What does it mean to be an adult in the 21st Century?

By Gudrun Cartwright

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Thankyou to the people at the School Climate Strike on 15/02/09 in Southampton for allowing me to take and use this photo

What does the term ‘grown up’ bring to mind for you? In a society where growing older is seen as a bad thing, is it appealing? As children and young people, we want more than anything to be adults. To feel in charge of our own destiny, be taken seriously and exercise agency in the world. However, when we reach adulthood, it’s easy to get distracted from the privileges and responsibilities being grown up bring us. But we will become adults. To reach the peak of our powers. To be the ones who take care of things. Are we doing a good job?

To me, being a grown up means taking responsibility for my actions. It means understanding my role in the bigger picture and the contribution I need to make for the good of the whole, not just me and mine. When we lived in small communities, with limited technology, a focus on making sure our dear ones were OK was fine. But in today’s global, interconnected society it isn’t. We are all dependent on a healthy home planet and can no longer ignore that our behaviour is driving exploitation of people and nature at a rate that is undermining Earth’s life support systems. Upon which we depend entirely.

What the world needs right now is a new breed of grown up. One that is prepared to stand back, understand the reality we live in and act to change our trajectory away from planetary emergency to regenerative future. Our young people are crying out for it. Calling us on our behavior and telling us to change. Friday’s climate strike was the biggest so far. Yet, the adults in charge are responding with patronizing words at best and threatening actions at worst.

My response is to commit to becoming a Grown up fit for the 21st Century. To answer the call of young people to take responsibility for my part in creating the mess we are in and finding ways out of it. Undertake an experiment to build a better life that reverse our current trajectory. Speak out. Stop passing responsibility on to future generations. Rekindle my own youthful idealism and desire to make a difference. Before I had a mortgage, job and other obligations. Make it satisfying and rewarding. Challenge the status quo. Create a legacy to be proud of.

In the first Permaculture Magazine of 2019, Maddy Harland challenged Permaculturistas to become more active in the world. To challenge more. To acknowledge that just focusing on our own lives isn’t enough. How do we get messages out? Inspire new ways of thinking and acting at scale? Help to change systems from the inside out? Enable people to see there are other ways and they can be better.

I believe permaculture can change the world, but as practitioners we need to be part of it more fully. To build models of being and doing that intrigue and show benefits for people and nature. Go mainstream in helping people change. I would be thrilled if you would join me in bringing your knowledge and expertise to this experiment — it is far greater than mine.

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