Artwork by Sandra Schroeder

Artwork by Sandra Schroeder

At Divergence, twelve participants collaborated to create the story of their ideal future, on a planet threatened by climate change. Together, the group illustrated the scenes from their story, resulting in a narrative mural.

On a rainy day in October 2016, a group of activists, colleagues, and friends gathered in the community room of the SoHo location of Patagonia in New York City. Although some had just met, they set about answering the question set forth by Per Espen Stoknes, in his book, What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming: “What is your story of where we ought to go? What is a society worth living – and dying – for? If we don’t know we surely won’t get there.”

The participants were asked to imagine an ideal future 50 years from now. As a group they told the story, each person sharing one sentence at a time, of how humanity got there. After the story was completed and recorded onto sticky notes, the group began illustrating scenes that represented each sentence into a long narrative mural. Their story, and our possible future, is a glimpse into the hopes and anxieties of people faced with the reality that our world is changing around us. Without addressing what kind of future we want, we condemn ourselves to a future created by the inertia of inaction.

The collaborative aspect of the work was more than just conceptual; it allowed the group to build a framework for each other on which to build their narrative. Having a variety of participants with different backgrounds, values, and perspectives was also a key factor as it forced the participants to reconcile with others’ interests.