What's up with For the Future?
By Richard Anderson
HopeDance, July 2005
Bob Banner, publisher of Hopedance, has let me know that his readers might like an update on For the Future, the non-profit organization I’m involved with. I decided to take up Bob’s challenge by writing something from an inside perspective--what it’s like to be part of a rather unique organization.
First I ought to start by describing our organization. We call For the Future a think tank; that’s a rather ornate description, but the closest one we’ve been able to come up with. Our focus is on the collision of the ever-growing human enterprise with its inevitable limits. It goes without saying that this historic event presents challenges in every area of life, and we’re not trying to deal with every challenge all at once. But we find that this global focus gives us stimulus and direction, and allows a great deal of room for creativity. Our mission is to stimulate discussion and action that might help our nation and our community deal with the crisis, or at least make its effects more tolerable.
That’s the short form of what we are. But in an enterprise of this kind, who we are is equally important. We call ourselves Fellows, a traditional if rather grandiose title in the think-tank business, but we’re really just people, four individuals from widely differing backgrounds but with a significant personal history of connection and involvement. I come from an academic background, while Sri Subramanian is a software engineer, Larry Saltzman is a programmer and permaculture expert, and Linda Buzzell is a therapist and career counselor. More important than our personal backgrounds, however, is our history of working together. We’ve been members of a Simplicity Circle for the last six years, and we’ve seen each other grow and change as we’ve challenged the consumer culture in our personal lives. That long experience of working together is the foundation of For the Future, and it allows us great flexibility, based on great trust.
The great advantage of being a think tank is the flexibility it gives us. As Fellows, we’re free to pursue any idea we can come up with. If we need help in organizing an event or meeting, or comments on a manuscript, we can call on each other. And we meet regularly as For the Future and in our Simplicity Circle (which includes other close friends), to give each other updates and new information and ideas.
As far as an update on our activities (the ostensible reason for this rambling), we’ve found ourselves taking advantage of our flexibility to push initiatives in a variety of directions. I’ve been finishing a book (Waking Up from the American Dream: Living a Happy, Healthy Life in Our Unhealthy Consumer Culture). We’ve been writing and publishing articles and letters (one of Linda’s articles for Hopedance was featured on the Utne web site, and several of Sri’s articles have appeared in the Santa Barbara News Press). Linda and Larry have been organizing a very interesting event called “Beauty Is as Beauty Does: The Marriage of Visual Appeal and Sustainability,” designed to stimulate a dialogue between the justly renowned designers of Santa Barbara’s lovely architecture and landscapes and the pioneers of organic and sustainable building and planting (Hopedance is cosponsoring this event).
Larry and Linda have a long and successful history of creating new organizations, and that’s been an important focus of their activities. Linda recently founded a new professional organization, the International Association for Ecotherapy. Larry and Linda created the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club, and they are also organizing a group with a focus on local agriculture as a response to the upcoming crisis that will arrive with the peak of world oil production.
That rapidly approaching event (commonly called “peak oil”) has been a major focus at For the Future since last November, when For the Future co-sponsored an important conference with Hopedance called “Overconsumption, Oil Depletion, and the Inevitable Road to Sustainability,” which featured Richard Heinberg as keynote speaker.
As regards future activities, I’m planning to attend the Simplicity Forum, a gathering of leaders of the voluntary simplicity movement, in Colorado in August. Also (the activity I’m most looking forward to), I’m going to attend the International Conference on Progressive Spiritual Activism in Berkeley in July. And Larry is gestating an idea for a conference in the fall on the potential confluence of the sustainability and social justice movements.
That’s just a partial list of what we’ve got going on. (The complete list would be too long for this space. For a fuller description, see our web site at www.forthefuture.org). As you can see, it’s an extremely eclectic list, representative of our few-limits think tank approach to stimulating change. We’re all aware that working this way is a risk. We’re not confined by a master plan and action items, which gives us the freedom to play with new ideas. But the potential drawbacks to this style of activism are obvious: lack of focus and continuity, and limited effectiveness in pushing change in any single direction. Nevertheless, we believe that shaking the dice and thinking outside the box are valuable activities. Somehow good things keep happening, new things come into being. Will it continue to work? Is it the right thing to do? We don’t know. But we know we’re going to keep doing it.
Return to Top