An empty beach with shimmering light

Where are we heading?

There is no plan. We must choose our future – Consider what we want – Decide what is most important. And Act.

Nobody will do it for us. As a recent Tweet put it: “The cavalry is not coming over the hill.”

So we must choose how we want our lives to be and just get on with it.

More and more we can do that in our communities, working together to create that better life. An interesting example is Global Climate Week which shows how the situation is changing. People all over the world are getting together in different ways to create a more sustainable life. We can create a world that works better for all of us.

Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying:

We can only create what is to come if we know what we want. It is clear that we must change our economy and make our world more sustainable and healthier. However there are endless positive possibilities of doing that. For example renewable solar energy without access to a national grid can be created in communities.

Societies can grow fresh vegetables and fruit together, thus producing healthier, cheaper diets and providing companionship and meaning. Examples abound of communities creating care and possibilities for their weaker members. Inspirational ideas flow from groups of people who get together to create something better for everybody.

So we need to visualize a better world. Decide how we would like it to be. Drastically cutting emissions will mean profound changes in people’s lives so we must try and make it for the better!!

What would a better world look like?

A Sense of Wellbeing

A woman walking in a forest with the sun glinting through the trees

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance describes it very well:

“In a Wellbeing Economy, our definition of societal success shifts beyond GDP growth to delivering shared wellbeing. This involves a fundamental systems change.

“A good economy is when the rules and incentives are designed to ensure everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety, and happiness.

“When people feel secure in their basic comforts theycan use their creative energies to support the flourishing of all life on this planet.”

To replace what we have with something more positive it is clear that societies need to offer the possibility of a life where we have:

  • Social connections to reduce loneliness.
  • Respect for who we are and not what we have.
  • Enough money to provide the basic requirements of life and to be able to live in dignity.
  • The freedom to spend time with our families.
  • The opportunity to make a contribution.
  • Access to healthy food.
  • Access to clean air and water.
  • The possibility of a decent education for our children.
  • Nature as an important part of our lives.

So, an environment where we can thrive and contribute our skills to a society of which we are an important part.

A number of countries are now considering Wellbeing economies where people and planet are the centre of the economy rather than the constant drive for growth and the issues that go with that.

Less is More

In our new world we will have to make do with less. We live on a finite planet with a growing population. We cannot continue to deplete and destroy what we have. As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels in the years to come there will be less travel and fewer exotic foods and goods from abroad.

But to replace that we can have societies that are more equal, where the air is free of pollution and our locally-grown food is healthy. We can design our communities to be places where individuals have freedom to be themselves, a basic income to sustain that and to reduce the incredible inequality that we have at present.

Most importantly if we set our minds to it we can revive Nature and make it central to our way of life.

Life as Part of a Community

A group of people sitting outdoors in a circle

In a beautiful article entitled Community as a place to practice a better future the writer describes how for him communities are the most obvious places to practice a different future. He says:

“I dream of a culture that acknowledges the world made up of deeply interwoven relationships and values these relationships as crucial for the sustainable thriving of everyone. In that future we strive to be in a healthy and caring relationship with our land, our planet, with human and non-human beings, and ourselves.”

In a Wellbeing Economy (see above), solutions are people-centred, geared towards environmental protection and regeneration, and long-term. The exciting thing is – the new way is already emerging, with inspiring examples around the world showing us the way.

Examples of successful community participation

Transition Town Network

One of my favourite examples of community participation and one that has been very successful is the Transition Town Network. As they describe it, it is a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. I recently read a wonderful book called From What is to What if: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future. It is written by Rob Hopkins a co-founder of the Transition Network and it left me feeling both uplifted and inspired about what we can do if we do it together. I hope you will feel the same.

James Goodman agrees about the strength and importance of communities in a blog saying “Strong local communities aren’t just nice to have – they are fundamental to a sustainable future. [He…] makes the case that setting out the pathways to more powerful communities is one of the most important projects for today’s society.”

Community Energy Projects

Climate Policy Information shows that the EU is taking a leading role in community energy projects. Both Denmark and Germany are particularly strong in this area, where community members come together financially to invest in sustainable energy for their community.

A lovely example of off-grid electricity comes from the isolated Scottish Island of Eigg.

Community Food Projects

There are many examples of local food projects worldwide where citizens decide to grow food for their communities. It is a wonderful way of providing not just fresh food but an opportunity to be outdoors, learn new skills and have companionship. Here is one from Oldham.

And this delightful Guardian article about guerrilla gardening in Hackney shows another side of community food projects.

There are very many more examples of community projects of all kinds and sizes all over the world.

What can you do?

  • Get involved in a community project, or invent one if there is nothing available.
  • Talk to your neighbours about how you would like to see the future.
  • Ask friends and family “What would make life better?”
  • Read about what is going on in communities worldwide.
  • Talk to your local council about what they are doing in the community.
  • Look for unused land in your neighbourhood, find the owner, and ask if you can plant vegetables there for the community.
  • Think about how you would like to see the future improve.

We can make a better future – a time when people thrive.

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(Thanks to Emma Simpson and Kylie Lugo on Unsplash for the second and third photographs above. The first photograph is copyright Doreen Hosking.)