Recommended Reading | Ancient Futures

Ancient Futures

An intimate portrait of life on the Tibetan plateau – offering profound insights for the modern world.

by Helena Norberg-Hodge

Published in 2016 by Local Futures (new edition)

Paperback  |  201 pages  |  ISBN: ISBN 978 0 692 53062 7

The title of this book fascinated me with its lure of a glimpse inside a culture that had been untouched by outside influences for hundreds of years.  What could we learn?  I wanted to know their recipe for a self-reliant life lived with abundant joy, health and happiness.

Ladakh in 1975

When Helena Norberg-Hodge first went to Ladakh (Little Tibet) in 1975, she experienced a breathtakingly beautiful, pristine landscape and people who were happy and glowing with vitality.  Located in the Himalayan region, Ladakh had been self-contained and undisturbed for centuries.  But despite the challenging climate and harsh environment, the people were joyous and content living their frugal, self-reliant lifestyle, and peaceful Buddhist culture.  The rich intergenerational communities where gender roles were not polarised, captured Helena’s heart.

In Ladakh I have known a society in which there is neither waste nor pollution, a society in which crime is virtually non-existent, communities are healthy and strong, and a teenage boy is never embarrassed to be gentle and affectionate with his mother or grandmother.  As that society begins to break down under the pressures of modernisation, the lessons are of relevance far beyond Ladakh itself.

Helena Norberg-Hodge

The author is right to highlight the humane values of Ladakhi society, a deep-rooted respect for each other’s fundamental human needs and an acceptance of the natural limitations of the environment.  This kind of responsible attitude is something we can all admire and learn from.

H. The Dalai Lama

Transformed by Western Progress

But during the last 4 decades Ladakh has been transformed by western “progress”, development and economic growth.  A stark contrast now exists between the flourishing local economy that Helena first observed and the multifaceted new problems that have developed.  Polluted air and water, religious conflict, unemployment, and youth suicide have become the new normal.

Helena explains how the introduction of mainstream culture dominated by technology, industry, and economic growth has put pressure on fundamental human needs and caused a systemic detachment from nature. The price of continuous economic growth and material prosperity has been a severing of intimate connections with nature and with each other.

Learning from Ladakh

But this book is also a story of optimism.

Ancient Futures challenges us to redefine what a healthy society means and to find ways to carry centuries-old wisdom into our future.

Local Future

Worldwide Movement Towards Localised Economies

Across the world, communities are beginning to demonstrate a path towards a genuinely sustainable future – one of interconnected, localised economies that can provide for the psychological and material needs of the global population, while protecting nature, both wild and cultivated.

Helena Norberg-Hodge

The rapidly growing localisation movement strengthens place-based cultures.  This brings a shift towards local grass-roots projects that promote self-sufficient economies, subsistence agriculture, and the use of local resources for housing, clothing and food.  Localised economies encourage waste-free choices and human connections with each other and with nature. 

As Helena explains, we can all start the journey towards a local economy right where we are, now. We can:

  • Connect with like-minded people in our local communities to care and share. 
  • Nurture a deep connection with nature.  
  • Make choices that are good for each of us, now.

This also feels very aligned with the three Permaculture Ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

We can move from a top-down economics of competition, scarcity and exploitation to an economics of collaboration, genuine prosperity and well-being.

Helena Norberg-Hodge

That definitely sounds like a nurtured life!

Short Video

Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh – Movie Trailer

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