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From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want

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The founder of the international Transition Towns movement asks why true creative, positive thinking is in decline, asserts that it’s more important now than ever, and suggests ways our communities can revive and reclaim it. In these times of deep division and deeper despair, if there is a consensus about anything in the world, it is that the future is going to be awful. Th The founder of the international Transition Towns movement asks why true creative, positive thinking is in decline, asserts that it’s more important now than ever, and suggests ways our communities can revive and reclaim it. In these times of deep division and deeper despair, if there is a consensus about anything in the world, it is that the future is going to be awful. There is an epidemic of loneliness, an epidemic of anxiety, a mental health crisis of vast proportions, especially among young people. There’s a rise in extremist movements and governments. Catastrophic climate change. Biodiversity loss. Food insecurity. The fracturing of ecosystems and communities beyond, it seems, repair. The future—to say nothing of the present—looks grim. But as Transition movement cofounder Rob Hopkins tells us, there is plenty of evidence that things can change, and cultures can change, rapidly, dramatically, and unexpectedly—for the better. He has seen it happen around the world and in his own town of Totnes, England, where the community is becoming its own housing developer, energy company, enterprise incubator, and local food network—with cascading benefits to the community that extend far beyond the projects themselves. We do have the capability to effect dramatic change, Hopkins argues, but we’re failing because we’ve largely allowed our most critical tool to languish: human imagination. As defined by social reformer John Dewey, imagination is the ability to look at things as if they could be otherwise. The ability, that is, to ask What if? And if there was ever a time when we needed that ability, it is now. Imagination is central to empathy, to creating better lives, to envisioning and then enacting a positive future. Yet imagination is also demonstrably in decline at precisely the moment when we need it most. In this passionate exploration, Hopkins asks why imagination is in decline, and what we must do to revive and reclaim it. Once we do, there is no end to what we might accomplish. From What Is to What If is a call to action to reclaim and unleash our collective imagination, told through the stories of individuals and communities around the world who are doing it now, as we speak, and witnessing often rapid and dramatic change for the better. source: https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/...


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The founder of the international Transition Towns movement asks why true creative, positive thinking is in decline, asserts that it’s more important now than ever, and suggests ways our communities can revive and reclaim it. In these times of deep division and deeper despair, if there is a consensus about anything in the world, it is that the future is going to be awful. Th The founder of the international Transition Towns movement asks why true creative, positive thinking is in decline, asserts that it’s more important now than ever, and suggests ways our communities can revive and reclaim it. In these times of deep division and deeper despair, if there is a consensus about anything in the world, it is that the future is going to be awful. There is an epidemic of loneliness, an epidemic of anxiety, a mental health crisis of vast proportions, especially among young people. There’s a rise in extremist movements and governments. Catastrophic climate change. Biodiversity loss. Food insecurity. The fracturing of ecosystems and communities beyond, it seems, repair. The future—to say nothing of the present—looks grim. But as Transition movement cofounder Rob Hopkins tells us, there is plenty of evidence that things can change, and cultures can change, rapidly, dramatically, and unexpectedly—for the better. He has seen it happen around the world and in his own town of Totnes, England, where the community is becoming its own housing developer, energy company, enterprise incubator, and local food network—with cascading benefits to the community that extend far beyond the projects themselves. We do have the capability to effect dramatic change, Hopkins argues, but we’re failing because we’ve largely allowed our most critical tool to languish: human imagination. As defined by social reformer John Dewey, imagination is the ability to look at things as if they could be otherwise. The ability, that is, to ask What if? And if there was ever a time when we needed that ability, it is now. Imagination is central to empathy, to creating better lives, to envisioning and then enacting a positive future. Yet imagination is also demonstrably in decline at precisely the moment when we need it most. In this passionate exploration, Hopkins asks why imagination is in decline, and what we must do to revive and reclaim it. Once we do, there is no end to what we might accomplish. From What Is to What If is a call to action to reclaim and unleash our collective imagination, told through the stories of individuals and communities around the world who are doing it now, as we speak, and witnessing often rapid and dramatic change for the better. source: https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/...

