Visions 2100 by John O’Brien – a book to inspire you to think global and dream big for the future

The way Australian CleanTech and Sino CleanTech founder John O’Brien sees it, by imagining the future we really want to see in 100 years time, we liberate ourselves to really catalyse change. It’s a case of putting the pragmatist to one side for a minute and letting the visionary take over.

Vision 2100 brings together these types of imaginings from a vast number of global leaders, innovators, disruptors and activists, linked by an exploration that brings together psychology, science, philosophy, politics, social dynamics and current affairs.

It’s powerful stuff, written in a way that is both conversational and jaw-droppingly well-informed. The research effort involved in the book is obvious, and altogether dazzling.

It makes a strong case for optimism as crucial to the process of engendering the changes needed to enter a low-carbon future where the goals of ending poverty and violence are achieved.

O’Brien told The Fifth Estate the book’s corresponding website aimed to encourage people to contribute their own vision, and together create a collective imagining of a better future.

The need is to make the sustainability thing attractive, he says. Sharing the vision and taking the step towards creating your own world can help.

The reason he asked people to imagine 2100 and what might have changed to arrive at the future they imagine is because short-term imagining doesn’t always free people enough from thinking within the current box, he says.

Visions need to be big to be compelling.

“Leadership is about attracting people to a new thing. Martin Luther King didn’t say, ‘I’ve got a bit of a plan.’ He said, ‘I have a dream.’”

But that’s not how we talk about environmental issues, he says. There needs to be more carrot, as well as stick – both negative narratives and positive narratives.

The downside is what provides a business case to act, he says, while the positive argument “pulls people to change”.

On climate change mitigation, he says using standard operating procedures for environmental problems generally mean we will “wait until the brink of catastrophe and then act”.

It’s a case of people often waiting until the stick is big enough to drive them, as climate change does not feel imminent to everyone, although the increasing rate of catastrophes is helping to change that.

The carrots are many throughout the book – from EVS and renewable energy to localised sustainable food production, closed-loop manufacturing, a focus on quality of life rather than financial statements and greater community harmony.

It was launched at COP21 and, interestingly, many of the contributors to the book say 2015 was the year it really started to change for the better.

O’Brien himself hopes so. He says it is up to the storytellers to tell their tales around climate change and sustainability in ways listeners can take in, hear and believe.

The book has certainly collected the wisdom of many who are working very hard – and in many cases extremely successfully – at doing just that.

Island Home, a landscape memoir by Tim Winton – a book to remind you of why we love the planet

Weaving together intimate first-person observations of places both natural and manmade, with a personal narrative of how the Western Australian environment shaped Tim Winton as a human, a writer and an activist, Island Home is a beautiful book.

Winton’s gifts with language are at the forefront, giving his love for nature a powerful eloquence. His talents with character in fiction here turned to brief but moving portraits of people that have crossed his path or walked it with him.

There are many layers to the book, including reflections on how the urban growth of Perth has impacted the landscape. He writes movingly of bushland he played in now gone, traded for tarmac, houses and a mega mall.

On the upside, the success of community efforts to marine sanctuaries such as Ningaloo Reef, and his narrative around the ending of whaling, show how positive outcomes can be achieved.

It’s not escapist reading – instead it gently and compellingly captures the textures, scents and sensations of belonging in a deeply embedded way to this land.