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What Does Success Look Like? A Report from the Future

Those of us engaged in climate action and communicating to the public about our current and growing climate crisis often draw on our imagination. While we could keep ourselves awake with scary stories of the future and pissed off about the present, it is essential that we also imagine a hopeful future. We need to imagine success. And that takes work.

As a teacher at the Watkinson School over 10 years ago, I facilitated as a coach for other teachers in developing better teaching practice. We used a number of activities called protocols developed by the National School Reform Faculty. One of my favorite protocols to facilitate is called The Future Protocol. We would explore a dilemma in the community–a financial crisis, a type of student who continually struggled to succeed, or perhaps uncertainty about our next moves as a school or faculty. We first carefully defined the dilemma as we each saw it, then we imagined we travelled in time to a future date. Let’s imagine we are meeting again to discuss this dilemma but 5 years from now.

From there we took the following steps:

  1. Project into the future (whatever timeline seems appropriate) and thoroughly describe what it looks like, sounds like and feels like having accomplished this endeavor. (10-15 minutes)
    • Must talk in present tense.
    • Describe what is in this best case scenario. Do not yet describe how.• Focus on the sights, sounds, behaviors and feelings surrounding this accomplishment.
  2. Look “back” from your projected present and describe how it looked when it started. (5-10 minutes) • Must talk in past tense
    • Think about issues, culture, conversations, teacher’s work, student achievement, etc.
    • Try to remain as tangible as possible* Continue to chart this conversation. It is helpful to put dates at the top of the chart to identify the time period to which the group is referring. (5-10 minutes)
  3. Continue looking back from the “projected present” and discuss how you addressed the starting place and how you moved from that to the projected present. (5-10 minutes)

The process always resulted in original, fresh, and often quite useful ideas. It inspired hope as it provided a blueprint about how we might move forward. By changing our perspective to the future then looking back, it freed us to think in new way,s and it gave us hope.

For the past year I have been doing this very thing in regards to the climate crisis. But instead of thinking about five years into the future, I jumped ahead 150 years. That is a long time. A lot can change. Consider the political, social, and technological differences back in 1865. 150 years ago on December 6, 1865 the 13th Amendment was ratified officially ending slavery. That was less than a year after the end of the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

So what about our future? I spent the past year imagining how the world might be different 150 years from now, and how it would be the same. From that future vantage point through my character, Timothy Meadows, I created the radio series, That Day in Climate History. I covered many serious and silly topics: #BlackLivesMatter, Queer Homelessness, Pets, Celebrities, and even NASCAR racing.

Here for you is the final installment of That Day in Climate History, an overview with moving and inspiring conclusions. As we work in the present to address the climate crisis, let’s imagine success for our future.

Here are some of the other segments of That Day in Climate History:


Original art by Aaron Morgan Brown


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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