The New Possible: Visions of Our World beyond Crisis

Edited by Philip Clayton, Kelli M. Archie, Jonah Sachs, and Evan Steiner. Cascade Books, 2021. 298 pages. $35/hardcover; $27/paperback or eBook.

During the last several years, disorder has pushed humans into liminal space. People are processing the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the January 6 insurrection, murders of African Americans by police officers, heightened impacts of climate change, and other disturbing events, and they are wondering, what comes next? Progressives in my neighborhood are searching for ways to transition to a new order of sustainable peace and justice. For Quakers, the search involves enhancing our individual and collective awareness of truth, listening for divine leadings, and making commitments to right actions. The book The New Possible can help us in our search.

The New Possible is a collection of 28 brief essays by authors involved in explaining, advocating for, and inspiring social change. Themes of the book are Earth, Us, Change, Wealth, Work, Food, Education, Love, Community, and Tomorrow. A team of four people edited the work, including Philip Clayton, professor of theology at Claremont School of Theology; Kelli M. Archer, senior science advisor at the Institute for Ecological Civilization; and Jonah Sachs and Evan Steiner, both of One Project, the nonprofit initiative that made this book possible. The book also contains drawings by ten artists.

Among the essays, several were most inspiring to me:

  • Jeremy Lent, founder of the Liology Institute, describes a vision for the future he calls an “ecological civilization.”
  • Michael Pollan, journalist and activist, focuses on the intersection of nature and culture. He notes tradeoffs, as revealed by COVID-19, between efficiency and resilience in commercial supply chains and other institutions.
  • Riane Eisler, social systems scientist, cultural historian, and attorney, advocates for the expansion of partnership relations.
  • David Bollier, director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, calls for substituting the commons as a functional alternative to capitalism.
  • Vandana Shiva, physicist and founder of Navdanya, a movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, writes to protest the pseudo-efficiency (efficiency for whom?) of companies which “drives the invasion of ecosystems and violates ecological limits and planetary boundaries.”
  • Eileen Crist, associate professor emerita in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech, advocates for inclusive justice in food systems.
  • Oren Slozberg, program director of the Center for Creative Community at Commonweal and innovator in the fields of education, youth development, and the arts, provides a method for structuring group dialogue and deep learning by using objects of art.
  • Jack Kornfield, Buddhist monk and clinical psychologist, encourages hope, awareness, and timeless love.
  • And David C. Korten, international development economist, says humanity is in the grip of a deeply flawed story and in need of a new story “informed by traditional wisdom, the world’s great religious traditions, and the leading edge of science.”

These and other essays in The New Possible can serve Quaker readers in several ways. Individual Friends can use them to understand and be inspired by new perspectives for seeing the world and new ideas for interpreting Quaker values—especially those of simplicity, equality, and community. Peace and Social Concerns committees and working groups can study them for ideas about how they want to direct resources and form actions. The book complements and thereby supports the work of Quaker organizations such as American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends committees working on state-level legislation, Quaker Earthcare Witness, Quaker Institute for the Future, and Right Sharing of World Resources. In short, The New Possible can inspire and aid Friends’ efforts to transition to a new and better order.

Philip Favero is an economist and member of Agate Passage (Wash.) Meeting.

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