies. Throughout this course, I learned a great deal of the issues we’ve overcome thus far, and the issues we have yet to overcome for the future of our planet. If we continue our progress it CAN be a very green future, indeed. The very last question to the final exam had me reeling with hope for our future, the possibilities therein, and with passion to be a part of it all. Professor Pickren asked his students to imagine the future of Chicago and what it may look like based upon what we’ve learned this semester. This was my answer, edited slightly for this blog.
It is August 31, 2060, and it is my 80th birthday. My grandchildren come to my round solar-powered home and we make a cake together with locally-sourced ingredients. Due to climate change and the hot and wet summers in Chicagoland, almonds, dates, and fruits all now grow in abundance. As my grandchildren sing the traditional “Happy Birthday” song, I look out of my window and see trees and other native plants. Off in the distance I see a large wind turbine that helps to supplement the neighborhood’s power.
The air is clear and fresh, and the sounds of summer cicadas and other wildlife have returned in abundance. At the end of each neighborhood is a small goat farm that provides milk, soaps, fertilizer, and on the rare occasion, meat. Eating meat is reserved for special occasions only, if eaten at all- people add their names to “waiting lists” which can be incredibly expensive. Large food “manufacturers” have either died out or progressed into other unique and sustainable categories. Each homeowner that has a yard now cultivates fruits, vegetables, or keeps bees to provide fresh honey, and neighbors constantly barter for ingredients for recipes.
“Winter Canning” parties have replaced the plastic “Tupperware” parties of the past and are enjoyed both by men and women. It is a fun, yet essential preparation for the harsh Chicago winters. Those who do not have a yard, share community gardens or have a hydroponic garden on their patio or kitchen. “Lobbies” to buildings are a thing of the past- small community play areas, gardens, and green space (both indoor and outdoor) have taken over. Rooftop gardens are commonplace. Chicago is the mecca for sustainable practices in the world.
A park is a short 5-10 minute walk away, and we enjoy a tremendous sight of eco-friendly parks filled with prairie plantings, fragrant fruit orchards, local birds, native wildlife, and bees aplenty on previously vacant lots. Each neighborhood has its own sustainable farm, a plethora of trees, and more options for public transportation, walking, or biking.
Because of this, obesity has all but been eradicated. It is not as common or necessary to own a car now, and if you do- it is 100% electric and sustainable. Problems for electricity storage have been solved- the electronic grid has been updated to be able to transport and store wind turbine and solar energy. The local news reports that the world population has capped out at approximately nine billion and is predicted to stabilize now.
Although climate change has increased the rainfall to the area tremendously, flooding is a thing of the past due to the installation of permeable pavement on roads, light in colorto actually help cool the city of Chicago. Medians on major highways contain trees and prairie plantings which have increased the occurrence of bird migration and bee populations that help pollinate all of our cultivated plants. Although people are living in very close proximity to each other now- due to the migration from southern and coastal areas made uninhabitable by climate change- crime is rare because people have their needs met. And if they do not, well- their neighbors step in and help them quickly.
Perhaps all of this is more a utopian scenario than what our future truly holds. However, the possibilities that it could happen are great- with superb planning, major changes to the human mindset, and prioritizing the health of the planet for the sake of saving humanity — ABOVE ALL ELSE.
Christine T. Holbrook