Wyrd Words: Pagans: IN SPAAACE!!!

 For the month of March, our Managing Editor has given us an AWESOME writing prompt.

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Much of the current dialogue in the Pagan blogosphere is about carving out ways to explain and justify our personal experiences and beliefs in relation to other traditions, but without a clear vision of the place our own traditions and experiences might have in an ideal world. Will the Pagan movement become one tradition-heavy set of religions with several “fringes”? Will it split apart into competing factions? Or will we find a way to unite using some shared cultural language? What institutions will we build, or will we build institutions at all? What rights or recognition will we have in the larger society?

What does your Paganism look like in 50 years?

How could a complete nerd, like myself, NOT take a prompt like that?

But if we’re gonna jump down this rabbit hole, let’s do it properly!

OFF TO THE FUTURE!!!

One of the most important things to remember when making predictions like this is that no community exists in a vacuum. We are the product of physical and social stressors in our environment, which change our behaviors as we adapt to the changes in our surroundings. So before we can think about what PAGANISM will look like in 50 years, we’ll have to figure out what America will look like in 50 years. I’m focusing on the USA, because there’s just NO WAY IN HELHEIM that I’m going to fit the entire world into 1000-ish words. (Sorry U.K. readers, I still love you!) So let’s throw the bones and see what we find!!

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The Environment: It’s getting hot in here…

The southwest desert of 2064 is a VERY different place. In 2014, Arizona and New Mexico both have some of the fastest growing populations in the country, and (not coincidentally) a quickly dwindling water supply. Even if we assume the BEST CASE SCENARIO, the average temperature on a summer day in Phoenix is probably going to be between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Most estimates predict that the Colorado River will dry out by 2050, meaning that all fresh water will have to be shipped in. (Which is EXPENSIVE)

In addition to current climate trends, the agricultural industries will continue to degrade soil and deplete fresh water supplies. Why would they keep doing this? There are lots of reasons, not the least of which is because the government pays them to. The unfortunate reality is that the most environmentally damaging crops tend to be the most profitable.

As this happens, the states to the north will start to get more arid, killing of most of the wild plant life, which will raise temperatures. By 2064, the southwest desert will probably cover most of the great plains and the west coast. That’s about 90% of the land west of the Mississippi, the majority of which is currently where pretty much all of America’s food comes from. To top that off, rising sea levels will have taken away a fair amount of potential farmland in the south-east.

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The Economy: With a map like that, do we really need to say it?

With such big changes in the environment on the horizon, what could that mean for our economy?

First, and most importantly, in this model by 2064 the agricultural industry has been DECIMATED. What was once the “Bread Bowl” of the united states is once again the “Dust Bowl”, and farmland is a rare and expensive commodity. This means that only the biggest, corporate farms will likely be able to afford to stay in the business. As rural farming communities slowly collapse, most people will move to more urban areas, which will be supported by these giant corporate farms.

So now that I’ve lulled you all to sleep with the boring bits, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Mostly that food will get much more expensive, and the rich are just going to get richer. Sorry Occupiers, the future doesn’t look like that’s gonna change any time soon.

 

Society: This part actually doesn’t suck

Believe it or not, this isn’t a doomsday article! Things will probably get pretty rough in the coming decades, but we’ll survive. If we’re lucky, we might even come out on top. Current statistical trends indicate that our our population will become much more diverse, and with the rate that our medical technology is advancing, we can look forward to increased life expectancy. Most of the population will live in dense metropolitan areas, and with that shift comes some interesting data on changes in political and ideological perspectives. (Hope you like your states blue…)

One social trend that I predict will likely gain steam in the coming decades is the “Grow Locally/Community Gardening” trend. It may be in its “hipster” phase, but already there are dozens of communities across the country that have built local food gardens that are maintained by local residents. In a world where food prices are just going to keep escalating, this high-minded idea could easily become a purely practical exercise. When food is expensive and space is limited, neighborhood gardens can provide some much-needed financial relief to those in the lower income brackets.

 

Paganism in 2064: So where do we come in?

Even today there are plenty of organizations that are attempting to build up Pagan infrastructure, but in a world where fewer and fewer people are interested in attending regular religious services, what would a successful Pagan infrastructure in America look like?

To figure that out, we’ll have to build off our model of (America: Circa 2064).

If our model is accurate, we’ll have a densely populated, urban landscape, where a large percentage of people are going to be migrating east due to lower cost of living and more fresh water. Where we were once a community that was scattered across a large country, we will suddenly be much closer to our fellow pagans. Space is limited and temples are expensive to maintain, but by the 2060′s we’ve started building another type of community infrastructure.

 

Pagans and the Birth of the American Kibbutz

In the 1960′s, parts of the Pagan community adapted to embrace a growing social movement that was changing our society. The Feminism movement and Paganism collided, forever altering our community in the form of Goddess-centered Paganism. A hundred years later, our community will be faced with a whole new set of social stressors, and may adapt to embrace yet another cultural movement. As community gardening becomes more and more common for purely economic reasons, those Pagans who are seeking to build physical community centers may take a whole new direction.

The Kibbutz is an Israeli concept that started in the early 1900′s. These are small, intentional, religious communities centered around a communal resource, like an urban farm. People in these communities are usually skilled artisans and farmers, who work to make self sufficient communities of like minded individuals. Given the environment that the Pagans of 2064 will be working with, I predict that those of us who want to build Pagan institutions will develop a type of “grove culture,” small communities or apartment complexes that support urban gardens and artisan crafts. Some of these may be tradition-specific, others might be more eclectic, but those will likely be the common elements between “groves”. These are two popular trends within our current community which could become valuable commodities within the next 50 years, and these groves could allow for both community and financial security.

Hearth, Home, and Temple all wrapped up in small, self sustaining communities.

 

This is just one of many potential paths that our future could lead to. My predictions are based as firmly in scientific research as I could manage, but humanity has a way of being unpredictable.In 1894, the Times of London predicted that every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure by 1950. This was backed by decent math, but nobody foresaw the invention of the “horseless carriage”. So when I say that these predictions are based on the idea that we’re going to continue plodding along in pretty much the same way we are today, one should keep in mind that we might discover cold fusion TOMORROW, and this will be nothing but a silly story to laugh about in 50 years!


Wyrd Words is published on alternate Thursdays. Subscribe via RSS or e-mail!

About Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer is a student of Anthropology at ASU, focused on analyzing and building religious communities. He is a devoted Heathen, and married to a Rabbi in training. Interest in Pagan interfaith relations lead him to join the committee for the formation of the Pagan Chapter at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, where he hopes to utilize his training in community building and cultural exchange. The majority of his work can be located at http://www.heathenhof.com/


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