All cultures are infused with myths and prophecies that express humankind’s expectations and fears for the future. By the latter decades of the twentieth century, realization spread that without sustainable practices the human enterprise more and more compromised the ecosphere’s capacity to support future life. The project of sustainability invites us to collectively and self-consciously construct the future: to generate plausible images of the world decades from now, establish collective goals, and adapt current choices and behaviors for the journey. New methods like scenario analysis can help us to explore such possible futures as well as rekindle age-old hopes for an organic and interdependent global civilization, no longer as abstract hope, but as necessity for a resilient and livable future.

Originally published in Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, vol. 1 of The Spirit of Sustainability, edited by William Jenkins (Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing, 2009).