30 review for From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    A wonderfully thought provoking and inspiring book. Hopkins believes we need to foster imagination in order to get ourselves out the mess of climate change. He thinks that a lack of imagination (studies show imagination has been shrinking since 1990) is one of the things that got us into this problem to begin with. So much great information about our brains and the imagination and all the things imagination does for and to us as humans--it is vital to good mental health. An especially scary stat A wonderfully thought provoking and inspiring book. Hopkins believes we need to foster imagination in order to get ourselves out the mess of climate change. He thinks that a lack of imagination (studies show imagination has been shrinking since 1990) is one of the things that got us into this problem to begin with. So much great information about our brains and the imagination and all the things imagination does for and to us as humans--it is vital to good mental health. An especially scary statistic: as CO2 concentrations go up, our cognitive abilities are reduced. CO2 concentrations of 660 ppm as set forth in the Paris climate agreement will decrease cognitive ability by 15%! Hopkins talks to people who are doing amazing and imaginative things to foster the imagination of others and to change people's lives. There is also an extensive notes section which has added more books to my reading list. But really, we all need to start asking what if?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristy Newton

    I finished reading this on a catastrophic fire day in NSW Australia when fires are burning destructively across our country. I couldn’t have read it at a better time. I’ve often thought that one thing the climate movement is failing at is giving people a future to fight for, imagining the what’s next. We are great at fighting against the loss of what we have had until now, but when you see so many of the natural worlds wonders slipping away before your eyes you can fall into nihilism and hopeles I finished reading this on a catastrophic fire day in NSW Australia when fires are burning destructively across our country. I couldn’t have read it at a better time. I’ve often thought that one thing the climate movement is failing at is giving people a future to fight for, imagining the what’s next. We are great at fighting against the loss of what we have had until now, but when you see so many of the natural worlds wonders slipping away before your eyes you can fall into nihilism and hopelessness. Hopkins outlines the role of imagination in dreaming up a new future and giving people something to fight for. Particular mention needs to go to the examples he highlights of how things like citizen assemblies and transition movements work in practice.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Camille McCarthy

    I really enjoyed this book. It was full of hope, even though it made me a bit depressed because when you really think about it, the changes we should be implementing to create a better world aren't even that difficult. It's just that moneyed interests don't want to change anything or they might not have such enormous wealth if the rest of us weren't miserable automatons. The book focuses on the importance of imagination and talks about the danger we're in since we don't prioritize imagination. I I really enjoyed this book. It was full of hope, even though it made me a bit depressed because when you really think about it, the changes we should be implementing to create a better world aren't even that difficult. It's just that moneyed interests don't want to change anything or they might not have such enormous wealth if the rest of us weren't miserable automatons. The book focuses on the importance of imagination and talks about the danger we're in since we don't prioritize imagination. It also gave a lot of examples of projects that are using imagination as a starting point, and what kinds of questions we can be asking to get these better ideas out in the open. I don't think he went into this but it reminded me of the phrase "It's easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism." What we expend our imagination on matters, as it helps us bring about what we can picture. I really enjoyed this book's perspective. Even just reading the introduction - where he imagines everything turning out "ok" - is incredibly inspiring. I highly recommend this book, especially for those who want to make positive change, and I look forward to reading his other books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zaz

    The book wasn't really what I expected, because I thought there would be more fictional parts about what a future could look like. Instead, Hopkins collected many things that people are currently doing to build a more sustainable and social world, which is always interesting to read. The moments dedicated to how the current society is fighting hard against imagination and how it's a problem when you have to deal with new challenges was also a lot of food for the thoughts. I often use "why not" a The book wasn't really what I expected, because I thought there would be more fictional parts about what a future could look like. Instead, Hopkins collected many things that people are currently doing to build a more sustainable and social world, which is always interesting to read. The moments dedicated to how the current society is fighting hard against imagination and how it's a problem when you have to deal with new challenges was also a lot of food for the thoughts. I often use "why not" and "what if" when I've decisions to make, but wasn't probably fully aware of the fact. Sadly, for the moment, I'm not using that to make things or create useful new worlds, I usually prefer to join other people's ideas, which isn't always easy when there's few things around or when the space for helpers is already taken. I'm curious to see how the society can evolve in a right way if more people start their transition, so I hope it'll come fast.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alisha

    This year I really wanted to read more non-fiction (since I fell in love with it at the end of 2020). I told myself that I probably wouldn’t give them a star rating because it’s much more subjective. Yet here I am giving my third non-fiction a 5 star rating because it was just so so GOOD!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    An excellent book if you are feeling discouraged about the state of the world. Rob sets out practical ideas of doable actions, gives a wider vision for the future, and tells stories of things that are already working in a positive direction. Hope has never felt so reasonable, change never so reachable. I wish everyone I know would read this, and pass it on.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ellie Humphrys

