As you may have noticed, as a committed non-flyer, I regularly travel by Eurostar. I love Eurostar. For me it is the low carbon option for getting to Europe, and I use it for that reason, as a conscious alternative to flying. As do many people. I found myself increasingly horrified by seeing, at their St Panchras terminal, video adverts on their large screens in the waiting area, advertising both Exxon and BP. The BP ads were especially galling, with their presenting of BP as the great bearers of the imagination of our times, portraying them as innovators of the low carbon economy (in spite of around 97% of their business still being fossil fuel extraction), under the slogan “we see possibilities everywhere” and some guff about how at some point in the future we might be able to run aeroplanes on apple cores (spoiler alert: we won't).
He asks us: “What if school nurtured young imaginations?” Of course, we’d all love to believe that imagination is fostered within the classroom, yet, as Hopkins highlights, “26 percent [of children] feel as though they do not need to use their imagination for their study or schoolwork”. He then provides numerous examples of where imagination is being fostered and nurtured, such as in The Green School in Copenhagen or the School of the Possible in France. By the end of the book, the “utopian ideal” that was set out in Hopkins’ introduction seems somewhat less distant, somewhat more achievable, and all it really takes is a bit of imagination.
‘2040’ is a remarkably brave film. It tells the story of Damon Gameau, an Australian actor who also produced ‘That Sugar Film’, who sets out to create a vision of the future he hopes might lie ahead for his young daughter, Velvet. It is a film that unashamedly focuses on solutions, but he sets himself the condition that the solutions he proposes must already exist today in some form. He calls it “an exercise in fact-based dreaming”. It is, as you might imagine, an exercise very close to my own heart.
Elon Musk recently unveiled, at a Blade Runner-themed launch in Hawthorne, California, the new Tesla ‘Cyber Truck’. While much of the press coverage focused on the fact that its supposedly unsmashable windows smashed not once but twice during the launch, I want to focus on a question I haven’t heard asked yet. To what extent could the Cyber Truck undermine our ability to imagine a low carbon future in such a way that we can create a deep longing for it?
Here is a section from the audiobook of ‘From What Is to What If’ which tells the story of the ‘Tooting Twirl’ and of the art of asking good ‘What If’ questions.
The night before ‘Pop Up Tomorrow’ felt a bit like being a parent on the night before Christmas. A group of us were gathered at Lucy Neal’s (one of the facilitators) house, doing final preparations. We were sticking labels onto blackboards, tearing up rags and finalising plans. Like Yuletide parents, we were tired, ready for bed, but excited about the thrill and the joy our actions tonight were going to create the following day. We raised a glass to Pop Up Tomorrow, and to everything that was going to happen.
“What I like about this book is the balance between an unflinchingly real exploration of the world we live in, Rob’s willingness to share what keeps him awake at night, and the referenced research of both the problems and the solutions. Rob is also a born storyteller and he takes us on a rich journey to wonderful projects, people and places the world over where imagination thrives. He has always had the capacity to be an inspirational and innovative advocate for change as evidenced by his work for the Transition Movement. Here we experience a maturity of vision and an intellectual vigour that grounds the ideas presented, making them utterly possible”.
Tonight, Friday October 25th, at 7pm at St John’s Church in Bridgetown, Totnes, I will be launching my new book ‘From What Is to What If’. All are welcome and the event is free. There will be books and limited edition bookmarks and badges. Come join us!
The audiobook of ‘From What Is to What If’ is now available from most platforms where you get such things from, and will soon be available from them all. Creating it involved me sitting in a recording studio near Totnes for 2 days, and I have heard good things from the people who are already listening to it, including one person who told me she was listening to it in her car on the way to work. Here is a taster. If you’re an audiobook person, I hope you love it.
On Sunday 20th October, at Battersea Arts Centre, following an incredible day of ‘Pop Up Tomorrow’, I launched ‘From What Is to What If’. Here is the audio of the evening, which also features appearances by improv expert Jeremy Finch and Ruth Sapsed of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination. I hope it gives you an inspiring taste of the evening.
I was interviewed recently for the long-running Radio Ecoshock radio show/podcast and its host Alex Smith. You can hear the whole show, and Alex’s reflections on it here. I was relieved that he picked up on the “A ‘Silent Spring’ for the imagination” aspect of the book, rather than in the recent Guardian piece that just mostly saw it as a collection of inspiring stories (which it is as well). It was a refreshing and, at times, challenging discussion, and I hope you enjoy it.