May 2017 Michel Danino: Making spirituality the foundation of social activism Said Soran Kierkegaard, a renowned philosopher, “Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.” Alternative Futures is a research group that exemplifies this philosophy. We live in times when, driven by desire, we seek to create infinite material growth from a planet with finite resources. Alternative Futures has shown the courage to dream of a different reality. Opening doors to correcting our past mistakes, Alternative Futures presents technological and social innovations that contribute to a notion of development which offers something to everyone while maintaining a sense of ecological balance. By recasting development in a spiritual framework, the picture that Alternative Futures has produced is of social inclusion and plurality. They seek to realise their vision through tangible policy initiatives that impact the everyday lives of people. The four tenets of their approach are ecological sustainability, social justice, spirituality, and cultural pluralism. Emphasis is placed on conserving our planet for future generations, facilitating a secure and equitable distribution of nature’s bounty amongst different social groups, strengthening the belief that all forms of life are interconnected and lastly, ensuring that this interconnectedness is maintained through peaceful co-existence. In 2016, Alternative Futures came up with an annual lecture series to give a platform to eminent speakers who have contributed towards a sustainable model of development. Their first speaker was Mansoor Khan, a film maker turned social activist, who urged the audience to curb their needs in order to preserve our fast depleting resources. This year’s annual lecture was delivered by Michel Danino, a professor of Indian culture, who took the listeners on a journey through the ancient Indic civilisation to indicate that the answer to our current problems may lie in our traditional way of living. By making spirituality the foundational premise of social activism, Alternative Futures has indeed shown that to bring a change in society we first need to accept our oneness with each other and nature.
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