Don't despair: some hope for our world from the margins

Humans have always experienced the sense that the world is nearing its end. My childhood was characterised by a strong fear of nuclear annihilation as the last years of the Cold War played out in the mid to late 80s.

I was eight years old when scientists started publishing research about the growing hole in the ozone layer and discussing global warming.

I remember my nightmares, but I also remember my mother taking my sister and I to rallies, teaching us how to make spectacular protest signs, encouraging me to write to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. She taught us how to take action.

When we face disaster and take action, we do so with hope and optimism, because we believe what we do, can and does make a difference.

But what happens when we lose hope, or embrace denial and despair either as individuals or populations? Action ceases; it is easier to turn away than to engage, and we give up on the future.

Where then can we find hope, and how can we hold on to it?

Ironically hope, positive action, creative and critical thinking abound in the margins. It lives in the very communities most likely to experience prejudice and discrimination, lower life expectancies, collective and epigenetic trauma, and higher rates of suicide, poverty and mental illness.

Last month, I launched Making the Margins, a creative digital space to bring together those who have experienced marginalisation and prejudice, with artists, thinkers and change-makers to collaborate on works to ensure their voices are heard at the centre of the conversation, not the edges.

Regional communities will have access to the collaborative and creative potential of our digital lab space, and we plan to partner with arts, business and community organisations.

Creative and critical thinking are vital to our collective survival.

With the global rise of extremist right wing politics, we must turn to poets, artists, dancers, musicians and philosophers to teach us how to rally, connect, attend to moments of joy, and see beyond our own horizons.

American poet and thinker Adrienne Rich wrote "despair ... is, like war, the failure of imagination".

If there is a time for hope, gentleness, imagination and generosity; for opening up what it means to live when we think the world is ending, that time is, undoubtedly, right now.

Quinn Eades is a La Trobe University researcher, writer, performer and award-winning poet.