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Prefiguring Alternative Futures: Green Silk Road Education Program 2024

In a world increasingly marked by climate crises, social inequalities, and economic instability, the quest for sustainable, just, and resilient societies has never been more urgent. This year's Green Silk Road education program, aptly titled Prefiguring Alternative Futures, embarks on a transformative journey to explore and cultivate the seeds of systemic change. But what does 'prefiguring alternative futures' mean, and why are these terms so relevant and appropriate for the situation in the world today?

What is Prefiguration?

Prefiguration refers to the practice of enacting and embodying the changes we wish to see in the world, in the present moment. It's about creating living examples of the future we aspire to build, rather than waiting for systemic change to come from someone or somewhere. By practising prefiguration, we turn our ideals into tangible realities, demonstrating that another world is possible and flexing those manifestation muscles that remind us of our agency. It is a very possibility-oriented approach that fits the GSR, as we are all about learning by doing.

What about Alternative Futures?

Alternative futures represent the diverse, imaginative visions for societies that prioritise sustainability, equity, and community well-being over the extractive and exploitative practices of the current dominant systems. These futures challenge the status quo and offer a roadmap for how we can transition towards more regenerative and inclusive ways of living, thinking and working. Another world is not just possible, it is calling us, and by engaging with it we can learn about its multiple qualities and nuances. We propose to use the Flower of Transformation, as developed by the Vikalp Sangam in India, as a tool to assess alternatives and avoid false solutions where we can.

Why these terms now, in 2024?

1. Climate Emergency

The devastating impacts of climate change are everywhere, from catastrophic weather events to the entire species dying out. Prefiguring alternative futures means adopting and showcasing sustainable practices that mitigate environmental harm and promote ecological resilience. Doing less harm and more good, shifting from degeneration to regeneration.

2. Social Inequality

The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, exacerbating social tensions and injustices. By prefiguring more equitable futures, we demonstrate how communities can thrive through mutual aid, cooperative economics, and inclusive governance, decolonising our minds, worldviews, and institutions. Very practically, this would also include a radically participatory approach to exams / accreditation where academia no longer holds the monopoly over knowledge.

3. Economic Instability

Modern era economic models focused on endless growth are killing us. Exploring alternative futures allows us to experiment with circular economies, multiple forms of wealth, alternative ownership models and regenerative practices that prioritise long-term well-being over short-term profit.

4. Cultural Renewal

In a globalised world, cultural homogenization erodes local traditions and identities. Prefiguring alternative futures involves revitalising and celebrating diverse cultural practices that enrich our collective human experience. Travelling is a key antidote against prejudice. At a time when polarisation and othering is the norm, can we model a pluriverse where differences are celebrated?

Participants in this year's Green Silk Road program will travel across Eurasia, visiting pioneering projects and communities that are actively prefiguring various aspects of alternative futures. From ecovillages and social enterprises to forest schools and community land trusts, each destination offers unique insights and practical examples of how to live in harmony with nature and each other.

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