Youth Futures: Comparative Research and Transformative Visions

By Jennifer Gidley; Sohail Inayatullah | Go to book overview

Chapter 15
Re-Imagining Your Neighborhood:
A Model of Futures Education

Carmen Stewart


REVITALIZING SOCIAL PLANNING

In recent years there has been substantial research on young people’s images, hopes, and fears for the future and how these perceptions encourage or discourage their participation in society. Futures researchers such as Elise Boulding, Polak, and Zeigler, have contributed to our understanding of the crucial role that our images of the future play in determining our present actions. “Polak was one of the first thinkers to call attention to the atrophy of our capacity to visualize a wholly different future.”1 In translating Polak’s reading of history, Elise Boulding describes the important role images play in motivating social change: “In eras when pessimism combines with a sense of cosmic helplessness, the quality of human intentionality declines and, with it, the quality of the not-yet. . . . Societies in that condition live bounded by the present, with no social dynamic for change available to them.”2

A dynamic link exists between our capacity to imagine and believe in a sustainable future and our present ability to respond to issues of social and ecological survival. Developing our capacity to imagine significant aspects of a healthy future is a crucial and timely motivation for change.

Numerous reports prepared by researchers, including Richard Eckersley, Frank Hutchinson, and David Hicks, raise concerns about trends of youth pessimism. The findings from this research indicate that young people are aware of and affected by the growing complexity and challenges of our world.3 Their greatest concerns include environmental degradation, violence, employment prospects, war, and relationships. Not surprisingly, their concerns reflect the major social and environmental concerns of communities globally. The apathy we must confront is not due not to a lack of

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