Future Building

Dreaming, and Choosing, a Better Future

Liked Dreaming Big by Christopher Butler (

It’s her belief that visualizing a better future isn’t just an exercise in motivation, but that it actually helps to change and refine the things they do today. What would you have to do differently today, she’ll ask, to make that future possible? The problem is that these conversations almost never go well. My friend struggles with how limited their imaginations are — how small their dreams are — how little they believe they can actually change.

“[W]hen the Enterprise crew encountered communities that, despite having reached the same level of technological progress if not surpassed it, had chosen a simpler way of life instead…As good as the ship life looked, in all its sterility and power, in its replicator’s abundance, in the holodeck’s infinite imagination, the small, intimate spaces of those post-post-technological communities looked better to me. As big and provocative the dream of a techno-utopia is, a culture that has the ability to make one but chooses not to is one far grander…

“The Amish make the choice to live differently. The present tense of that statement is intentional — important to understanding why they do so, and how… They continually choose the details of their way of life, motivated by strengthening the bond of their community and defining it around a preserved set of values.”

The choosing to add is the key: that just because something exists doesn’t mean it will serve you and your community, and it’s worth considering what the repurcussions of adding a new technology will be. This keeps power in the hands of the community rather than whoever has created a new technology. In contrast, we’ve handed over the literal shape of our cities to car companies, and the state of our democracy to social media companies.

I am also drawn to a simple life – is it so much to ask that I can have somewhere safe to live with my husband and friends as we age, the security of not worrying about the cost of medical care, and to work in a way that doesn’t cause me burnout and physical harm through poor ergonomics and too much sitting?

As I think about the future I keep coming back to building community and reclaiming ownership of how our towns work. Smaller scale, more local, interdependent and supporting each other.

Of course, I’m also scared of community by things like Nextdoor, which bring out the worst in people and preys on fear. I’m worried I’ll get to know my community and feel even more out of place than I do already.

“Fundamentally, it’s the idea that progress isn’t complete if it’s not experienced by everyone. What good is a starship if a single person who had her hand in making it goes hungry?”


Let’s share the wealth – there is no need for anyone in America to go hungry, live without shelter, and die from a lack of essential medication. We just have to have the willpower to spread the rewards of our success, and move past the fear of others.

Which all comes back to building community. When we feel like we’re part of a community, we want to help take care of that community. So we need to help people find connections where they are, not just online (that’s important too but can’t replace connecting with the real spaces we inhabit if we want to make them better).

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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