The Great Burning of 2084

In June 2020, Enough! hosted Stories for Terrestrial Survival, a creative writing workshop led by poet and translator Juana Adcock. The workshop was held to honour Degrowth Day. Here we share some of the writing produced during the workshop.

Nothing written on pixelated waters survives. 

Only scribbled or printed paper carries the words of those times.

In the furious burning, the neural pathways of pixelated connectedness are gone, gone completely.

Whole empires and architectures of words and images burnt to the ground that day. Slow motion skyscrapers of profit and loss columns crumbled and crashed. Court orders, chains of command, debt transactions all turned to ash.   

Speeding in cars and planes and space rockets of momentary sharing, searing gaming, blasting headsets, episode 2,453 of series 307 of umpteen entertaining hollowing out distractions, cascading calendars of important meetings, to do lists that had given us a doing for decades . . . all gone in the great burning. 

No pixel material left at all. 

None of that empire that had captivated, beguiled, ordered, been ordered, that had strung us along higher and higher, intensifyingly instantaneous, promising promising, ever more sure this is where we can live, connect, find fulfilment, be free . .  none of that left at all. 

There was intense loss for billions that day. 

None of the pixels shaped into searchable statues of self-importance survived. None of the chimera of virtual connection survived. 

Not for me or of me,

for you or of you,

for them or of them,

for us or of us.

None of our projected

self- and shared- importance

survived at all.

Not even echoes. 

All gone in the great burning.  

No more screens blinking at us. 

All current in all streetlights, shopfronts, advertising hoarding, motorway snaking, headlights of car and plane and ship, all gone. 

Our eyes blink in the great darkness of night. 

Thrown out into a desolated landscape where those who fought ‘our’ wars snatch fitful sleep in fearful torn up corners. Where vast and intricate forests have been grubbed, and serried lines of obedient plantations are kept going by the poisoning that preserves and pollutes them. A poison that no longer runs in, but works its way through, taunting any possibility of a future.

All hope in our techno-future died where pixels of virtual connection and currents of promised power-for-nothing electricity breathed their last, burnt their last, leaving that future in the past. Techno-desolation.

Out here in the darkness after the great burning. 

There are stars again. 

There is a growing edge of birdsong where there was only motor roar. 

My heart beat can be heard again.

The four walled prison screen is broken, and through the down whole I can see ridges of chimneyed rooftops, distant hills, crashing waves, thundering clouds, galaxies tail-flicking stars in the night.

The horizon rushes in to meet us, wanting to dance.

We had thought the future was far off, hurtling towards us, unknown. We had thought the future rushes past us in an instant, turns to solid chunks of unalterable past. We thought there was no present to stand on, no place to be sure of, to know, to make our stand, to turn the whole thing round.

How wrong we were.

The future is all here, knowable in the present, not hurtling towards but emerging from us. The past isn’t behind us, unreachable. It has gone here into the present, it is who we are, and can surface, be known, can transform in this alchemical moment of future arising.

Here where night is vaster than the stars, its vastness only visible by starlight

Our eyes brush with the wild undergrowth of our imaginations. 

Breath is afoot again. 

I saw your face and it was looking at me. . . .

. . . Not at a message from me, not at a meme, an image, an article, a pixel sent wrapped up in my love or desire or envy or greed. 

Not looking at me blinking pixelated at you . . . but looking at this me-that-I-am because I was looking at you, you-as-you-are. . . and the looking was more than each of us could bear

And what was there? 

What was shared? 

What arose?

Wild rapids of thankfulness  

By Justin Kenrick

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