Table of Contents, Chapters 1 through 7, “Micro” Annotations

Paul Stark
10 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 Full Annotations Click HERE)

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

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To deflect our trajectory into our extremely challenging future by engaging as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, so the world of 2053 will be marginally better for our efforts.

Decentralized control & centralized resources. Many different kinds of projects — Finding fun, significant, and meaningful work for every person who wants to join in.

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We were all sleep-deprived, and most of us inexperienced doing the inherently dangerous construction work we were doing (Why? {{icon: internal link: Chapter 14: Self Improvement}}). Suddenly “Charles” was on the ground, clutching his leg and screaming. Our foreman, “Tim,” yelling from the top of a building, tried to find out what was happening. I stood transfixed for a moment, watching 20 of my fellow “students” paralyzed and useless. Fearing that “Tim” would rush and fall off, turning an unfortunate event into a tragic emergency, I decided to intervene. I stepped forward to render aid to “Charles,” while yelling to “Tim” that “Charles” had a “non-life-threatening leg injury.”

Always before I’d played a familiar, watchful role and never stepped in — this time I did. The sense of clarity and joyful purpose of that moment has never left me. I came to understand that intervention was the duty of my love. This book is my best guess about the most necessary intervention.

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==> 577 decks of World Murderer playing cards! Depicting the 30,000 people most responsible for the murder of our bio-sphere;

==> Programs for youth: A two-month intensive internship on an organic non-carbon farm, Advanced emergency medicine, Small group dynamics, etc.;

==> A curriculum that preserves the best of world cultures — produced so it doesn’t require electricity;

==> Join in! Recruit people to play a role in the OBF project — work on a project, join a team, participate in Revelations with Friends.

Chapter 2: My Mission (Click HERE to visit chapter)

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For 50 years I’ve dedicated myself to a single purpose — encouraging people to think and feel differently for the sake of a more workable, compassionate, and intelligent world. During that time — sometimes more strongly than others — I’ve been working to solve the problem of how to accomplish that.

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In 1974 I read The Club of Rome’s The Limits of Growth: their computers predicted that the systems of nature couldn’t support forever our ever-increasing rates of economic and population growth, and that without sweeping changes, economic and societal collapse was inevitable. I found their conclusions obvious — didn’t take computers to reach the general conclusion. 1974 was 49 years ago; I was 14.

Their catastrophic predictions didn’t generate much attention or lead to efforts to change 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.

In 1988 NASA’s James Hansen testified before the US Senate about climate change. I briefly believed that, this time for sure, there would be widespread efforts to fundamentally change how we were living — didn’t happen. 1988 was 35 years ago; I was 28.

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==> Find ways to put OBF ideas into mainstream circulation — screenplays, stand-up routines, novels, VR, etc. Start the Real Comedy Network and the New Relevance;

==> Get support from local government, and make resources available to help people in other places do the same thing;

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

Chapter 3: Mortality (Click HERE to visit chapter)

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“We get old too soon and wise too late.” As I’ve aged this 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 how long I’ve got.

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In 2000 I was diagnosed with severe lung. In 2021 I was diagnosed with “aggressive” prostate cancer. Either condition could seriously shorten my life. I’ve been lucky — I could live another 20 years.

Before cancer I was working on projects. After my Dx, when best guess was a maximum of another 14 months, I switched to writing this book — since that adjustment seemed most likely to serve my mission. Having lived with a palpable sense of my own mortality for nearly 25 years has turned out to be extremely useful.

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==> OBF version of Death Cafe;

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

==> Quickly find and train participants for real life projects. Implement infrastructure 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 (Click HERE to visit chapter)

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Find people whose hearts are in the right place and encourage them to become engaged in working for a Better Future; Find people already 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.

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Experiments with real world projects: In 2010 I produced an extravaganza for’s Global Day of Climate Work. Since then — brochures and business cards with different identities. Writing — a lot. A City of Peekskill proclamation. A podcast called “Little House on the Planet.” An evening with one of the leaders of Undoing Racism. Cider Salons. The Planetary Emergency Potluck. A 23-minute video on Art and Activism. Repeated appearance at Westchester Board of Legislators meetings. Helped blockade construction of the Algonquin pipeline expansion. Oh, and such a lot of other things.

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==> 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 such criminality no longer socially acceptable.

Chapter 5: Here’s What YOU Can Do (Click HERE to visit chapter)

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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.

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I came to NYC after college and tried to get a job in advertising. I was getting favorable attention from a couple big firms when I 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 others. I cut up a catalog of black and white cartoons and created a montage along the front of my cubicle shelf, a lifetime from Swee’Pea through Snuffy Smith and every stage in between.

I wanted a daily reminder that I would always be somewhere along this continuum and that I deeply desired I should eventually figure out what to do about it.

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==> 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 give them away, no strings attached;

==> Revelations with Friends is the first project ({{icon: internal link: Chapter 12: Revelations with Friends}}). Help design and produce the curriculum. Help develop the emotional support component. Offer to host, invite, attend the 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 the book, admire one or more chapters. Or say “Of course! I’d love to!” If asked to pitch in;

==> Be part of specific program area like: IT, project management, fundraising, editing and publishing, art, 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 (Click HERE to visit chapter)

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The intention is to get you to change how you organize your time and attention. There are many ways to contribute and there are many paths through this book.

Links, helpful icons, and suggestions will guide you on your optimal path through the content.

Pay attention to the helpful icons. Absorb the whole spectrum of projects by skipping to each {{icon: project}}. Maybe you find the {{icon: memoir}} material appealing and useful — or maybe just the opposite. Skip or concentrate on different kinds of content as your taste and instincts demand.

Fill out the interests and skills inventory {{icon: TK}} and follow the thread through the book based on your profile.

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I’m an author and I’ve been paid for other kinds of writing, and written a lot of different kinds of stuff for free. I’ve been a copy editor, database systems developer. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and participating in self-education — politics, history, science, theater, activism. I even worked 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 the interlocking set of endeavors I’ve now undertaken.

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

==> Skills/Preference inventory ; 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) (Click HERE to visit chapter)

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Some people, like me, are from early training fearful of coming to anyone’s attention. What’s more the opposite of a shrinking violet than publishing a book all about how to save the world? And imagine if it started making a difference. 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 first drafts as I write the book, 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.

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Until I was in my 40’s I was often crippled by social anxiety. I didn’t like to make phone calls. It was hard to talk to people. 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}}.

At one point 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 for most people it would have been easy.

When I was a freshman in high school I had an experience I still vividly recall — I realized that knowing the answer didn’t mean I should raise my hand. My teachers liked me, but my peers hated me. After that I worked in secret, not letting people know that I was excelling in all my classes. Come senior year I went to the seniors awards assembly, and I was repeatedly called up to the stage to accept special awards and scholarships — I was happy. I knew my peers 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 an object of ridicule. I put him up against the wall and suggested he rethink his intention — and 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.

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==> A system of high-quality quotations to encourage people reluctant to let their lights shine.

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

==> Local collection of people’s deepest hidden ambitions. Culture jamming on “I’m powerful beyond measure.” Buttons: “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.