The entertainer Russell Brand describes it as “a blueprint for the future”; musician Sting says How Soon is Now? “gives us the context we need to understand the chaos and turbulence of our times”, and publisher Jefferson Hack describes author and documentary maker Daniel Pinchbeck as a “prophetic change agent with a serious message of hope”. What unites this unlikely group of contributors with the author is an understanding that the disconnect between our current activities and how they affect the Earth’s ecology cannot be sustainable for much longer. Something must be done. As the singer Moby writes: “Daniel Pinchbeck is proposing systemic solutions to the ecological crisis looming over us, requiring a drastic shift in lifestyle and new levels of global cooperation”.
Don’t let your dislike of Sting’s lute phase or Brand’s leather trousers cloud your judgement. Actually, they write the preface and introduction with passion and clarity, describing a situation where human existence on Earth is reliant on us challenging and changing our habits and outlooks. Only a “global reboot” – at a social, political, economic and, importantly, spiritual level – will protect our now fragile ecosystem from extinction.
Pinchbeck divides his book into five parts: starting with the reason he wrote the book – “I felt fury at our failure, as a species, to overcome the system, which was not only corrupt and hypocritical but destroying the biosphere and with it, our shared human future” – through chapters on why he believes humanity has reached crisis levels and why it matters – the gap between rich and poor; the ecological “mega crisis”; debt; war drones and “hyper-individualist” societal dysfunction – concluding with an action plan.
Usefully, each chapter has some guidance. It’s not all chaos and dread. What can we do? What happens next? How do we transition? So a subhead on water, for example, which describes floods, droughts and melting icecaps, is relieved by a solution: regenerative technologies, non-polluting energy, an evolution of consciousness: “There are many amazing solutions already within our reach,” reassures Pinchbeck.In a way, material matters – our obessession with having stuff – will be harder to reverse. What a challenge it will be, for instance, to dismantle the system that perpetuates private ownership of property. But Pinchbeck believes it can be done by switching our focus from having to being. A stewardship model rather than ownership.
“Private property is at the root of society’s sickness... Eventually we will supercede property rights through new cooperative arrangements.” Similarly, as an “idealist” he believes the modern form of debt-based currency can be replaced “with new instruments for sharing and creating value” for everyone, not just “the masters of the universe”.
It’s an enormous task, he concludes, but we must change or die. How soon? Now.
How Soon is Now? From Personal Initiation to Global Transformation is written by Daniel Pinchbeck and published by Watkins