Table of Contents, Chapters 1 through 7, Full Annotations

Paul Stark
14 min readMay 24


Part of the Our Better Future book: “Here’s What We’ll Do: Practical suggestions for working toward a marginally Better Future” (For HWWD home page click HERE)

(For T of C with “Micro” Annotations Click HERE)

Chapter 1: Our Better Future (Click Here to visit chapter)

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

Our Better Future intends to create an intervention: created by engaging as many people as possible, as quickly as possible to deflect the trajectory into our extremely challenging future, and thereby make the world of 2053 marginally better than it otherwise would have been.

Its structure is founded on decentralized control and centralized resources. Its methodology is to create projects attacking the problem of creating a different future from as many directions as possible, and finding fun, significant, and meaningful work for every person who wants to join in. Its evolution will be manifest through co-creation, collaboration, and tactical and strategic partnerships.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

We were doing a building project. We were all sleep-deprived, a lot of us were inexperienced at the inherently dangerous construction work we were doing — (Why? see {{icon: internal link: Chapter 14: Self Improvement}}). My chosen role was to act as a kind of traveling nerve impulse — I worked to sense the gestalt of the whole undertaking and keep things as safe as possible. Suddenly “Charles” was on the ground, clutching his leg and screaming as if he’d opened an artery and was bleeding out. “Tim,” our foreman, was on top of a ladder yelling for someone to tell him what was happening. I stood transfixed for a moment, watching 20 of my fellow “students” paralyzed and useless. Fearing that “Tim” would start rushing down the ladder to render emergency first aid, fall off, and turn an unfortunate event into a tragic emergency, I decided to intervene. I started forward to render aid to “Charles,” while yelling to “Tim” that “Charles” had a “non-life-threatening leg injury.”

My habitual role was to remain watchful, alert for the possibility of something going badly wrong, and paying attention to what choices other people were making. Until this moment I played my familiar role and never stepped in — This time I did.

The sense of clarity and joyful purpose I experienced in that moment has never left me. All my work since then has been to understand the situation unfolding before me, and find the appropriate and effective intervention. This book represents the intervention I’ve determined to be necessary.

{{icon: Projects}}

==> Want to a hands-on reference for the 30,000 people most responsible for the murder of the bio-sphere? Just order the 577 decks of World Murderer playing cards! (Organized by murderous methodology & zip code);

==> Want to be of actual use to today’s young people? Develop and/or support programs like a two-month intensive internship on an organic non-carbon farm, advanced emergency medicine, or small group dynamics;

==> Develop, support, and/or promulgate a curriculum that preserves the best of world cultures — produced so that it doesn’t require electricity;

==> Find or accept a role, and/or recruit people to play a role in the overall OBF project: to attract a people to engage in new activities: to re-apportion some part of their time and energy to join work — work already being done and not yet begun — to create a better future for ourselves, our descendants, our biosphere, and all the people of the world.

Chapter 2: My Mission

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

For 50 years I’ve dedicated myself to providing what — to the best of my understanding — the world needs now. Which is for people to think and feel differently, so that a more workable, compassionate, and intelligent world might be created.

Since then I’ve been — sometimes more actively than others — working to solve the problem of how to accomplish that. Turns out it’s actually more than one problem. And I also needed to solve the problem of how to make myself fit to make the solutions manifest. A few years ago I settled on some solutions — and this book is how I’m making those solutions visible to the world.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

I was 13 in 1972 when my mom arranged for my brother and I to have access to a mainframe computer. There weren’t really any PCs yet. Also in 1972 The Club of Rome issued their report, </em>The Limits of Growth</em> — which used computers to predict that the systems of nature within which we all lived couldn’t support current rates of economic and population growth indefinitely, and that without sweeping changes, economic and societal collapse would take place in the 21st Century. When I read the report I thought it was obvious — computers weren’t necessary to reach the general conclusion.

Since these catastrophic predictions were obvious and indisputable, and since they didn’t lead to any general attention or changes in how we lived, I found myself living in a world where almost everyone’s concerns, controversies, and plans were taking place in a fantasy world, a carnival of unreality. The disregard for the fundamental facts of the world’s future left me permanently alienated from just about everything.

