It’s not all doom and gloom. Grab your sun lounger, SPF and sunnies, and immerse yourself in our favourite books to fill you with hope for the future
This young Dutch historian is regarded as one of Europe’s most prominent thinkers, and in Humankind he methodically overturns the long-held assumption that we are an inherently selfish species wired for conflict. Drawing on examples from the dawn of humanity to the 2004 mayoral elections in Torres, Venezuela, via 18th century Easter Island and the Holocaust, he argues that people are “friendly, peaceful and healthy” by nature. It’s a rousing exposition that shows unequivocally why embracing such a worldview could bring about positive social change and a better future for all.
At the heart of this mind-altering book by the late Swedish statistician Hans Rosling is the idea that the world is definitively getting better, despite our instinctive feeling that the reverse is true. As well as providing extensive examples of human progress in everything from global education rates to poverty reduction and health, Rosling offers advice on how to interrogate our responses to the statistics we read in the news, enabling us to feel more positive about the state of the world and our place in it.
If you’re feeling burnt out, this firecracker of an essay will fill you with fresh zeal for the future. Written by esteemed historian and activist Rebecca Solnit in response to the cynicism that characterises progressive politics and activism, it sheds light on untold victories in the history of social movements, and highlights the power people have to effect change. Solnit argues that our opponents would love us to believe that it’s hopeless and there’s no reason to act, but that “hope is an act of defiance … an axe you break down doors with in an emergency”.
If we are to overcome the enormous challenges of the climate crisis, argues meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus, we must meet them with radical solutions. Through extensive reporting and interviews with scientists, futurists and activists, he offers bold, practical suggestions for how to reverse the effects of climate change in the next 30 years. From phasing out fossil fuels in transportation to remaking the food system, this is a radically sensible roadmap to a climate-secure future.
At the heart of every affliction currently facing humanity, writes Jeremy Lent, is the fact that we have lost our sense of connection to each other, ourselves and the natural world. Combining cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary biology with insights from Buddhism and Indigenous cultures on the relationship between our instinctive and intellectual selves, Lent posits a hopeful alternative worldview that celebrates the power of collaboration and cooperation.
This collection of essays, excerpts and poems written and curated by Adrienne Maree Brown, draws on black feminist tradition to explore how engaging in ‘pleasure activism’ – embracing pleasure in our lives – can free us from oppression and despair. Writers and activists such as Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler and Joan Morgan take in subjects as wide ranging as sex work, climate change, race and gender, reframing the notion of pleasure from frivolity to a transformative force in the world.
Anyone concerned about the negative impacts of new technologies such as AI, automation and gene editing will be reassured by the utopian vision espoused here by political commentator Aaron Bastani. Yes, the robots will take our jobs, but that’s a good thing, as it opens the door – in the right political context – to a post-work society in which luxury is available to all. Packed with ideas and thrillingly paced, this is a provocative look to the future.
Reframing ourselves as creative, empowered citizens, rather than self-interested, divided consumers, will be key to overcoming the myriad challenges facing society. So says former adman Jon Alexander in this story of how, following the age of the subject and the age of the consumer, it’s time for the age of the citizen. A practical handbook, packed with inspiring case studies from all over the world, on how thinking collaboratively can change things for the better.
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