In his new book Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want, Bryan Welch challenges us to quit moaning and groaning about the environment, economic predation and a host of other uglies and instead take a proactive role in creating a future worth living. Welch's fundamental premise is that humans are smart enough to figure out how to make something happen, but when it comes to the future of the earth, and our species, we can't seem to get past just pointing out the problems and pointing the finger at those perceived to be at fault. Finger pointing and special-interest-agenda grinding will most definitely prevent any future world concept that's fair, beautiful and abundant or worth living.
Vegetarians blaming beef producers and Prius drivers blaming Hummer afficionados for using up all the natural resources and causing all the pollution, or political pundits pretending there's no end to oil and that global climate change is just some pork-providing hoax, simply skirt and divert attention from the real issues. Adjusting our consumerism to include guilt-salving environmental bandaid purchases like compact fluorescent lightbulbs doesn't make much of a long-term impact either. As with life in general, there is no environmental magic bullet that will keep our way of life going without us first carefully defining where we want to be and agreeing on a path to getting there.
Nope, a future worth living is not going to be conveniently purchased with a certifying body's stamp of approval, it's not going to wear some political party's slogan, it will challenge cultures, religions and traditional ways of thinking. Building the world we want is going to take honest engagement, cooperation among groups that have not historically cooperated, and untold lifetimes of dedicated work. Building a future that appeals to a common human vision won't likely be televised, but it may well be continuously streamed.
Don't get me wrong, I believe that creating a beautiful and abundant future is entirely within the human realm. As Welch eloquently points out in his book, humans visualized being able to fly for about as long as history has been recorded. The big breakthrough occurred in 1903 and look at us today. If we can visualize it, we can make it happen. So let us start visualizing how a naturally beautiful and economically abundant earth might look because it will likely take a while to get there.
One of the most compelling lessons for me in Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want is that an amazing amount of human effort is being currently squandered in the battle over special-interest slices of the environmental issue. What a waste. Imagine where we'd be if that energy was aimed at a desirable outcome with near universal appeal.
If you are dissatisfied with the contentious and derisive wheel-spinning discussions of the present condition and how it relates to the future, I suggest you read a copy of Welch's Beautiful and Abundant. At the very least, you might be moved to think about the world and your place in it. But more than likely you will experience a paradigm shift in thought -- a ureka moment of sorts. It seems so simple: without a vision, our future is completely lost.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.