100 Words: Two Hundred Visionaries Share Their Hope for the Future
by William Murtha
"The greatest danger to our future is apathy." —Jane Goodall
Few would argue that a new world order is emerging out of the chaos of the past several decades.
As we rapidly accelerate away from that outdated model of capitalism and wealth creation that my baby-boomer generation was expected to embrace, we witness the blossoming of a new way of living and connecting in the world. Age-old institutions and financial systems are disintegrating, and as we watch unworkable ideologies crumble to dust, there is much cause for celebration amongst the darkness and despair: We are a race awakening to its highest potential.
Don’t get me wrong, this global transformation of consciousness, like most new births, is excruciatingly painful, and it certainly won’t be plain sailing. But rising from the ashes of this previously unjust and unsustainable economic model is hopefully going to evolve a more enlightened, empathic, peaceful, connected, and consciously aware society. After the traumatic and sometimes disturbing economic events of the past few years, it’s now becoming crystal clear to an increasing number of people that a global shakedown was absolutely essential. It’s become evermore apparent that we needed to change to ensure that all life can continue to go on.
As the planet’s population rapidly edges ever closer to seven billion (far more than its natural carrying capacity), more and more of us are waking up to the reality that an inner transformation in our thinking and attitudes had to occur. We simply couldn’t maintain those self-destructive habits that were poisoning our planet, our bodies, and our minds. What’s become more apparent to us during these times of obsessive greed and material wealth, of affluence beyond measure and so-called abundance, is that something vital was missing from our lives. We’d become so disconnected not only from other people and the very environment that sustains us, but also disconnected from our true values. The constant and ever-growing sense of pervading restlessness, which is now so visibly endemic throughout modern society, is today being fully recognized as a cry from the collective soul for change. We are slowly waking up to see that life can’t carry on this way forever.
Life had to change. We had to change.
Many are coming to the conclusion that the ways in which we lived and worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today. And we’re also realizing that it’s impossible to continue living in a manner that’s deeply destructive to the Earth’s ecosystem—the very biosphere and life-support that shelters, feeds, and nourishes our bodies, minds, and souls. But most of all, it’s starting to hit home that we cannot continue plundering the Earth’s limited resources when we only have a finite planet. The math simply doesn’t add up. Sooner or later, something, or rather someone (usually being the poorest and less able amongst us), will suffer.
For the past four years, I have been fortunate enough to meet up with, speak to, and connect with many of the world’s most prominent visionaries and luminaries of our time, change-makers and leaders who are pioneers in this global transformation that we are now witnessing. My travels and meetings have al-lowed me to appreciate many of the planet's most critically important issues that we now face, including climate change, environmental degradation, and social injustice. I’ve met many of those inspired teachers who, through dogged determination and sheer will, are literally changing the world from the inside out. These are the passionate activists and way-showers, the doers on the ground who have been gifted with the insight and vision to imagine new and more expanded possibilities for an ever-awakening human race.
This book, 100 Words: 200 Visionaries Share Their Hope for the Future
, is a testament to their hopes, resilience, courage, and life-message. This is their story. And best of all, their uplifting and sometimes courageous stories clearly demonstrate much of what is going right in the world. While pulling together this wide range of positive vision statements, what soon became apparent to me is the amount of sacrifice that had to be made, as those visionaries represented here fought to keep hold of their dreams and visions for a better future. Taking the road less traveled for those daring to challenge the status quo was far from easy and often involved a great deal of pain, retribution, and self-sacrifice. As many of us have experienced, it’s not easy to swim against the rushing torrent of a capitalist ideal—one that constantly preaches a God of continuous growth and increasing profits. It can be exhausting and painful when we dare to challenge the existing dogma. Far easier is it to put up and shut up, to go with the flow and live a more quiet and mundane existence.
That may well be true for the majority who simply accept that the world will never change. But it is certainly not true for all the visionaries featured here. These paradigm-shifters and innovators—dedicated to developing new ways of living and being in the world—are conscious that their ideas are often not welcome. They know that they will bump up against destructive ideologies that have little or no desire for change—systems of authority and corporate governance that do not want their comfortable ways either questioned or challenged.
You see, there is a small minority in the world which has too much self-interest and investment in society remaining stuck where it is. These people do not invite in the promise of transformation, self-realization, or social change because it doesn’t suit their cause. Worse still, it certainly doesn’t feed their balance sheets, profits, or power base. These power brokers, government leaders, and corporate heads have prospered under a controlling globalized system of trade barriers and protectionism, one that delivers increasing wealth and abundance to only the select few, even though this guarantees that billions of others less fortunate remain chained to poverty.
