The Future We Choose

The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis

by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac
The Future We Choose book cover
Find it on Bookshop


Books on climate tend to be passionate, fact-focused, and occasionally incendiary. The Future We Choose is the same, in a way, and yet it is the gentlest climate book I’ve ever read. Its focus is on optimism, through a political lens. The authors are active in the UN, and they work to promote action on climate change, because action is our only choice.

“Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on.” — Nick Fury, The Avengers

Main Points

How to Choose the Future

The future of humanity is on the line. Climate change threatens our way of life, but contrary to what most people believe, we are still in control of our future. We need to act to protect a favorable future.

The planet will survive, in changed form no doubt, but it will survive. The question is whether we will be here to witness it. That’s why climate change is the mother of all issues.

They key to transforming the future is optimism. We have a challenge ahead of us, and the only way we can get in front of it is to believe that we can. Yes, there are large systems and structures that stand in the way, but they are composed of people. Those people, all of us, can work together to make real change.

Paradoxically, systemic change is a deeply personal endeavor. Our social and economic structures are a product of our way of thinking.

It is in our nature to be competitive. We have innate feelings of scarcity which are difficult to talk down. This scarcity mindset precludes collaboration. Instead, opening our hearts to sharing and collaboration will enable the abundance and plenty that is there if we allow it.

The realization of abundance is not an illusory increase in physical resources, but rather an awareness of a broad array of ways to satisfy needs and wants so that everyone is content.

Actions for the Future

There are 10 actions the authors suggest the reader take towards a better future. Start with 1-2 of them, then challenge yourself to do more over time.

1. Let Go of the Old World

It was a prosperous time, but it is over. We are at a crossroads, when we need to accept the past is gone and choose the right path forward.

2. Face Your Grief but Hold a Vision of the Future

The current loss of biodiversity we are undergoing is causing us grief. We need to recognize that, acknowledge it, and use that grief to motivate positive action.

3. Defend the Truth

Pay attention to the information you hear. Check your sources before forming an opinion. Follow the money to see who wants you to think a certain way.

4. See Yourself As a Citizen, Not a Consumer

We are marketed new clothes and products that we are told will improve our lives. Consumption will not make you a better human, and it will not make you happy. Read the story of the happy fisherman, first made popular by Paulo Coelho.

5. Move Beyond Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels have enabled human civilization to develop as thoroughly as it has. They were a huge boost to our technological revolution, but we can and should move on. Fossil fuels are our past, but not our future. Those who are afraid of change are clinging to them. Let them go.

6. Reforest the Earth

Forests are some of the greatest ecosystems on the planet (yes, I am a marine biologist and I just said that). It is impossible not to be at peace in a healthy forest. If a company is destroying forests for profit, refuse to buy their products.

Almost all tropical deforestation is driven by demand for four commodities: beef, soy, palm oil, and wood. Beef cattle are responsible for more than double the deforestation of the other three combined.

7. Invest in a Clean Economy

No matter how rich or poor you are, your money can start a movement. You can show your support for clean companies by choosing to put your money in them.

8. Use Technology Responsibly

We all love the latest shiny gadget. We need to embrace innovation, but be careful about unintended consequences. That is how we got in this situation in the first place.

9. Build Gender Equality

Support female decision-makers, or become one yourself.

Women often have a leadership style that makes them more open and sensitive to a wide range of views, and they are better at working collaboratively, with a longer-term perspective. These traits are essential to responding to the climate crisis.

10. Engage in Politics

I have always hated politics, but unfortunately it does have the power for change. The large systemic changes that we need will require the involvement of government entities.


There is no point in pessimism. Espousing a negative view of the future will cement the worst-case scenario. Optimism and hope are the only strategies for a liveable future. To make a difference, pick an action you can take to improve our climate, and take a step in the right direction.

Find out more about the movement at

Want to read more? Find The Future We Choose here: Bookshop

The quotes above were gathered using Readwise. It’s a truly amazing app to help you remember what you read. If you want to try it out, use my link and we both get a free month 🙂

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