Predicting the future is always
a tricky business. The prognosticator invariably gets caught between
reality and his predictions. But one organization, the Global Renaissance
Alliance founded by Marianne Williamson, is dedicated to working
toward a better world for future generations through social awareness,
activism and spiritual empowerment. Essentially, it is an organization
that wants to create the future, thereby eliminating the possibility
of being caught by errant predictions about the future.
In a recent presentation at the EnvironDesign®5 conference in
Atlanta, GA, Bill Browning of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass,
CO, said that people are starving for good stories; they are looking
for inspiration by learning how the first wave of environmental
thinkers solved the problems of their work. I immediately thought
of the recent collection of essays entitled, Imagine: What America
Could Be in the 21st Century, edited by Marianne Williamson.
The book consists of 40 essays by some of Americas leading
thinkers, theorists and practitioners who are trying to recreate
our culture: Fred Branfman, Peter Coyote, Eric Utne, David Korten,
Lance Secretan, Peter Senge, Deepak Chopra, James Redfield and Thomas
Moore are among the writers who contributed their visions of future
These are the good success stories of the futurenot particular
case studies of specific problems solvedbut stories of how
the successful implementation of ideas might look in the middle
of this century. These stories work on another level of consciousness.
Imagine is a fulfilling, optimistic volume of ideas and possibilities.
It is also a beautifully produced volume in its attention to detail,
both graphically and photographically, and has just won the NAPRA
In the first essay, Paul Hawken sets the stage with a recap of the
current state of the environment. Other essays are arranged in six
sections where visions of every aspect of our future social organization
are revealed. Health, food, education, race, divorce, family, justice,
government, political parties and the media are among the topics
explored. The attempt to paint such a comprehensive picture of the
future is an ambitious project, and for the most part it works quite
well. This will be an interesting book to revisit from time to time
to see how our reactions to these visions change as our culture
evolves, as well as to see if the stories themselves can help act
as catalysts for change, which Williamson clearly wants them to
Writing in the foreword, Anne Lamott recalls, Marianne Williamson
says that Americans are not starving for what they dont have,
but rather for what they wont give. It is often easy
to be overwhelmed with a sense that things are hopeless, that the
state of the environment is so far out of balance that it will never
be healed. However, all the authors included in this book believe
that by creating a sense of community and a commitment of service
to others, true change can be achieved. They are prepared
to live by their own bottom line message: that separately, we face
almost inevitable darkness, while together, we face unimaginable
Two major themescommunity and spiritualityrun consistently
through just about every essay in this collection. This is not a
coincidence as most of the authors, regardless of their field, obviously
feel that these two critical components are needed to affect the
cultural and societal transformations that they seek. The concept
of communityby community, I mean serviceis critical
to the desired transformation because it not only has the power
to arrest hopelessness and fear, but also creates positive feelings
through simple actions.
A growing sense of a need for deeper spirituality is pervasive.
Nowhere is it more prominent than in the workplace. Polls have consistently
shown that fulfillment on the job has become increasingly more important
than even money or time off. Corporations can play a pivotal role
in the transformation, not solely by the products or services they
provide (although these are very important), but by how they treat
and involve their employees in causes that excite them and lift
their spirits. People are searching for a holistic approach to work
and life. Like traditional Native American cultures, there will
be no division between the spiritual and physical aspects of life
in the future. This change is mentioned by many of the authors.
As with any collection of essays, this book is easy to read and
allows random access to topics so you can recreate the order of
the essays to fit your interests or your particular sense of order.
While a sameness exists among many of the viewpoints
portrayed in the essays, it is easy to understand the generally
positive outlook because, after all, that is the point of the exercise.
I believe that by illuminating higher possibilities for the
future, the essays here have the power to help us create them,
In a Toltec shamans construction of the world, our reality
is a dream that we have all agreed upon. In Williamsons world,
we should be able to dream our future. She writes, Our thoughts
about the future go far toward creating it; our minds and hearts
are like filaments that connect today to tomorrow, they are conduits
for either the status quo or the emergence of different, hopefully
more loving, possibilities. How we think and how we behave determine
where we are going.
The web of human consciousness is being increasingly engaged, thanks
to books like this one.
Richard Walthers (rwalthers@prairiefish. com) is an industrial
designer and partner in PRAIRIE Fish, a Chicago, IL-based firm specializing
in green design.