In 1988, when James Hansen, NASA’s expert on the planet Venus, testified before the US Senate about the inevitable consequences of climate change, I adjusted my estimate of the timing of generalized catastrophe forward, and briefly believed that, at long last, there would be a widespread and serious effort to fundamentally change the way we were going about things. What he had to say was, from the point of view of the physics and chemistry of the thing, obvious, indisputable, and catastrophic. 1988 was 35 years ago; I was 28.

{{icon: Projects}}

==> Create an intervention that makes cultural content in harmony with the mission — find ways to put into mainstream circulation a lot of screenplays, stand-up routines, novels, and the like. Set up a foundation, to support the Real Comedy Network and the New Relevance;

==> Find ways to get support from local government (money, maybe use of space, etc.) and make resources and best practices available to people in other localities who are trying to accomplish the same thing;

==> Activities that will actually make fossil fuel subsidies less likely;

Chapter 3: Mortality

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

Benjamin Frankin said “we get old too soon and wise too late.” As I’ve gotten older this evaluation seems more and more self-evidently true.

The sense that implementing my mission is a race against time has been with me for years. Given the state of the world, it continues to be a race against time regardless of my health situation.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

I received a diagnosis of severe lung disease in 2000, and severe prostate cancer in 2021. While both of these conditions could result in my death in the relatively near term, it turns out that, if my luck holds, both could very well allow me another 20 years.

Before my cancer Dx I was working on projects to support my mission — the Country profiles, Cider Salons, the podcast Little House on the Planet, the Planetary Emergency Potluck, direct action activism, the Art and Activism video, etc. After the Dx, when it seems like I might only have another 14 months, I dropped most of my project work and switched to writing this book — since that adjustment seemed most likely to serve my mission.

{{icon: Micro Projects}}

==> Develop OBF version of Death Cafe;

==> Develop handouts correlating year of birth with age for predicted real world catastrophes;

==> Develop recruiting programs to quickly find and train participants for real life projects. Implement infrastructure to replicate best practices for recruiting and project development in other locales;

==> Write and promulgate this book as quickly as possible. Attract allies and partners to make it happen.

Chapter 4: The Broad Outline

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

In broad outline, the methodology of Our Better Future is simple: Find people whose hearts are in the right place and help them to become actively engaged in working for a Better Future; Find people who are already actively engaged and encourage them to work within the OBF framework.

Support people who are ready, willing, and able to do the work by creating an infrastructure capable of acquiring and delivering resources, facilitating peer-to-peer communication, and bringing news of OBF’s activities to a waiting world.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

I’ve been experimenting with how different projects might work in the real world. In 2010 I produced a variety show, wrote a spoken word piece, and curated free films as part of’s Global Day of Climate Work. Since then I made brochures and business cards with a variety of identities. I wrote a lot of words. I got a City of Peekskill proclamation about guns and domestic violence passed. I wrote scenes, recruited actors and taped an improv of a podcast called Little House on the Planet. I hosted an evening with one of the moderators of Undoing Racism. I had regular meetings of engaged individuals for Cider Salons. I hosted a Planetary Emergency Potluck. I created a 23-minute video about the history of Art and Activism from abolition to the Trump administration. I participated in showing up at the Westchester Board of Legislators meetings with messages about climate change response. I got up at 5:00 in the morning to help blockade the Algonquin pipeline expansion. Oh, and such a lot of other things.

{{icon: Project}}

==> 30,000. Create a database of the 30,000 worst Planetary Criminals, including their addresses. Teams in each zip code target them on their own turf — nothing violent, no one getting arrested — just confronting and making their crimes known. Track their movements and appearances — alert zip code teams to organize confrontations. Generate a lot of PR and social media visibility. The point is to make all such criminality no longer socially acceptable.

