Thinking Through a Different Perspective

  People can’t work for what they can’t imagine. Elise Boulding  

For decades an indomitable sociologist, educator, and futurist has been challenging the thinking of many. She has forced us to see through different lens, imagine new perspectives, and to explore time in a unique way. Her name is Elise Boulding. Her latest book, Cultures of Peace: the Hidden Side of History, relates to peace movements working within cultures of war. Unlike many who believe that war is part of human nature, or is inevitable as part of our existence, Boulding is committed to showing how cultures of peace can be achieved and flourish.   

Over 50 years ago, Boulding became intrigued by the work of a Dutch historian and sociologist, Fred Polak. Polak conducted a study, The Image of the Future, in which he studied 1,500 years of European history. Through his work he projected the idea of imaging a better future as a way of empowering people to bring it to fruition. Boulding took up Polak’s challenge and from 1980 she has conducted “Imaging a World Without Weapons” workshops. Through the decades the workshops have been reconstituted to include global values and perspectives.


The quote at the top of the page forces us to focus on what we want the future to be. In the left column below you will see several years listed. Consider what the world will be like in that time period. Think hopefully. Think peacefully. Think globally. Avoid looking at the right column. After you have written down your statements, review Elise Boulding’s thoughts. As you can conclude, there are “no right” or “no wrong” entries here. The important thing to consider is how do you go about achieving what you have envisioned. Share your thoughts with others.







2050: The population had, through both disaster and design, fallen below 5 billion: human life on earth became viable again. School-based peace education joined with health and social education, leading to mutual solving of problems in and across communities and faiths. Industrialization slowed down, older technologies and skills were revitalized, steady-state economies were achieved. Dismantling the military and its institutions began. People’s organizations (NGOs) now provided vital communication networks round the world, linking the growing thousands of locally-run communities, sharing information, skills, problems, solutions.

2100: The biosphere was beginning to recover from the destruction of the twentieth century, though used-up resources were gone for ever. National boundaries still existed for administrative convenience, but regional inter-governmental bodies skilled in conflict management handled disputes peacefully.... Humans had learned to listen to one another and to the planet.