Models of Hope is a book about just that: hope. Humanity is facing colossal challenges and it can be difficult to see a positive road ahead, but there is one. Hope remains despite adversity, and we can find it in the form of sustainability.
There are 4 traditional pillars of sustainability; human, social, economic and environmental. This book adds a fifth, of spirituality. Putting these pillars in place builds the structure of a truly sustainable world. Sustainability aims to maintain and improve society and our planet, to make life better for ourselves and future generations. In order to live in a better world, sustainable practices should be implemented and woven through society, economic systems and on an individual basis. Models of Hope explains how this could occur, by exploring how people are living their lives in sustainable ways and seeing if and how these principles could be universalised.
Models of Hope explores the failings of the world we live in, including poor working conditions, exploitation, environmental destruction and economic inequality. Yet, instead of reinforcing a message of doom, the book teaches that it is not too late. It presents examples of how the world and the global systems could be revolutionised. There are specific and anecdotal examples of positive lifestyles and businesses, like the White & Green Company who sell ethically sourced bed linen and Niamh Traynor who lives a simple lifestyle in harmony with nature. There are also discussions of large scale ideas, like the circular economy and a fairer distribution of wealth. Models of Hope is a book where you can come to read a stream of ideas. It reads like a conversation, imperfect and thought provoking. The sustainability movement isn’t one simple linear path towards utopia. It is full of contradictions, trials and unique approaches that won’t work for everyone. But the most important thing we can do is engage with the potential of sustainability, and that is what Models of Hope is here to help you do.
Human sustainability is where the human experience is built on and improved. This is everything surrounding the experience of the individual around the world. Consider what affects your own life, things like education, employment, culture, health and wellbeing and the opportunities that come under each of these. Human sustainability is where everyone has access to opportunities that meet and exceed needs. Everyone should have an education and the opportunity for a fulfilling career, plus time to relax, enjoy life and experience the world through friendships, travel and cuisine. Human sustainability crosses over with social, in the pursuit of progress towards equality and tolerance.
In the Human chapter the authors hone in on working conditions, discussing the devastating garment factory collapse in Bangladesh and exploitative practices in the UK too. There are two examples of companies that were personally spoken to and interviewed, explaining how they treat their employees and people in their supply chains. Their approaches are models of hope for the world of work and industry. The Human chapter also discusses the benefits of multicultural integration and celebrating cultural richness, the psychological effects of consumption and consumerism, and the importance of education.
“We have already seen dramatic change in cultural acceptance and integration in the last 100 years, but there is more to hope for. The human sustainability vision looks to the future, ensuring that generations after us benefit from the improvements we have pushed for in employment, health, wellbeing, culture and happiness”
Next, Models of Hope explores social sustainability. Social sustainability is rooted in trust in the collective. Society cannot exist with one individual, it relies on a group of maybe tens of thousands, so there must be some collective beliefs and motivations that hold the group together. Society must also be adaptable, shifting to adopt changes and advancements. We have seen how adaptable society can be through the advancements of technology, so this hopefully illustrates how sustainable advancements could equally be welcomed. A socially sustainable society is defined as one where every person can have social conditions met, and they do not experience structural obstacles to things like health, meaning-making and being represented. A society of social sustainability achieves this while prioritising freedom and diversity, such as integrating cultures and offering fulfilling career paths. The social chapter shows that if sustainable change is to be made, it needs to come on a grand scale and to be embraced by the large group, not just the individual.
The social chapter includes an interview with Jon Jandai who grew up in Thailand and followed a route of traditional societal success. He moved to Bangkok and tried to climb the ladder, earning money in a variety of jobs. He found this to be incredibly unfulfilling, so traded it in for a simpler life. He questions the normalised lifestyle of society, like spending most of life in an office or eating processed food. His story is not isolated, so Models of Hope questions how the traditional 9-5 could be reshaped into a more normal and natural routine which aligns with a primary goal of sustainability, to be kind to ourselves.
The economic chapter explains that the current economic climate is not sustainable. There is widespread inequality with one end of the spectrum seeing multibillionaires prioritising profits over workers welfare and environmental degradation, and the other seeing extreme poverty. The chapter explores the fact that “the richest 7 people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 50%, which includes 3.9 billion people”. How could society be reshaped to close this enormous gap and redistribute wealth?
Models of Hope explores the opportunity of a circular economy, one that prioritises regeneration of materials and fair distribution, while prioritising the earth and the human experience. The authors explore the belief that wealth should not be entirely about financial gain, actually “wealth is wellbeing”.
The environmental chapter is the one the authors built up to the most. Through writing for The Kindest Revolution newspaper, Susan and Rose have built expertise in environmental sustainability, and different models of hope which allow us to move towards achieving this. The chapter explains the climate disaster we are imminently facing. Then it explains some alternative lifestyles which live more in harmony with nature, while noting that any against-the-grain lifestyle requires a certain degree of privilege.
One of the most important things to transition towards positive progress in any area, is the willingness and openness to speak about issues, even when they are uncomfortable. “You cannot bring positive change by tearing others down, or being reluctant to collaborate”.
When Models of Hope moves to the spirituality chapter, the mood is truly left on a high. Susan takes lessons from religion and history and translates them into sustainable approaches. She notes how “we’re subtly passing over a threshold into an era, where each individual needs to master his or her own spiritual authority”, which involves following happiness. This autonomy to develop one’s own beliefs, be critical and choose appropriate morals by which to live is a development towards a better, more sustainable humanity.
The spirituality chapter discusses teachings that prove “a human being has many, many capabilities for creating and manifesting whatever we need to become better human beings making a better version of humanity”. The chapter teaches of our power as individuals, to choose peace. It also explains how life in the rich and diverse planet we inhabit is sacred. Looking to the future for sustainability also involves being informed from the past:
“Finding models of hope for our future sustainability, means looking to models from our ancestors which gives us clues for hope.”
Spirituality is an awareness of living. If we tap into the fact that we are living beings on a living planet in a living universe, seeing the sacredness in all other living things, we might value our precious time on the planet more, and make more effort to sustain it.
Models of Hope helps readers understand the spectrum of sustainability. The word sustainability is not just a way to describe material things that are environmentally friendly, it embodies an entire model for the world. If you wish to understand more about the large scale issues in the world, and how each provides an opportunity for change, Models of Hope is for you. If you wish to understand the sustainability movement, the many sites it arises in and why it is growing, again, this book is for you. Models of Hope has been a journey of discovery for the authors, and they hope it provides the same experience for you.
Models of Hope, Sustainability The Growing Movement | Susan Ni Rahilly with Rose Mason, Published by The Kindest Revolution Monday December 21st, 2020. Digital eBook in PDF format. Visit the Book Page here . . .