Chapter 5: Here’s What YOU Can Do

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

Maybe you’ve been feeling that things have, on average, been going from bad to worse and you’ve had an impulse to do something, but don’t know what to do that could make a real difference. Maybe you’ve been an activist for a while and have been disappointed in the results your efforts have created. No matter which, this chapter will help you imagine a next step — and take it.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

Right after college I came to NYC and tried to get a job in advertising. I came close to a good job, but came to believe I couldn’t hack the emotional tension. By then I was out of time and out of money. I took a very boring job in legal publishing. The company was in the same building as King Features which owned Popeye, Li’l Abner, Flash Gordon, Beetle Bailey, Archie, Hagar, Dennis the Menace, Blondie, and about 100 other iconic characters. I got a catalog of black and white drawings from them and created a montage across the front of my cubicle shelf, a lifetime from Swee’Pea through Snuffy Smith, with every stage of childhood, youth, middle age, and decline in between. I wanted a daily reminder that I would always be somewhere along this continuum and deeply desired I should eventually figure out what to do about it.

{{icon: Projects}}

==> HWWD is a project — find an impulse to participate and follow it;

==> Idea bin — There’s so many good ideas I’ll never have a chance to develop, so create a system where people can search for ideas they can develop on their own — no strings attached;

==> Revelations with Friends (RWF) is the first project {{icon: internal link: Chapter 12: Revelations with Friends}}. Help design the curriculum and produce material. Help develop the emotional support component. Offer to host, invite, attend the first series of meetings. Or say “Of course! I’d love to!” if asked to pitch in;

==> Help create this book. Offer to read, contribute to, or co-author part of the book, curate resource page(s), write a blurb for, admire one or more chapters. Or say “Of course! I’d love to!” if asked to pitch in;

==> Offer to contribute to, help develop, advise, or spread the word about one or more specific program areas like: IT development, project planning, fundraising, editing and publishing, art work, communications, administration, content creation, culture jamming, theatrical development. Or say “Of course! I’d love to!” if asked to pitch in.

Chapter 6: How To Use this Book

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

While this book understands it can’t be all things to all people, it believes it can be most things to most people. The constant intention of HWWD is to bring you to the point where you add a new priority to how you organize your time, apportion your attention, spend your treasure to support a priority that’s about working toward a Better Future. Just as there are many different paths different people will follow to contribute, there are many different paths through this book. Including paths that include other people, other resources, and activities already underway elsewhere. Pay attention to the helpful icons. Absorb the whole spectrum projects by skipping to each {{icon: Project}}. Maybe you find the {{icon: Memoir}} material appealing and useful — or perhaps just the opposite: if you don’t like ’em, skip ‘em.

There are links, helpful icons, and suggestions throughout the text to guide you on your optimal path.

Or start by filling in the interests and skills inventory and then following the thread for resulting profile through the book.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

I’m a published author (for a book packager years ago. I’ve been paid for other kinds of writing, and written a lot of different kinds of things for free. I was a professional copy editor. I was a contract programmer and database systems developer for close to 20 years. I’ve spent a lot of my life reading and participating in self-education — politics, history, science, theater, activism. I even ran sound and lights, carried equipment, and ran the advertising for a new wave band. I spent years participating in a high-demand study and work group.

Every once in a while I have the experience that rather than my so-called career being a miscellaneous series of nearly-completely irrelevant undertakings, that on the contrary everything I’ve learned has positioned me perfectly to accomplish just exactly this interlocking set of endeavors.

{{icon: Projects}}

==> Promote the book, expand the book. Start a reading group.

==> Skills/Preference inventory {{icon: TK}} ; Profile ; Suggested reading ; Suggested projects / activities; organize additional resources; Collect and organize links to work already being done.

==> Read the chapters in order, read in whatever order strikes your fancy, skim with a weather eye peeled for the icons for different kinds of contents that make the most sense to you.

==> Organize recruiting and management of co-authors and guest authors.

==> Sign up for updates from up-and-running projects.

Chapter 7: Pound this Down (Developing in Public)

{{icon: Chapter Summary}}

Some people, like me, are from early training fearful of coming to anyone’s attention. And what’s more opposite to a shrinking violet than to publish a book all about how to save the world — and imagine if it started making a difference in the real world. For all the starts and stops, this is an attempt, after a lifetime of efforts of one kind or another, to put my absolutely best foot forward.

