Module 7: Imagining the Future We Want

Responding to a big issue like climate change can make people feel overwhelmed, even though there are lots of alternatives and solutions. In this module, we engage students to imagine the world they want.

This module draws on Climate Justice Project research including:


  • Students will view the current climate crisis as a call to action.
  • Students will connect to the ecological story of our time and the implications for their future descendants.
  • Students will be motivated to take action to make a better life and future for themselves and the people they care about.


Social Studies 8, 9, 10, 11; Civic Studies 11; Comparative Civilizations 12; Geography 12; Social Justice 12; Sustainable Resources 12
English Language Arts 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; Communications 11, 12
Home Economics: Family Studies 10, 11, 12



  • Digital projector and computer with internet access
  • Some type of auditory cueing device (e.g. a bell or chime)


“The human enterprise has already overshot global carrying capacity and accelerating global change will soon force the world community to contemplate the end of material growth. If our best climate and environmental science is basically correct then humanity faces a choice between maintaining business-as-usual — in which case nature is likely to impose a chaotic implosion — or planning an orderly equitable contraction. In short, to achieve sustainability with justice we will have to deliberately scale back the global economy (or at least reduce the throughput of energy and material) and consider means to redistribute ecological and economic wealth at national and local levels.”
– William Rees, Avoiding Collapse

Many people see the climate crisis as a call to action – to make things better and to strive for climate justice. The transition away from fossil fuels can be a way to improve the lives of all people and to ensure the benefits and burdens of the transition are distributed equitably. As we make major changes to reduce our GHG emissions and adapt to climate change, there are many opportunities for well-paying jobs and innovation. We do not face a technological challenge so much as a challenge of finding the political will to make change.

The climate justice questions for this moment become:

  • How can we build a sustainable future that strengthens our economy and society, and that doesn’t only benefit some at the expense of others?
  • What things are young people doing to start this revolution?

SHOW VIDEO: What can young people in your community do to react to climate change?

ACTIVITY: “The Double Circle”

This activity draws on Joanna Macy’s The Work that Reconnects, specifically Chapter 9, “Deep Time: Reconnecting With Past and Future Generations.”

Note: The following exercise should have an atmosphere of shared space and ceremony. Student and teacher cell phones/mobile devices should be turned off and inaccessible during this time in order to maintain the feeling of a sacred space and eliminate distraction of focus. Teachers should also put great intention behind how they are speaking and the character of their cues for transition. The use of a bell or chime to signal the end of response time is highly recommended.

Create two concentric circles (an inside circle and an outside circle that encompasses it). There should be the same number of people in both circles. People in the inside circle face out, and people in the outside circle face in, so that everyone is facing a partner. Once students have made this formation, ask them to sit in silence for 10 seconds before they start the exercise to set the tone.

Throughout this exercise, when one person is talking, it is important for the listener to be totally present for them and to listen actively. Keep in mind that body language to indicate active listening will differ for people for cultural and other reasons; the important thing is for each student to bring all of their attention to what they are doing, saying and hearing.

READ ALOUD: The people on the inside circle – the person sitting across from you is your descendant. Through a miracle of fate, you are able to be face to face with your great, great, great, great, great grandchild – seven generations from now. The future is a very different world than it is today, and our present moment is known in the future as a pivotal one in the history of humanity. [Insert current year here] is a time of ecological disaster. Centuries of burning fossil fuels have altered the climate of our planet, and it is this present moment that determined the future for generations after.

Your descendant asks this question: “Ancestor, is what we’ve been taught by our teachers and learned in our history courses true? Is it true that in the times in which you lived, wars and preparations for war, hunger and homelessness, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, poisons in the seas and soil and air, the death of many species… all these things were happening all the time? What was that like for you?”

Ask the person from the present to respond to the person from the future.

Ring a bell or chime to signal the end of the response time.

Ask the people in the outside circle to rotate clockwise to the next person in the inside circle.

READ ALOUD: The descendants ask a second question: “Ancestor, we have stories and films and songs that tell of what you and your friends did back in your time to bring important changes to the world for the better. What I want to know is how did you start? You must have felt lonely and confused sometimes, especially at the beginning. What first steps did you take? How did you take part in that change process?”

Ask the person from the present to respond to the person from the future.

Ring a bell or chime to signal the end of the response time.

Ask the people in the outside circle to rotate clockwise again.

READ ALOUD: The descendants ask a third question. “Ancestor, I know you didn’t stop with those first actions on behalf of the Earth, despite the challenges you faced. Tell me, what gave you hope? Where did you find the strength and what gave you joy to continue working so hard, despite all the obstacles and discouragement?”

Ask the person from the present to respond to the person from the future.

Ring a bell or chime to signal the end of the response time.

READ ALOUD: Descendants, please stay where you are. Now it is your turn to talk, while your ancestor listens. Share what you thought and felt after all you have heard from your ancestors.

Ring a bell or chime to signal the end of the activity.

Debrief exercise as a class. Students can respond to these questions verbally or in writing:

  • What emotions came up in the course of this exercise?
  • How did it feel to tell the story to your descendants, or to hear the story from your ancestors, in the context of “history”?
  • What ideas came to mind when you described, or heard about, how we took action to address climate change?
  • What came to mind when you spoke or heard about what provided hope when hardships or obstacles arose?
  • What would you like to do in this present moment to make a better life and future for you and the people you care about? Be specific:
    • What can I do in my family?
    • What can we do as a classroom?
    • What can we do as a school?
    • What can we commit to now?