Did you watch the BBC’s ‘Years and Years’? Well, here’s the antidote. What if, over the next 11 years, a previously unimaginable transformation were to take place, sparked by Extinction Rebellion’s non-violent direct action and by the student strikes of 2019/20, the subsequent election of a government committed to deep transformation, the reorienting of capital and business, the huge mobilisation of communities and social movements across the country and elsewhere, and the intentional creation of the conditions in which the imagination can flourish?
It was a real privilege recently to be interviewed for the excellent Utopia Dispatch podcast. Here’s how its producers describe themselves: “Utopia Dispatch is the podcast talking to people with thinking big ideas and taking radical action, to figure out what a better world might look like. Follow us as we embark on our journey into humanity’s possible brighter futures”. Their chat with me opens their second season, and we had a far reaching discussion and touched on many of the topics covered in ‘From What Is to What If’.
Over this summer, I gave a talk at the brilliant Seed Festival at Hawkwood House near Stroud. It was gloriously fun, a packed room, and lots of collective imagination, a visit from Hello Barbie, an act of collective time travel (a first at Seed I’ll wager), some very silly collective storytelling about how Anneke kicked off Transition in Bristol and what it led to, and a whizz through the contents of the book. I hope you enjoy it.
“The older I get, and I’m now 76, the more I think that the imagination, really, in a possibly never-able-to-be-described way, actually alters the world. I posted to my Facebook page this notion, or feeling, that I have had lately, that it is really very weird and disorientating to feel, or think, that as I get older, and get around to dying, so is the world. It changes around you so mysteriously. I live in the most beautiful environment in New England, but all around us trees are dying at incredible rates, and the weather doesn’t behave”.
As the publication date for ‘From What Is to What If’ looms large (October 17th), I have been doing a lot of interviews with podcasters intrigued by the whole imagination topic. I thought it might make a good post to gather them all together in one place, and so here we are. I don’t know what the collective noun for podcasts is, but ‘plethora’ will do.
One of the finest books I’ve read recently was ‘Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter’ by Ben Goldfarb. Ben is an American environmental journalist who has taken great interest in this remarkable creature and its ability to, as he put it when we spoke, “help tackle many of our ecological problems if we just get out of the way and let the rodent do the work”. I was fascinated to hear his thoughts as to how living in a world full of beavers might impact the human imagination, and how living in a world without them impoverishes it. I started by asking him if he might sum up the narrative of the book for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of reading it.
Last week I went to an excellent, and packed, event in the Alumni Auditorium at the University of Exeter, hosted by the Global Systems Institute, called ‘So you’ve declared a Climate Emergency, now what?’ It featured a panel of ‘provocateurs’ who gave short presentations and then a very lively Q&A discussion with the audience. The event was also […]
We need to tell the stories that create a deep longing for a future that looks very different to the present. A future of cleaner air, children playing in the street, cities with food growing everywhere, louder birdsong, thriving local economies, an age of connection, conversation and community, schools and hospitals fed by local food, a sense of collective purpose. A future of renewable energy, rewilded landscapes, imaginative and playful architecture. It’s going to be amazing. As Elliot Murphy wrote in his sleeve notes for ‘Velvet Underground Live 1969’, “I wish it was a hundred years from today (I can’t stand the suspense)”
This week, Caroline Lucas and other MPs argued that all new laws should need to pass a ‘compassion threshold’ before being enacted to ensure that they make society a more compassionate place, not less. It would ensure that legislation acts in the interests of future generations as well as present ones. It is a powerful and inspired idea. But I would like to propose something I believe could be even more impactful, a ‘National Imagination Act’.
I’ve written this so that when my grandchildren ask me where I was when the great rebellion began, when the great Transition began its inevitable momentum, I can show them this blog post capturing a remarkable week in France. I set off for France on what came to be known as the ‘Transition Tour de France’ the day before the Extinction Rebellion fortnight started, in London and elsewhere. I headed to France, my wife to London. I think both of us have shared the experience this week that something remarkable is, finally, starting to shift, that XR’s big, bold, beautiful ‘No’ is being accompanied by a big, bold and beautiful ‘Yes’.