Learning how to build self-reliance, create opportunity and increase your creativity every day comes down to embracing the power of just two words “This Could…”
In an era of seemingly constant supply chain disruptions, shortages, and unpredictable shifts in daily life, the need to build self-reliance has never been better. At the same time, we our burying the planet in discarded consumer goods and wasted resources. This Could… is a book about learning to do more with what we already have and increasing our self-reliance and resourcefulness in the process.
“A masterpiece in the art of possibility.” – from journalist Fiona Luis’s review of This Could…
This Could… is a guide for everyone wanting to learn how to build self-reliance, create new opportunity, increase creativity, and reduce waste.
The book applies principles ranging from permaculture to the circular economy to everything that makes up your daily life.
The objects, materials, skills, and everything that shapes your world all contain the ability to do more. The secret to unlocking their extra potential is just two words: “This could…”
This Could… shows how to discover extra abilities in existing resources, and how doing so increases creativity, reduces waste, and helps build a resilient future for yourself and the environment.
The book features How to Do More with What You Have: a six-step guided journey of insights, examples and worksheets to transform the things you already have into platforms of possibility.
The result of decades of Scott Burnham’s work with cities, organizations, and institutions around the world, “This Could…” is a handbook to create real-world solutions without consuming additional resources.
Here’s an example from during the pandemic of how one industry hit hard during the pandemic learned how to build self-reliance using the resources they had at hand.
Colorado’s Marble Distilling company realized they had all the equipment and processes required to pivot from producing alcohol to manufacturing hand sanitizer.
With a supply of raw materials already in place, “We only needed one additive to be able to make a hand sanitizer,” co-founder Carey Shanks told Mens Journal. “The transition was very quick.”
New York Distilling Company in Brooklyn created a recipe for hand sanitizer using its Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin that met CDC recommendations.
“We thought, at least this is a reasonable way to put ourselves to some use,” Allen Katz, co-founder and owner of New York Distilling Company, told Men’s Health Magazine.
“We have access to off-the-still gin made in our Brooklyn distillery that we can turn into a homemade sanitizer that meets CDC recommendations. We can use our resources to help support friends in the hospitality and trade who are in need right now.”
In Vermont, Caledonia Spirits converted their production facilities to make hand sanitizer for local nonprofit organizations such as the Vermont Foodbank, which then gave the sanitizer to employees and stocked it in their food pantry for the public.
“For our recipe, we’re following the guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization, so our hand sanitizer is just as effective as what you can buy in the store,” said Caledonia Spirits VP of Marketing Harrison Kahn in a release.
Want to read more? Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction to This Could…
Jackson Pollock was asked in an interview why he painted in a technique so different from the representational style of past artists, and in which he was formally trained. He explained that in an era of great change, “New needs need new techniques.”
“The modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.”
Pollock was referring to artistic expression, but the core message is even more relevant today. In an era of unparalleled change and challenges in our resources and environment, we are still expressing ourselves in the old forms of consumption and consumerism.
The vast majority of us no longer create—we consume. We don’t explore the future potential of the things we already have—we discard them and buy more. Decades of consumption have created a regrettable legacy for our time.
Researchers estimate that approximately half the iron, nickel, copper, and other base metals that have been extracted from the ground have been discarded or are no longer in use. The amount of solid waste disposed of in the US has more than doubled in the last 50 years. In 2018 alone, more than 146 million tons of material solid waste were landfilled.
Waste comes in many forms beyond discarded goods. Cities large and small are filled with objects, buildings, and infrastructure, built decades ago to serve people’s needs—as their needs were, decades ago.
These are assets that should be reimagined for better contemporary use to meet the needs of growing and changing populations. Viewing both public and personal assets as materials available for new use – and use in better contexts – is the first step in learning how to build self-reliance, increase creativity, and improves our lives.
Our age will be defined by what we do with the resources we have, how we behave with our material assets going forward, and how we meet society’s needs with existing assets, reduced budgets, and limited public funds. Previous techniques got us into this situation—new techniques are needed to meet the new needs of the future.
I have spent decades working with cities, organizations, and individuals to do more with the resources they already have. Needs and priorities change with culture and country, but the fulcrum point for change remains the same. Transforming limited resources into platforms of possibilities begins with two words: “This could…”
“This could…” is a catalyst to build self-reliance, reduce waste, increase resiliency, and meet increasing needs using existing resources. There’s proven ability in the words. Studies have shown that introducing an object with “This could…” instead of “This is” makes people ten times more likely to find new uses for that object.
“This could…” maximizes our resources by replacing limited assets with an abundance of creativity. The words create new opportunities in a time of budgetary reductions, and new use for existing objects and assets as an alternative to waste and disposal.
It is a tool that will help us realize that increasing our resources doesn’t have to mean increasing our consumption of them.
When we were children, we possessed wonderous amounts of imaginative abilities to reimagine anything in the world for new or different use.
Yet as L. A. Vint writes, “As we get older, instead of collecting ‘ideas’, we begin a process of information elimination. We continue to narrow down our relevance, concerns, curiosity, concentration, and awareness.”
Imagine if we were able to reverse this closing down of imagination and began a process of information expansion instead of elimination—expanding our curiosity and awareness of the possibilities that exist in the resources we already have. This book will lead you through the process to give you these abilities and show you how to build self-reliance along the way.
No particular skill is required to employ “This could…” in any situation, profession, or location. It doesn’t matter who you are or what the resource is—the only thing needed is the ability to imagine what something could be instead of what it is. Where that leads isn’t as important as the motion forward. It will lead somewhere.
Not considering what could be done with what we already have leaves us right where we are.
This is not an option.