The enlightening news is that this ideology is coming off the rails, disintegrating before our very eyes. Why? Because greater numbers of people are fast realizing that this outdated and grossly unjust economic model, which cares little for people’s well-being or the planet, does not serve those nations or individuals at the bottom of the pile. Whatever shocking and depressing statistics you care to look at, they all point to the same truth: our present system of economics simply doesn’t work anymore.
What’s equally frightening in today’s changing world is that even the previously untouchable and impregnable middle class of the West—the engine house of previous economic miracles—is now also becoming vulnerable and financially exposed to this growing sense of hopelessness and desperation.
They too are being sucked into different forms of poverty, be it dietary, mental, social, or financial. Whatever region of the world we look at, it’s abundantly clear that increasing numbers of global citizens are feeling a collective sense of disquiet, detachment, and confusion. Combine this with the growing rage, anger, and anxiety that is welling up against this system that no longer works, and we truly have a perfect storm brewing for increasing dysfunction throughout modern society.
So if our twenty-first-century way of living is veering radically off course, what’s happening to change it? Who are the motivators behind inspiring new and better ways of living? What positive impact can their grassroots work have on an everyday, grounded level? What new initiatives and projects are addressing these problems of inequality and social injustice? And what radical differences can we expect to see in the decade ahead, as this citizen movement for change starts to pick up pace?
Read on and you’ll be inspired by what you discover. Because contrary to much of the violence and negativity that we are fed on the six o’clock news, there are still countless stories of hope and community punching through to lift our spirits. What you’ll discover after reading this positive commentary is that there is an unnamed movement for change building around the world. This movement may fly under the radar of the core media, but nevertheless, it is a growing movement of everyday people who believe that their collective actions really can inspire a better tomorrow. These are everyday people like you and me who are passionately committed to creating more sustainable and life-fulfilling ways of living and connecting in the world.
The uplifting and empowering words delivered from these visionaries will, I hope, inspire you to also become a change-maker and activist for transformation. Their insights and experiences will inject you with an unshakable belief that you too can become a leading light in the world. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope that reading these golden nuggets of collective wisdom really can fire up something from deep within your heart and soul. Perhaps these encouraging messages of hope—not to mention the incredible human stories behind them—really do possess the stimulus to inspire us all to embrace our highest potential, and therefore activate our own calling and purpose in life.
As I’ve mentioned already, a new and more awakened planet is emerging out of this economic and social chaos that we are painfully observing every day. A new world order is being born out of the personal crises that can so often threaten to overwhelm and paralyze us. But let’s look beyond those darker and more painful moments and see that, on the horizon, something far more beautiful and life-sustaining is being called forward.
The vision statements that have been contributed to this unique initiative, 100 Words
, clearly demonstrate that we are never alone in how we feel. These profound messages clearly show that we are never isolated from the collective pain we tune in to when witnessing disturbing images of social chaos or environmental breakdown. As most of the world’s most renowned spiritual pioneers have taught us, we really are one: together in both our joy and our pain. Just know that more innovators and visionaries than you’d ever imagine not only feel the same way as you and I do, they are also working tirelessly to engineer a safer and more life-sustaining way of being.
When you come to realize that this movement for change is not only taking, but building up incredible momentum, it will make your heart sing. I know mine did when I started to realize that this growing band of change-makers is to be found in every corner of life. What struck me even more was that this global movement was on an unprecedented scale. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Never in history have so many people felt compelled and driven to act against political disease, social injustice, and environmental destruction. What we are witnessing during our lifetimes (and Paul Hawken, the American activist and environmentalist, eloquently expressed this in his book, Blessed Unrest) is "humanity’s immune response" to resist that which we know to be deeply unethical.
We are truly blessed to be alive at this most critical juncture in history, a time when our collective efforts really can contribute the kind of world that our children and future generations deserve to inherit. With the passion and desire, the intention and the belief, we really can be visionaries and change agents. We can all contribute by answering that calling deep within, which begs us to sit up, pay attention, and listen to our hearts. What 100 Words
is showing us through the activism of others is that individually we can all make small, meaningful differences.
But together we truly can transform the world.
The inspirational change-makers featured in this book may be only a tiny representation of those who are daring to dream of a better world. They may well be only droplets in the ocean of much-needed change. But, as Mother Teresa profoundly commented, "The ocean is made up of drops."
William L. Murtha
Devon, England, UK, August 2009
The Inspiration Behind the Book
During the past four years while traveling around the world as a speaker and writer, I have been astonished at the breadth and depth of new initiatives that are springing up everywhere. Inspirational and positive causes that are passionately evolving, in response to the growing human desire we all have to find better meaning and purpose in our lives. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the sheer size of this combined force of global activists and visionaries—being that their much valued work is seldom reported in the mainstream media, a sometimes biased media that, by and large, seem constantly fixated on everything that’s failing in the world. However, fueled by hope, I kept on digging and probing, and to my astonishment, I quickly discovered a thriving movement of nongovernmental organizations and social innovators who were literally healing and changing the world—one project at a time.