    A well thought-out heartwarming account of how the world could be if we started asking 'what if?' I had goosebumps at the end truly imagining how the world could be if we had a system where community and imagination thrived and there was more time to care about the things that matter and less about how much money is in our bank account. 🌻 A well thought-out heartwarming account of how the world could be if we started asking 'what if?' I had goosebumps at the end truly imagining how the world could be if we had a system where community and imagination thrived and there was more time to care about the things that matter and less about how much money is in our bank account. 🌻

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This is a great book for what it is - an exhortation to visioning, or dreaming as others call it. I wish that the book had gone further, but there you are, you can't have everything that you want. There is obviously a distinct slant upon the object of the dreaming, but that doesn't invalidate the whole concept of imagining an alternative state of affairs. The Introduction and the first chapter provide the heart of the book. It occupies about a fifth of the total, with the remaining four fifths un This is a great book for what it is - an exhortation to visioning, or dreaming as others call it. I wish that the book had gone further, but there you are, you can't have everything that you want. There is obviously a distinct slant upon the object of the dreaming, but that doesn't invalidate the whole concept of imagining an alternative state of affairs. The Introduction and the first chapter provide the heart of the book. It occupies about a fifth of the total, with the remaining four fifths underlining and reinforcing the main points. There are two key takeaways from the book. The first is that things usually work out OK in the end. Whatever happens, we temper our expectations to fit the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Most of the time, our key strategies in life are simply muddling through. Looking at what turns up and then making the best of it as possible. There is a lot to be said for this approach. The second revelation is that, if we are content to muddle through, then why be anchored to current ways of doing things? Why don't we experiment to try things out? If they go wrong, then we can muddle along on any case. If we take this view, then we are empowered to dream about alternative states of affairs. It's a useful way to counter the fear of failure, which often acts to paralyse our actions. This is important in the study of the future. If we are to create alternative future constructs, then we need to be able to draw upon a range of alternative future states, some of them very different from our current situation. From where does this creativity come? We dream it. We make it up. We ask ourselves 'What if?'. It is from this liminal zone that our creativity springs in whatever undertaking we are engaged in. And that is why this book is so useful. It is all about going from what is to what if. Imagining different possibilities for the future and working out how they could possibly come about. In the world of the futurist, it represents an important step in going from an official future to a more preferred future. To empower us to create the future that we want.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Rob's bold and brilliant book is an adventurous and actionable call to imagination: an exploration of how rekindling our individual and collective imaginations is creating the world of our longing. This could prove to be the handbook we need to raise our imaginations to meet the profound and pressing challenges and opportunities of our time. I recommend the audiobook - Rob is a gifted storyteller in both spoken and written word, and I think I'd have missed his natural and enthusiastic telling of Rob's bold and brilliant book is an adventurous and actionable call to imagination: an exploration of how rekindling our individual and collective imaginations is creating the world of our longing. This could prove to be the handbook we need to raise our imaginations to meet the profound and pressing challenges and opportunities of our time. I recommend the audiobook - Rob is a gifted storyteller in both spoken and written word, and I think I'd have missed his natural and enthusiastic telling of these tales had I only read the book in print. Thank you @robintransition

  10. 4 out of 5

    Logan Streondj

    While it has many good points, it mostly focuses on arts, and transition towns. While it does mention a little on gardening all the imagined visions are just rehashes of transition towns, nothing rural, nothing sustainable. It does have a few ideas on how to improve creative opportunities for children such as giving them plenty of time for play, not giving them too many toys, and outdoor activities.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sergio

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Although he sounds naive in his optimism at times, it's true that rapid social change could happen, even though people don't much like change. To accelerate that change, he prescribes more imagination, as much as possible, in fact, and I certainly see his point. Will this book change the world? Unlikely, but it's definitely one more step in the right direction. Although he sounds naive in his optimism at times, it's true that rapid social change could happen, even though people don't much like change. To accelerate that change, he prescribes more imagination, as much as possible, in fact, and I certainly see his point. Will this book change the world? Unlikely, but it's definitely one more step in the right direction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I loved this book. The most powerful message I too from it is that it is the collection of beautiful, new, local stories, actions and connections that create a better world. It isn’t a specific political party, corporation or university, but the collective, imaginative acts from all of us that have the power to transform our imaginations and create new stories of a better world.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alexandre L'Heureux

    This book really is inspiring! From the theory and science of imagination to what we need to enable it, within children and adults. From why we need collective imagination to solve the super wicked problems we face and create a desirable future. Grounded in science, real life grassroots and institutional examples. I recommend :)

