The Good Ancestor

The Good Ancestor UK paperback book cover.

“This is the book our children’s children will thank us for reading.” The Edge, U2

Welcome to The Good Ancestor microsite, where you can find everything you need to become a long-term thinker, from videos and podcasts to graphics and data.

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Coming soon in Korean, Arabic and other languages.

About The Good Ancestor

How can we be good ancestors?

We live in the age of the tyranny of the now, driven by 24/7 news, the latest tweet, and the buy-now button. With such frenetic short-termism at the root of contemporary crises – from the threats of climate change to the lack of planning for a global pandemic – the call for long-term thinking grows every day. But what is it, has it ever worked, and can we even do it?

In The Good Ancestor, leading public philosopher Roman Krznaric delves into history and the human mind to show that we can. From the pyramids to the NHS, humankind has always had the innate ability to plan for posterity and take action that will resonate for decades, centuries, even millennia to come. If we want to be good ancestors and be remembered well by the generations who follow us, now is the time to recover and enrich this imaginative skill.

The Good Ancestor reveals six profound ways in which we can all learn to think long, exploring uniquely human talents like ‘cathedral thinking’ that expand our time horizons and sharpen our foresight. Drawing on radical innovations from around the world, Krznaric celebrates the time rebels who are reinventing democracy, culture and economics so that we all have the chance to become good ancestors and create a better tomorrow.

Selected reviews

“Beautiful to read, heartfelt and persuasive, The Good Ancestor is one of those landmark books with the power to shift a mindset. One turns the pages feeling a growing compulsion for change. Krznaric’s clarion call for long-term thinking makes him an ancestor all future generations can be proud of.”

Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

“Roman Krznaric’s brilliant book The Good Ancestor champions the long-term thinking that could lead us out of our multiple disasters.”

George Monbiot

The Good Ancestor is full of revelations for everyone who cares about the legacy they leave. This is the book our children’s children will thank us for reading.”

The Edge, U2

“It deserves to be widely read – by policy makers, and indeed by all citizens who care about the prospects for their children and grandchildren.”

Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and author of On The Future

“The individualistic philosophies of the last century have generated huge concentrations of wealth – but at the same time put us on the road to social, political and environmental collapse. This clear-sighted and inspiring book suggests a different view of who humans are and what they really value – and a number of ways off that lethal road. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s looking for the good news.”

Brian Eno

““A work of genius that draws on the wisdom-traditions of cultures from across the globe. Every person must read The Good Ancestor.”

Martin Kalungu-Banda, