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The Time Traveller’s Tale Rob Hopkins takes us to a future where the climate crisis is being faced head on, exploring what could be…

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H o p k

R o b

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I’ve travelled here from Totnes in Devon. You may have heard of us. We are the town famously twinned with Narnia. We are the town where, it is said by local poet Matt Harvey, when you’ve lived there for a while, your body starts to secrete a new hormone called Totnesterone that brings your masculine and feminine into perfect alignment.

What you might not know is that we also have a Time Travel programme. It is super secret, so don’t tell anyone, it’s just between you and me. In an old cellar deep beneath Totnes Castle, we have been working on the development of Disbelief Suspenders, Cynicism Overrider circuits and much more, and we have now perfected a fully working actual Time Machine!

It is inspired by Afrofuturism and traditional African understandings of time which state that time isn’t linear, but rather that we are the central hub in a wheel and every spoke offers routes to different pasts and different futures. Our technology is shaped by bell hooks who wrote: “What we cannot imagine cannot come into being”. And by the great Sun Ra who said, “We’ve tried the possible and it failed, now it’s time to try the impossible…”

At the moment, the predominant direction of the future looks bleak, but there are other pathways into the future and, in our Time Machine, we explore them. Not Utopias, not dystopias, but rather the futures that resulted from our doing everything we could possibly have done. It’s vitally important that we make the spaces to explore ‘what if it’s too late?’ but it’s also vital that we make the spaces to explore ‘what if it isn’t?’.

I want to tell you the story of a recent journey we took in our Time Machine. You might like to think of me, standing here, as the Marco Polo, or the Phileas Fogg, of the climate movement, bringing you back extraordinary tales from a very different future in 2030, one that is still possible, just…

THE AIR SMELLS AMAZING, and the birdsong is so loud. London smells like a spring day in the mountains. The city has far more tree cover, keeping it cool in summer. There is now far less tarmac and concrete…

The UK now has passed 100% renewable energy, exported renewably generated electricity to other places, and much of the renewable energy put in place is in community ownership.

Getting to this moment has felt like the most exhilarating time in history to live through, like a revolution of the imagination. It’s been an incredible time to be alive. I feel so lucky to have seen it.

And oh, the bicycle rush hours! You’ve never seen anything like them. Underground car parks from 2023 have been repurposed as amazing underground bike parks, everywhere.

The worst of the international speculative banks collapsed in 2024 and this time we didn’t bail them out, we nationalised them in service of the Transition and the Green New Deal, and those bank offices are now repurposed as the home to all sorts of co-ops and new economy businesses.

We visited Citizens’ Assemblies that are now used for all big decisions – the sense of empowerment and possibility were palpable. And every city has a Civic Imagination Office, vital to the flexing of that place’s collective imagination muscle.

Schools are now democratic, imaginative, artistic, a living embodiment of sustainability, designed by the kids. Many now have a rainforest in the middle of them.

We eat about 80% less meat than we did in 2023, but you know what? Hardly anyone noticed the shift, and we are all so much healthier as a result.

We’ve already retrofitted 70% of the UK’s housing stock, and we started with the poorest housing first. New buildings are all Passivhaus, beautiful, and many use more locally produced materials, which has been a big boost to local economies.

Eighty-five per cent of peoples’ lives have hugely improved – there’s no homelessness any more, no fuel poverty, because in 2030, the right decisions are made to enable those things … we look back on 2023 in horror and shame!

Shell and BP went out of business in 2026 and we celebrated their passing with such fierce dancing. People still talk about the parties that marked their demise.

We don’t have floods any more because we rewilded the uplands and we developed the humility to realise that beavers are far better hydrological engineers than we can ever be – and it’s led to an explosion of biodiversity … far faster than anyone expected. It all happened so fast.

Aviation has fallen by 80%, and no-one has seen a private jet since 2025. Rather than the constant fights of 2023 to stop the opening of new runways, we now vote annually on which of the existing ones we should be closing down and in which order. Half of Heathrow airport has already been returned to forest.

Public transport is now free and, hard to believe back in 2023 I know, it’s really good, punctual and comfortable.

Universities now teach everything through the lens of the climate and ecological emergency, and they are now showcases of a different future. They are surrounded by food gardens, generate more power than they use, and are deeply ­democratic.

Rishi Sunak finally had his climate change dark night of the soul in 2024 and committed his vast wealth to tackling the climate and ecological emergency. His actions inspired many other wealthy people to do the same. King Charles committed in 2024 to rewilding all the Crown’s lands, and that process has happened so fast. And no-one has heard anything at all from Jeremy Clarkson for at least seven years.

The UK is now the most welcoming place in the world for displaced people, and policing has been transformed,

issue 117 autumn 2023

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