Since I’m still, on my worst days, pathologically concerned about how I’m perceived, my tendency is to want to make absolutely sure everything’s perfect before anyone can see my work. Putting stuff out before it’s ready to go, publishing rough drafts, goes against the essence of the “gets pounded down” ethos. And is pretty terrifying. But, given that there’s no time Toulouse, I’m choosing to go against that fear and publish anyway, and just grit my teeth and deal with all the exhilaration that goes with that.

Wait, exhilaration? Well, that doesn’t really sound all that bad after all.

There are so many people who face similar struggles. Which leads to so many chances being lost to alter our trajectories toward a Better Future.

I’m looking for feed back and the initiation of new partnerships.

{{icon: Mini Memoir}}

Until I was in my 40’s I was often crippled by social anxiety. I didn’t like to make phone calls. It was particularly impossible to talk to more than two people at once because I couldn’t adjust what I was saying in order to minimize the chance that one of them would find something wrong. I went to a lot of therapy. I spent a lot of years in a “high-demand group” {{icon: internal link: Chapter 14: Self Improvement}}.

I remember after my database development career was over I experimented with being a journalist. I decided I’d write a story about a church in Dobbs Ferry that was constructing a labyrinth in the garden in their front lawn — pretty likely to be congenial people who’d be happy to have the attention. I sat in the minivan for a very long time, thinking of reasons not to go talk to them. I eventually did, which was a breakthrough (cognitive therapy to the rescue!) — though I knew at the time that most people wouldn’t have a problem approaching strangers with such a project in mind.

Curiously though, there were exceptions to social anxiety stopping me from engaging in high-risk social interactions. I was in a Boy Scout troop and we went to sleep-away camp. I decided to experiment with being eccentric and visible by adopting an intentionally bad Southern accent. The accent caught on, and pretty soon everyone in the camp was doing it — to the point where the adults were having a problem with it. They brought all the campers together and one of the most important Scoutmasters got up to tell us to stop using the accent — and he started talking that way himself! I learned something from that experience, though it didn’t help me much when summer was over.

I was also in an improv troupe when I was in college. Going onstage without any idea what I was going to say and do should have been terrifying to someone with crippling social anxiety, but it wasn’t. I got a lot of laughs and loved doing it. I guess in both cases presenting a persona meant that my core identity wasn’t at risk.

When I was a freshman in high school I had an experience I still vividly recall which led me to realize that just because I knew the right answer didn’t mean I ought to raise my hand and recite it. I liked my teachers to like me, but my peers hated me for it. After that experience, I worked in secret, not letting people know that I was excelling in all my classes. During the preparations for graduation I went to the seniors awards assembly, and I was constantly called up to the stage to accept special awards and scholarships — I was happy. I knew they couldn’t hurt me anymore, and I was revealed as who I really was. I was ready to leave my home town where I’d experienced so much pain and get as far away as I could — from the suburbs of Seattle to Providence, Rhode Island, shaking the dust off my sandals.

During my freshman year at college a guy named John was starting to set me up as a scape goat and an object of ridicule. I put him up against the wall and suggested he rethink his intention — he did. After all my hard work to escape high school and my hometown intact, there was no way I was going to be put back into that box.

{{icon: Projects}}

==> A system of high-quality quotations to encourage people reluctant to let their lights shine (talk to Luciano about this idea);

==> Screenplays, performance pieces, comedy routines about people being in their deepest selves world-changers, and then finding the courage to manifest accordingly and then actually changing the world;

==> Promulgate performance pieces based on local collection of people’s deepest hidden ambitions (“I wanted to be a ping pong champion”);

==> Culture jamming with buttons: “I’m powerful beyond measure but afraid to admit it.” Or, “I’m not just fabulous: I’m revolutionary.” Or, “I’m an introvert changing the world — Ask me how!”;

==> Transformation year: People sign up for a program to go against their resistance to make a personal step forward — to be less shy, to make time for what they love, etc. — and over the course of the year they get helpful material, assignments, and regular support from a transformation sponsor.

(For T of C with “Micro” Annotations Click HERE)