The Imagination Revolution Must Begin Now!
My interest in this iridescent and delightful subject of the imagination is driven by my profound concern about the climate and ecological emergency. My greatest fear is that at the very time when physics demands that we reimagine everything (transport, food, economics, education, energy etc. etc.) that our collective imagination is desiccated, shrunken, shrivelled, clinging on for dear life. In many ways we have created a culture and an economics that are profoundly ruinous to the human imagination. And we have done so at the very time in history when we need to reimagine everything because our survival depends upon our doing so. That’s not good.
My favourite definition of imagination comes from John Dewey, who called it “the ability to see things as if they could be otherwise”. The approach that runs through my work is that the most important thing we need to do as activists, artists, changemakers of all hues, is to cultivate longing for a post carbon future. How do we tell the stories about the extraordinary world we could still create, a world of 100% renewable energy, vibrant and diverse local food systems, super-insulated homes that require little or no heating, cities with far fewer cars, cleaner air and rebounding biodiversity, and tell those stories in a way so delicious and irresistible that they become a deeply heartfelt move towards something thrilling rather than being dragged away from something somehow irreplaceable?
I’m one of the people who started the Transition movement, now active in over 50 countries, that supports people to come together and to start building that future, right here, right now. I teach groups and organisations to play, to be more imaginative, to learn to ask, “What If?”, to dream big about the future. Rilke once wrote “the future must enter you long before it happens”. We must make sure that in every conversation we have, in all the activism that we do, in every project, initiative or business that we catalyse, that we keep that at the forefront of our minds.
Rob Hopkins is author of From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, a speaker, and producer-host of the From What If to What Next podcast which invites listeners to ask, ‘What If’ questions and then find the very best people to explore how they might move from ‘What If to What Next’.