Prompts and Ideas

These ideas are based closely on the Deep Time exercises in the inspirational book 'Coming Back To Life' by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown (New Society Publishers)


1) Imagine life in a future you'd like to live in

You find yourself in contact (via text messages on your phone, or emails on your computer or...) with a young person from the same geographical place but a time 30, 50, or however many years you like, into the future. They only have a limited amount of time, and there's plenty that, being young, they can't explain. However they do want to tell the people of 2011 something of what it's like to live in their time, and to encourage us to keep going. (You could set it out like a series of messages, as dialogue or as a personal account)

You get the chance to time travel and to be taken on a very brief guided tour of a community of the future. What particularly strikes you as different from life today?

Travel through time until you reach the date of your hundredth birthday. Don't worry about figuring out how the world has changed. Just know that the major crises that threatened life on Earth have been averted, the weapons have been dismantled, as have the technologies and institutions that polluted and decimated life. Those destructive patterns were so interlocked that the Great Turning to a sustainable society in the early years of the century happened faster than anyone expected. By now, that transition seems so logical and inevitable that you take it for granted...

You reflect on the changes which you have experienced in your lifetime, both in the way societies organise themselves and in everyday life.

As you sit in a sunny garden, a child of around 9 years old approaches you with some questions about life in the early years of the 21st century. S/he would like to know how you and those who shared your vision managed to keep going when the situation seemed hopeless.

In your imagination, journey forward through the generations to come until you 'meet' and identify with a human being living one or two hundred years from now who strongly wishes to communicate with you. You don't need to know anything about this person's circumstances; just know that s/he is looking back through time at you here in the present. Now imagine/sense what this human being would want to say to you. Open your mind and listen. Then start putting it on paper, as if this future person were writing a letter just to you. Allow yourself plenty of time, because messages can come from deep within, and tap into the collective wisdom of our planet's people.


2) A Message From the Future

Some young people from the year 2061 (or choose a year) manage to contact you for an all too brief period via a communication device (computer, phone, mobile, radio etc: whichever you prefer)

They start by saying:

"We want you to know that your future, our present, is so much better than many of you feared. And our history studies tell us that it was because of actions which your generation took in the second decade of the 21st century that the shift to a life-sustaining civilisation really started, even though it must have been hard to see it at the time.

And that's why we've made contact with you. Because if you don't believe in us, then we - our future - may not come into being. We don't know how long we can keep this channel of communication open, but we want to give you a glimpse of the way we live now..."

- What words might appear in front of you? Relax and let your imagination help that positive vision into being.


"And here's what we want you to remember if you feel like giving up..."

- How do your descendants try to encourage you? Again, let your imagination guide you.


3) Writing in the future

Imagine yourself forward into a future community that you'd actually like to live in, and then write...

  • A feature from the community news
  • A diary entry of an ordinary, or special, day in your (or someone's) life
  • An account of a community celebration or ceremony
  • How the community deals with a particular challenge
  • How communities link with each other
  • A 'letter' from someone in one community to a friend in another
  • How and what do children learn?
  • An account of a community meeting
  • An episode of a 'continuing drama', the equivalent of our 'soaps'
  • An article on a topic which you feel strongly about or have some understanding of the current situation (eg power generation, food production etc)


4) Imagining a day in 2062

This, like 'Exploring the future with scenarios', describes a proposed activity for '24 hours of possibilities', part of the Festival of Transition marking the 2012 UN Rio Summit, but I thought it had much wider applications

This 24 hours is about pushing yourself to imagine life two generations from now. You can do it by yourself or with others. A good way to begin is by going back 50 years. How does life today differ from 1962? What has changed? What has stayed the same? What is better? What is worse? Can you compare 1962 with 1912 and ask the same questions?

When you have looked back enough, look forward. Two hints here.

First, decide if this is going to be what you expect to happen or what you want to happen. If the latter, notice if things you don't want to happen are intruding, let them go, and replace them with your positive vision. Second, feel free to stay the age you are now!

Pick a recent day and recall what you did. Then walk through that day again in your imagination and see it as if it could be, 50 years from now.

If you are doing this with a group, it may be best if you don't take part, but instead give the group the questions and suggestions above, pausing after each one to give everyone time to imagine.


5) Exploring the Future with Scenarios

This describes a proposed activity for '24 hours of possibilities', part of the Festival of Transition marking the 2012 UN Rio Summit, but I thought it had much wider applications.

This 24 hours is about exploring the future with scenarios, which are pictures of possible futures. Rob Hopkins' 'The Transition Companion' summarises a whole lot of them on pages 42 and 43.

But for an in depth exploration of just a few scenarios - four - get hold of David Holmgren's 'Future Scenarios'. The four provide a great range: from urban high-rise to rural resettlement; from female-dominated to male-dominated; from super-rationalism to earth spirituality. There's a good summary on page 89.

Once you have a sense of what the four scenarios are about, you can play with them. You can do this with others by yourself. You can do this by visualising how places you know would change under of the scenarios. Or by imagining how some of our basic activities - feeding ourselves, working, playing - would change under each scenario. Or you could go for a walk and try to work out how the places and activities you see could vary.


Or whatever you feel inspired to write... It can be as short as you like, and we wouldn't normally expect more than 1000 words. It doesn't have to be brilliant or wildly original, just heartfelt.


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