Telling a New Story to Create a New Future

Leslie MacKenzie

Revitalizing Our Cultural Imagination

Rob Hopkins is the founder of the Transition Town movement, a global grassroots groundswell of people taking personal and collective action to solve pressing global problems. Rob has spent the last 15 years observing the small and large solutions that arise when everyday people, neighborhoods and communities gather to ask “what if” … and then imagine their way to a better answer.

In Rob’s new book, “From What Is to What If” he asks all of us – especially those of us in the climate and environmental movements – to give some serious thought to the health of our imagination.

Actually, we need to do more than think about it. We need to rebuild it.

For several decades now, we’ve fed our cultural imagination a steady diet of cop shows and murder podcasts, celebrity fashion blogs and home redecorating magazines. We’ve been provided with tiny packages of low-hanging fruit, shrink-wrapped in artificial units of 15-minute crises.

Now, when it’s “all hands on deck” for the impending climate crisis, do we have the imaginative capacity we need?

In his book, Rob asks: “What if today was the tipping point? What if we looked back in time and saw that TODAY was the day when things changed?” Those questions are big enough for our time. They are questions that require imaginative power from individuals, from businesses, from our media and our creative culture-builders.

Living Our Stories Out Loud

Right now our future looks scary; we don’t know what will happen. But many of the challenges ahead of us have been faced by those who came before, people who had far less information and technology but perhaps far more resilience and resourcefulness. Those people have a story to tell, if we will look for it.

There are people and places in the world today who are facing significant change, if not outright crises, as a result of our addiction to fossil fuels. They also have a story to tell – a story of community emergency response, of mutual aid, of salvage and recovery, or destruction and removal.

Our first response is often empathy and charity, but one of the hard truths we need to face is that as the climate crisis deepens, this will also be our experience. What can we learn from their story that will ignite action in our own community?

There are people close to you who have taken the climate crisis to heart and made significant changes in their life. Maybe they started taking the bus or they chose not to buy their clothes new. Maybe they committed to buy local. Maybe they decided they would not fly.

Behind each of these decisions is a story which can spark an idea, which can lead to another story. Transition US, the national counterpart of the global Transition movement, has begun a series called Stories to Action. Each month they are featuring two stories of community action that can be replicated by other communities.

Stories upon stories to expand our vision of what’s possible and create the spark for action. It has never been more important to live out Gandhi’s maxim to BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

You can begin by telling your own story of change.

Rob Hopkins photo