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Your Turn to Imagine What Comes After Green

A few weeks ago, we asked if you would help us imagine what comes after green, to imagine the sustainable society that we both need and want to live in. Many of you responded with clever, inventive and thought-provoking ideas for building that world. Some of you called for a world where no one went homeless or hungry, where no one had to fight in senseless wars and where no one suffered abuse. Others called for an end to institutions and infrastructure as we know them, suggesting more functional and sustainable alternatives to our transportation, education, economic and waste systems.

And although each idea presented an imaginative and inspiring vision, we (as promised) have selected our favorites. Our choices were made because they are possible, positive, innovative and concrete. So without further ado, here are the winners:

Imagine no mines.
Imagine a world where all the mineral resources we will ever need as a society have been extracted, and circulate perpetually in the economy, being endlessly transformed from finished goods into raw materials, and back again, with nothing input except renewable energy. This is a world of increasing material efficiency, and static population, in which standard of living is not defined by quantity of materials consumed. Buildings are de-constructed and re-assembled. They are designed with this in mind. Acid mine drainage is a thing of the past, and the mountaintops of West Virginia have regrown their deciduous veneer. Landfills are systematically emptied, and the copious resources placed within them by previous generations are re-organized into their useful constituent parts.

Posted by: Zane Selvans

Imagine no roofs.
Imagine using all of that precious space to create verdant nature in the city, recreational opportunities, and gardens to grow organic food. No longer will cities be vast swatches of hardscape that produce a heat island effect. No longer will stormwater be directed via downspouts and storm drains to pollute the rivers and oceans. Exciting new communities in San Francisco seen here and here and in China plan to transform the previously underutilized space on top of buildings into sustainable systems and usable space.

Posted by: Ryan Lehman

Imagine no streetlights.
Imagine being able to see stars in the city--real stars, great gauzy swathes of stars, not the feeble two or three we can see now. Imagine the feeling of being small you get in the country because you can see so much; you can feel your place in the universe.

In addition to obscuring stars, light pollution is linked to depression, unhappiness and lowered productivity. It also confuses migrating birds and animals. And--several studies have shown that lighting does not reduce crime, it just helps the criminals evaluate their targets more easily.

Posted by: Ruben

If you are enjoying reading these, please check out all the initial entries from the Worldchanging Team and community on the original Imagine What Comes After Green post.

As an organization that loves to collaborate and trade thoughts and ideas, we would like to recognize everybody who took the time to submit their ideas. Thanks, everyone, for your continuing support of the Worldchanging community!

Design credit: Morgan Greenseth

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Not bad ideas, I suppose... but honestly, there's something kind of depressing about this exercise. Is framing our aspirations solely in terms of acts of negation -- the elimination of this, that, and the other thing -- really the best that we can do? Is there no room for acts of creation in the post-green future?

Posted by: Nathan Koren on 9 Aug 08

I agree with Nathan.

I'd also like to add the following:

That we are forever prepared to solve problems. Whether they are environmental, political, or otherwise.

The ability to create solutions in the face of adversity will always be one of the most valuable attributes of our world community.

Posted by: Christian Remington on 9 Aug 08

uh. how about a world without poverty, where there are not three million deaths from malaria a year, where the chances for a viable life are the same in say, Rwanda as they are in Delaware?

Posted by: Kevin Jones on 9 Aug 08

To Kevin Jones:

The poor/destitute/underprivileged peoples will always be among us.

Therefore, do your part to relieve this plight.

You cannot, personally, carry the weight of the world's problems. On the other hand, you can make a difference however "small" it may be perceived to be.

It's the simple acts of love that hold this world together.

Posted by: Christian Remington on 9 Aug 08

Imagine a world with no automatic opening doors and no traffic lights. Bring back manual opening doors including rotating doors (without motor drive).
Traffic lights can be abolished and the resulting mess will calm the traffic, reduce the driving speed and force people out of their cars. Its the opposite of building new freeways which become clogged weeks after they are finished.

Posted by: david booth on 10 Aug 08

Nathan (and David Foley in the earlier article) raise an interesting nitpick. It really comes down to your attitude to negatives.

