Rob Hopkins launched his new book a couple of months back – on the theme of imagination.

Hopkins is a co-founder of Transition Network, and a devoted environmentalist. He had been reading books by people like Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, who all suggested that climate change was a “failure of imagination”. But they said little more than that.

Hopkins wanted to explore this subject further. As a society today – are we stuck in a position of not being able to imagine anything other than where things are going at the moment? In Hopkins’ words, where we are going is “driving off a cliff”. He believes that we need to imagine a better world before we can build it.

To my mind, this harks back to a quote by Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”.

In many ways this is what the Transition movement is attempting to do – it describes itself as: “A movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world”.

All good stuff, but Hopkins feels that modern living is stunting our imaginations, creating an age of anxiety, loneliness and isolation. Many people spend ages starring at screens, and the internet and social media have challenged our attention spans. We are spending less time in nature, whilst children are deprived of opportunities for creative, unstructured play.

There may also be a biological reason for our collective lack of imagination. Hopkins says that there is a part of our brains called the hippocampus, where our memory and imagination fires from. For many reasons, our hippocampus can shrink over time.

Trying to reboot our imaginations is not always easy when we lead busy lives, with many people striving to make ends meet. Hopkins acknowledges that to imagine a better future we need our basic needs to be met, and for us not be feeling overwhelmed in our lives.

Under these circumstances, there is a lot that people can achieve within their communities. In his book, Hopkins covers a different topic in each chapter, and provides real life examples of people making a difference in various parts of the world.

One thing he suggests is that – in our projects and groups – we make space for playful games to get people to think in different ways, so we don’t replicate the same paradigm that we’re trying to replace.

Again, this brings back another quote, this time from Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

In summary, Hopkins’ message (somewhat paraphrased) is that we need to create a new culture where we have time and space, so we can bring to mind a better future… using our imaginations.

More quotes…

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere” – Albert Einstein

“To bring anything to life, imagine it’s already there” – Richard Bach (writer)

“Imagination creates reality” – Richard Wagner (composer)

And a couple of videos…

Rob Hopkins imagining walking through a day in the year 2030 [2 min video]…

Imagine by John Lennon…

Article sources:

  • Talk given by Rob Hopkins in Frome on 5th December 2019
  • Youtube video by PermacultureMedia: “Rob Hopkins: Reclaiming Our Imagination”
  • Transition Network website (

Rob Hopkins’ book is called: From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want.

Written by

Mark Andrew studied environmental sciences and policy at university, before working for many years as a town planner. He also has a longstanding interest in most things ancient and mysterious, from Atlantis to the Zoroastrians. He likes to travel to interesting places home and abroad. Currently, he lives and works in South West England.

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