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#tolerancemeans a sustainable future

Sarah Faulkner, Graduate, Queen Mary University of London

November 23, 2023


The climate crisis was first detected as a man-made phenomenon more than 40 years ago. We know that the consequences for all of humankind are severe, yet there is hope. My interest in the topic of tolerance through dialogue lies in the opportunity that remains for us to create a sustainable future, with a focus on the potential for communities divided by narratives of dissent to engage in a collective response.


Sarah Faulkner

I am a mature student, born at the tail end of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation and the mother of two ‘Millennial’ daughters. During their lifetimes I have seen our generations labelled, stereotyped, disenfranchised, and put into conflict with each other to meet political and economic agendas. The manufacture and repetition of oppositional narratives of identity in the media are, in my view, a form of oppression that causes injury to our relationships with each other and with ourselves. The ultimate injury is to our environment, as our attention is drawn away from the imperative to act on the earth crisis and its immediate threats to life, justice, and a sustainable future. In this context I argue that tolerance is the minimum requirement for a dialogue of repair, rather than an outcome in and of itself. Dictionary definitions of tolerance suggest a power relation in which differences of being, value or behaviour are allowed, endured, or accepted on sufferance. From this viewpoint the subversion of effort via the weaponization of identity is an omnipresent risk, even when the stakes are high. Tolerance is therefore a starting point for dialogue, a ceasefire that brings diverse interests into the room with a shared purpose. The role of dialogue in this scenario is to build foundations of community that enable collaboration and co-production in the design of a different future. This is not to say that the rich and unique histories, identities, and interests of individuals should be swept aside, instead I am advocating that we begin the process of getting to know, respect, and care for each other as fellow humans within conversations about a just and sustainable way of living for all. Some may question my right to speak about oppression, tolerance, dialogue, community, collaboration, and the future from my position as a white, British, educated, middle-class woman. My argument is that we must all speak, and speak together, if anything is to change, recognising the differences in opportunity, experience, and privilege that prevail in our unequal society. The ambition seems immense, yet dialogue is taking place across the globe via protest, education, art, research, and in political arenas. My hope for the future is that the voices raised will be raised together in a collective shout as they speak their truth to power.

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