  14. 4 out of 5

    B.T. Lowry

    In the midst of lazy distopian thinking, Mr. Hopkins brings us people who are boldly envisioning a better future. I love it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sammi

    Gives me hope!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aude

    Wonderful

  17. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I would like everyone to read this book. Yep. Everyone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carlo Battisti

    'We have relegated the imagination to the margins for too long, and now, as Robert Louis Stevenson put it, we 'sit down to a banquet of consequences'. Great book. 'We have relegated the imagination to the margins for too long, and now, as Robert Louis Stevenson put it, we 'sit down to a banquet of consequences'. Great book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Spelen en verbeelding als dé optie voor een toekomst waar je graag aan meewerkt en in terechtkomt

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    A mixture of inspiring ideas about how to change society for the better and a load of hippy nonsense. I guess your outlook will dictate how much of each you find.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    A guide to embracing and developing imaginative solutions to the crises of our times. Loved it!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Wildwoila

    A powerful call to bring imagination back into our lives, so that we can create the futures we so desperately need.

  23. 4 out of 5

    KellyMarie Meek

    I’m feeling pretty evangelical about this book. If you are remotely invested in changing the world, this book is critical reading.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hilary May

    Interesting and thought provoking, a different angle but like many books like this not sure anyone ‘unconverted’ would read this. Though they should.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    If you want a better world have a read of this book. Not much else I need to say.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Great for new perspectives and ideas. Strong and Inspiring first chapter, goes slightly downhill from their. The first chapter brought me to tears. The authors description of what a world could look like if we actually started organising as a community was incredible. For the first time in a while, I felt a better world was within our grasp. Lots of interesting chapters but, to be quite frank, some of them made me feel bored. I also feel like, with such a promising and vivid description in the b Great for new perspectives and ideas. Strong and Inspiring first chapter, goes slightly downhill from their. The first chapter brought me to tears. The authors description of what a world could look like if we actually started organising as a community was incredible. For the first time in a while, I felt a better world was within our grasp. Lots of interesting chapters but, to be quite frank, some of them made me feel bored. I also feel like, with such a promising and vivid description in the beginning, I was expecting a bit more from the final chapter. Perhaps another passage we saw in the beginning would have tied off the book much nicer. CHAPTERS/TOPICS COVERED 1. what if we took play seriously? 2. what if we considered imagination vital to our health? 3. what if we followed nature’s lead 4. what if we fought back to reclaim our attention 5. what if school nurtured young imagination 6. what if we became better storytellers 7. what if our leaders prioritised the cultivation of imagination 8. what if this all came to pass?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    This is a book you should read when you find yourself attracted to a dystopian vision of the future that you feel powerless to change. Through stories of good things, it'll help you understand why envisioning a bleak future is counterproductive, but also that there's a better way. Through people coming together, imagining and changing things, it might make you feel like you want to be a part of a community that's working towards a better world – at least it did for me. This is a book you should read when you find yourself attracted to a dystopian vision of the future that you feel powerless to change. Through stories of good things, it'll help you understand why envisioning a bleak future is counterproductive, but also that there's a better way. Through people coming together, imagining and changing things, it might make you feel like you want to be a part of a community that's working towards a better world – at least it did for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy Jones

    This is an inspiring read, a truly mind-blowing idea that actually imagining a better world and a better life is a big step forward to making it happen. Rob talks about how important the imagination is for adults as well and children, and also discusses how current educational processes work against supporting children's imagination. I can't wait to hear him talk at the Cheese & Grain in Frome next week This is an inspiring read, a truly mind-blowing idea that actually imagining a better world and a better life is a big step forward to making it happen. Rob talks about how important the imagination is for adults as well and children, and also discusses how current educational processes work against supporting children's imagination. I can't wait to hear him talk at the Cheese & Grain in Frome next week

  29. 5 out of 5

    Judy Merrill-Smith

    This short book is full of depressing facts (complete with footnotes), and yet managed to make me feel encouraged about the future. I appreciate Hopkins's expansive discussion of imagination and various initiatives taking place all over, but especially in Europe. Very useful for U.S. folks like myself who often don't get enough info from the rest of the planet. This short book is full of depressing facts (complete with footnotes), and yet managed to make me feel encouraged about the future. I appreciate Hopkins's expansive discussion of imagination and various initiatives taking place all over, but especially in Europe. Very useful for U.S. folks like myself who often don't get enough info from the rest of the planet.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elspeth Alexander

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