The Fifth Sacred Thing by Jessica Perlstein www.jessicaperlstein.com
Creativity flourishes when we are rested, aligned with nature, and have our basic needs provided. And, when we are supported beyond our basic needs, creativity skyrockets. However, many of my community college students are struggling to provide for their basic needs, and they also report varying levels of anxiety and depression. Some students think about the possibility of a school shooting every single day. Some students have recently had their personal safety threatened and are dealing with the aftereffects of trauma.
I frequently refer students to counseling and remind them about the support services offered on our campus. And, in my classroom, I work hard to create safe communities where every student is welcome to learn, share, grow, change, and heal. After decades of working in education, I know that every single person is healing from something and is deserving of kindness. My hope and the hope of most educators and administrators is to witness our students becoming more empowered, resilient, motivated, informed, and emotionally intelligent because of their studies at community college.
None of us can deny that the information age is overwhelming us with a deluge of negative predictions. It is challenging to dream and focus on the positive when another mass shooting happens down the road. I know my students will naturally feel more discouraged and anxious because of realities in our world.
To create balance, it is important for students (and all of us) to imagine what we want to create in the future and what it would realistically take to create this future.
Through research, my students found that time in nature has numerous benefits including “..improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.” Beyond this, students began to question their diets, their consumption, and examine ways they might be able to influence city planners and government officials.
My focus on climate resilient awareness for environmental sustainability in English 1301 was not to add to student’s anxiety levels, but to help them understand that when old patterns are broken, new, beautiful worlds can emerge. Afterall, one of the messages from my near-death experience commanded me to, “Remind them to go to nature.”
Sarah Nicol (who developed the company G.I.V.E. 4R FUTURE which includes customizable-hybrid-supplemental-agile units for instructors) inspired me to add this new focus on environmental sustainability to my class. Sarah and I agree that our world needs big thinkers with creative ideas and the knowledge to implement these ideas.
For one of their first essays, I asked my students to imagine sustainable, happy futures and imagine how they had contributed successfully to these changes.
The students wrote about cities they knew well 30 to 50 years in the future. I was entertained and encouraged by their creations. Here are a few examples–
Electric Cars and Clean Air in Crowley, 2055
Alex P. writes, “In the year 2055 all you see on the roads are electric vehicles. I even have one, and I remember the joy I experienced when I first bought the fastest electric car on the market. Funny enough, she was called the 817 Lightning, and I named her Flash. Loved driving her around, knowing the only thing she was doing was getting the kids excited about having a Lightning one day.
Once a small town, Crowley is now the leader in innovation of green powered technology. Imagine this, you wake up, you hear the beautiful birds singing, wind rustling through the trees, kids using vines to swing as if they are spiderman. It is a beautiful pollution-free day, and you whir up your electric vehicle and ride through the beautiful new city that once was just a small grey town.
How did I contribute to all these changes? Well, I had a little tool called imagination, and that is how every single invention has been made. You keep working until your ideas become a reality…”
Earth Day in New Fort Worth, 2073
Jessica G. writes, “Every Earth Day we celebrate by planting more in our neighborhood gardens, spreading wildflower seeds on all the paths, and planting more fruit-barring trees in different parts of the city. These lessons will carry through generations. We cannot afford to revert to old ways and give up our only planet for cheap deliveries and convenience. The weather of all countries has returned to pre-industrial revolution states, and we love seeing the stars at night. Humans are meant to dream and be in touch with the inspiration that comes from our beautiful earth.”
New Seattle, 2080
Bryan F. writes, “After the volcanic explosion, New Seattle emerged as the cleanest city in the nation with the only pollution being from general waste of the people living there. New Seattle became so self-sustainable that Washington State no longer had a need to import or export goods. Seeing the success of New Seattle, many people called out to the entire nation to invoke change in all the cities, not just New Seattle. The idea that the entire world could work together and clean up our amazing planet took people by storm. The push swept across the entire world changing our way of life. Being a part of this change might be one of most heroic things I’ve done.”
Fast Fashion and Teleportation in Kyiv, 2093
Shakayla H. writes, “Additionally, what was shocking to me was Kyiv’s system of on-a-go clothing development. Around each of the subway stations, vending machines offered customers personalized, eco-friendly garments on the go. You insert five dollars, and take a stand near the scan, which will automatically scan your body shape. Then, the indicator board shows you the colors, patterns, and stitches you can choose to create a fashionable look. If you dislike the offered options, you can connect to the internet and select any image you wish— from famous Michelangelo paintings to pictures of cars.
After you confirm the look, you only need to enter the cabin and take off your clothes. The machine automatically utilizes a spray, which covers your body in the garment of a desired form, color, and image. The clothes made of this technology remind me of the Torres runway show, where Bella Hadid was covered in a fabric, a liquid fabric that created a dress.
The clothes are completely degradable. Thus, they are elastic, the clothes will not tear. Additionally, if the person falls, the clothes will be fine and protect the human body from trauma. It is possible to get rid of the clothes by cutting them with scissors and then disposing of the pieces on the ground. The pieces will dissolve and serve as fertilizer to the crops. Due to their affordability, finances achieved from the vending machines are transmitted to the shelters for homeless people. Kyiv evolved from an unknown, decimated city in Eastern Europe to an ecological and aesthetic community with a high quality of life.
Finally, the city of Kyiv launched teleport stations around its subway areas. I noticed that teleporting as a means of transportation was quite new and experimental. There was a black ark, and on the left, there was a screening tool where the person selected the location in various subway stations. I asked people about the tool, and they responded that the major and chief engineers launched the initiative of teleporting. The automobile and airplane industries produced extremely high carbon emissions in 2053, which led to an ecological catastrophe. Then, people started using flying cars powered by solar energy. However, in 2081, the national committee of ecological welfare of Ukraine announced the initiative to develop teleporting stations to substitute flying machines. Hence, Ukraine was a pioneer in teleporting engineering.”