From What Is To What If (A Book Review)

How do you think about the future in regard to climate change? If it presents you with gloomy visions of extreme weather, resource scarcity, and destruction of animals, land, water, and air, then you need to read Rob Hopkins‘ book From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create The Future We Want.

This book is all about using imagination to design a better future for the people and the planet. Each chapter contains several uplifting examples of people all over the world who are using ingenuity and imagination to bring about positive, hopeful changes.

The chapter titles are all questions: What If We Took Play Seriously?, What If We Considered Imagination Vital to Our Health?, What If We Followed Nature’s Lead?, What If We Fought Back to Reclaim Our Attention?, What If School Nurtured Young Imaginations?, What If We Became Better Storytellers?, What If We Started Asking Better Questions?, What If Our Leaders Prioritised the Cultivation of Imagination?, and What If All This Came to Pass?

I particularly agreed with the author on the importance of liberal arts in education and thought the chapters on rethinking education and reclaiming attention were inspiring. Included within these chapters are a lot of statistics and studies that show how much is lost when art, music, drama, dance, etc., are removed from education. You will read about how our obsession with screens and fast-paced living has dulled our minds, limited our attention, and diminished critical and creative thinking skills.

And yet, even in the face of these dismal facts, Hopkins shares many stories of people who have developed schools that encourage artistic expression, learning, and creative thought. In these places young people are thriving.

In the chapter on considering imagination vital to health, we learn that poverty can be a factor in limiting attention, memory, and the development of imagination while increasing the chance of mental illness. But also included are examples of how imaginative, artistic engagement is a form of therapy that can help people with mental illnesses to heal.

There was such a happy story in the chapter about asking better questions: of how a community transformed a dreary bus turning circle into a village green for a day complete with flowers, music, dancing, art, and food just to spark the community’s imagination and get them thinking about how things could be different.

And that’s what this book is about, really. It’s about how things could be different if we think differently–both now and in the future. Maybe what we think is impossible is, in fact, possible if we collectively use our imaginations, activate our creativity, and think generatively about everything from play and storytelling to local food security and community gathering places. I highly recommend you read From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create The Future We Want. I guarantee that it will galvanize you into thinking in a different and more positive way about the future.

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