Totally inspired by some of the positive stories I’d unearthed, I created 100 Words
, an initiative that would focus on everything that was going right in the world. I wanted to show some of the many inspirational projects that were evolving out of a human need to bring more balance and connection into the world. And most of all, my desire was to get a glimpse of the innovators who are driving these changes forward, changes that are essential to our search for a more hopeful, meaningful, and healthy future.
Full of hope, and inspired by all of the incredible human stories I encountered, I sent out invitations to over five hundred of these dedicated luminaries and change-makers, all of them at the forefront of global transformation in their specialized fields.
My request to each of them was the same: Given the enormity of problems now facing planet Earth at this critical juncture, please let me have your positive vision and hopes for the future.
Put another way, in around 100 words, please share empowering stories and thoughts that can best encapsulate your insight, wisdom, and feelings on how we can move toward a more just, fulfilling, and peaceful world.
I followed this by asking each:
What five books, poems or songs have most inspired both your life and your vocation? (As you will see, some chose not to provide a list.)
This book documents what these extraordinary inspirers had to say. . .
Who Is Jane Goodall?
Jane Goodall, Phd, DBE, one of the world’s most famous scientists, is known for her landmark study of chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Today Dr. Goodall devotes virtually all her time to advocating on behalf of chimpanzees and the environment, traveling over three hundred days a year. she is also a humanitarian and the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and its global youth program, roots & shoots. In 2002 UN secretary General Kofi Annan appointed dr. Goodall to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and in 2007 she was reappointed by secretary General Ban Ki Moon. www.janegoodall.org
Five books that Impacted Jane’s Life:
The Story of Doctor Dolittle
, Hugh Lofting
Tarzan Lord of the Jungle
, Edgar rice Burroughs
, Peter Singer
, Rachel Carson
Man’s Search for Meaning
, Viktor Frankl
So many problems: habitat destruction, poverty, pollution, population growth, over consumption, global climate change, ignorance, cruelty, hate, war. People feel helpless and so do nothing.
We have extraordinary brains, yet we are destroying our planet. We ask how major decisions will affect the next shareholders’ meeting, disregarding the fate of unborn generations. There is, it seems, a disconnect between the clever brain and compassionate heart. We must become whole again.
We must realize that each of us makes a difference, every single day. We must buy ethical products, support socially and environmentally conscious politicians, walk our talk. Together we can change the world.
Who Is Anna Lappé?
Anna Lappé is a national bestselling author and television personality whose work focuses on food systems, sustainability, and personal health. A founding principal of the small Planet Institute and small Planet Fund, Anna is the coauthor of Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet
and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen
Books that changed Anna’s Life:
, Rachel Carson
Trust Us, We’re Experts!
, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton
Diet for a Small Planet
, Frances Moore Lappé
In an era when so much can lead us to feel hopeless, we need hope more than ever. But this unique moment calls us to a new kind of hope, not the kind we get from sticking our heads in the sand—or in the clouds. We need hope like that embodied in the people I’ve been privileged to meet around the globe, from the sweltering heat of the Punjab to the plains of Brazil to the villages south of Nairobi. In each of these places, I’ve met people working, against daunting odds, to transform their communities by uprooting poverty. I was shocked at first to realize these are among the most hopeful people I’ve ever met. Through them, I came to see that hope is not born of naiveté, or of delusion. We feel hope when we make tough choices, when we choose to become part of the struggle to make a difference no matter what the odds. This kind of hope is not what we seek in evidence; it’s what we become in action. It’s the hope we need for the twenty-first century.
Who Is John Robbins?
John Robbins is the author of six international bestsellers, including Diet for a New America
, and The Food Revolution
. The only son of the founder of the Baskin Robbins ice cream empire, John was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin Robbins and the immense wealth it represented so he could "pursue the deeper American dream...the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem."
Considered to be one of the most eloquent and powerful spokespersons for a sane, ethical, and sustainable future, John is the founder and board chair emeritus of Earthsave International and board chair emeritus of Yes! He is the recipient of many awards, including the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, and the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award. www.earthsave.org
Five books that have inspired John’s Life:
The Chalice and the Blade
, Riane Eisler
Diet for a New America
, John Robbins
A Woman’s Worth
, Marianne Williamson
The Sacred Balance
, David Suzuki
, Rachel Carson
I believe that the real news on this planet is love—why it exists, where it came from, and where it is going. I believe that ultimately it is the love in our lives that underlies and makes possible our greatest healing and longevity. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have a choice to be either accomplices in the status quo or everyday revolutionaries. We have a choice whether to succumb to the cultural trance, eat fast food, and race by each other in the night, or to build lives of caring, substance, and healing. So much depends on that choice.