One of my first writing projects, many many moons ago, was a series of short stories based around a period in the future when humanity had collectively decided to own up to its collective mistakes and work towards an honestly better life, as non-polluting as possible, easy on the land and the flora and fauna that lived on that land. The stories were originally intended to be breakdowns for illustrated content for a graphic novel, but I thought the stories ultimately worked better than my graphic content.
It was a time when racism was recognized as a non-issue, as there were only variations on the one race—the Human race—and people didn’t distinguish each other by physical differences. It was a time when people understood the proper uses and limitations of technology, and when it wasn’t needed in areas where people could handle the task just fine. It was a time when finances didn’t control people’s lives, they only augmented government-supported basic lifestyle levels, which made sure no one was homeless, hungry or cold. And it was a time when we embraced nature in all its beauty and complexities, and made sure we left as minimal a footprint as possible on our Earthly neighbors and environment.
I even developed a name for this period: The Onuissance, or Age of Responsibility. I saw this as the inevitable result of humanity’s coming to a full understanding of what it took to be a highly-functioning part of the planet we live on, and devoting itself to cleaning its own house and achieving that high standard of living and harmony.
This, of course, was science fiction set about a few centuries in the future. When I wrote it, climate change and global warming were not yet recognizable “things” with the public, and many of the environmental pressures we find ourselves in now weren’t issues then. In other words, we were still a long ways off before we reached the brink that would force its pivot to the fictional Age of Responsibility. In real life—no surprise—we find ourselves reaching that brink a lot sooner than in my fiction.
But we are certainly teetering ever closer to that brink, with climate change wrecking environments and killing entire species faster than it has in centuries; and with people becoming even more divisive and antagonistic over petty things like skin color, and invented things like money, until neighbors refuse to come together over even the simplest problems and issues on their block.
My Onuissance stories presented a world of humans that reached that brink and finally joined hands to save itself, instead of flinging itself into the abyss. Today, and especially thanks to the last four years of governance in the U.S., a frightening number of people are willingly poising themselves to jump, and pulling the rest of us with them. Onuissance is close to being denied, in favor of immolation.
Will calmer, more intelligent heads pull us from the edge in time? Or will we, as a nation, jump into that abyss, leaving others to usher in the Onuissance? I don’t know, but I expect I’ll know soon; we’re not far from that decision point now.