The 'Imagine no...' structure can be viewed as positive in that, if one piece of infrastructure is in the way and were to be removed, what would you replace it with? Indeed, would it necessarily need replacing? In other words, the proposition acts to free your imagination from restraint.

(OTOH 'imagine no bananas' is a rather saddening thought...)

I suppose 'imagine something better than...' is a more upbeat way of phrasing it, but it is more clumsy and, anyway, that is how most of the respondents did approach the problem.

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 10 Aug 08


Make that Jeremy Faludi, rather than David Foley (sorry, guys!)

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 10 Aug 08

The poor will always be with us? Can't we as worldchangers imagine a world without poverty? I certainly can. We seem to be able to imagine a whole lot of other things. How about a world without "or", where we aren't forced into reductive choices between protecting nature or helping end poverty?. I'm not saying that some won't always have less (though believe it or not that too is a choice), but everyone could have enough (also realizing that enough - beyond survival level - is a social construct) and that we could not only not harm the planet, we could actually help it, in the very process.

Posted by: aj on 11 Aug 08

"The poor/destitute/underprivileged peoples will always be among us."

Far from being a call to give up trying, I seem to recall that this was part of a reminder to take time out to enjoy the good things in life (or imagine them, as here!), as well as help those who couldn't. Since it was just prior to the last supper, I can see why JC might have said it!

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 11 Aug 08

"JC" (i.e. Rabbi Yeshua) is one of thousands of Rabbis that have stated the importance of taking care of the downtrodden. Meeting real "needs": food, clothing, shelter.

"Imagine" until you are blue in the face. Picturing utopia in your mind is futile unless it leads you to repairing a broken world.

Without compassion we are nothing.

Posted by: Christian Remington on 13 Aug 08

None of these ideas really challenge the wanton over consumption of the world's food resources by the rich countries while leaving the poor to semi-starve.
What is required is a radical re-thinking of what constitutes good food.
1. Food must be produced as efficiently and as non-pollutingly as possible, which means eating mainly plants, rather than feeding plants to animals, then eating the animals. Most of the calories and protein are lost by processing plants to food via animals. Animal derived foods are just (in-efficiently) processed plant foods. World food prices would decline if soy for example was not grown mainly to feed to animals for consumption by the wealthy.
2. Food must be healthy. This also implies a whole-food plant-based diet as it contains fewer harmful saturated fats, less cholesterol and more fibre. The last is more satiating and will help curb the obesity epidemic.
3. Food must be eaten in only in the quantities really required. The overweight and obese are eating more than their fair share of the planet's resources.

Posted by: John Livesey on 13 Aug 08

I believe many people in the poverty trap want to be there. Sounds perverse and at the top level many who are poor would strongly disagree. But how many of these people have terrible habits that keep them poor. How many of them accept a tyrannical or corrupt leader. The strength to change can only come from within and any help from first world individuals is at best scratching the surface and at worst allowing these people to survive at this level. Deal with inequalities in your own life first and be the change - let the poor and down trodden discover their own truths.

PS Love the ideas cos they're positive - who cares if the motivation is to alleviate a negative

Posted by: Gareth Cartwright on 13 Aug 08

To Gareth Cartwright:

"I believe many people in the poverty trap want to be there. "

I would personally love to see you go up to a little 3 year-old starving African girl who is dying of aids because her mommy had to pay for her education by sleeping with a sugar daddy in town, who was in turn too poor and careless to use a condom, and tell her that she wants to be there. Your thoughts are right on the money here, buddy. Those damn poor people, they want to suffer.

I hope your intentions were in the right place, but that was a pretty ignorant and mindless thought you so casually threw out there.

Our societies, and the societies of the world, are set up in a manner to facilitate the class system amongst the citizens of the different nations. It is how the rich, who directly influence the workings of a society, are able to further the divide between those who have, themselves, and those who have not, the poor.

What needs to happen is a revolution in the way this world is run. A revolution led by those who care about the world we live in, and care about the others living in this world with us. The natural order of this world has been disrupted by the wants and desires of a cancerous human population. As a species, we need to collectively recognize that we cannot go on living in the same manner as we are for much longer. We are in desperate need of a paradigm shift, one that focuses on what is best for this world’s survival, instead of what is best for our own desires.

Posted by: Billy Walsh on 27 Aug 08



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