Solnit spent years on the road talking to people about hope, activism and the meaning of small changes in an uncertain future. While you may first think the word ‘dark’ in the title refers to a grim and depressing future, it actually represents the unknown. The future that is still in the dark and not yet seen by anybody.
This is an important book for everyone looking for change. Activists who make small victories one at a time. Solnit tells them that revolution is not absolute, all or nothing. Paradise is not a place to arrive. A small change can be an opening for something new to come. Change can stretch out over decades. Meanwhile, the present is always a mixed bag of good things and bad things happening. The bad things shouldn’t lead to despair and paralysis.
Solnit’s insights about hope are the reason for me to write this review. To Solnit, hope is located in the fact that we don’t know what will happen in the future. The space of the unknown, is where there is room to act. To quote Solnit: hope is an embrace of the unknown and unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Hope is the beginning of action, knowing that you can do something to create a better future. Solnit also encourages you to look through a larger timeframe. Knowing how changes in the past have led to where we are today. It will show you that small changes can have meaningful impact. One small courageous step can be an opening for others to be successful.
Solnit talks about the importance of stories for the future. Storytelling allows other people to see a future that they were previously unaware of. Stories don’t substitute action, but they show us the possibility of alternative futures. Stories can reveal new insights about what can be done. They help to identify new roads for meaningful actions. They are inspirational and help to see in the darkness.
With this notion, Solnit points exactly at the work of futurists. New insights on strategies for being successful in an uncertain future is what futurists aim to achieve in organizations. Their work is to support people on a systematic exploration of the unknown and unknowable. Trough scanning and research, through imagination and dialogue, futurists help to create meaningful memories of what the future could be and how we could get there. Not optimistic futures or pessimistic futures, but alternative scenarios for the future, which are relevant and give hope about what we can do today.
Solnit, an activist for change, describes a futurist mindset. How hope in an unknown future has given her strength and empowerment though which successes have been made possible. Hope and a futurist mindset are indeed an active approach to an uncertain future. It requires much more compared to the optimist who can be fine without involvement or the pessimist who believes all is too late. Solnit’s beautiful writing has given me a new perspective on hope and its role in creating a better future.
Over Freija van Duijne
Freija van Duijne was van 2013 tot 2018 voorzitter van de Dutch Future Society. Zij heeft meer dan tien jaar werkervaring als toekomstverkenner en strateeg in diverse overheidsorganisaties. Freija werkt vanuit haar bedrijf Future Motions en geeft trainingen en lezingen op gebied van toekomstverkennen.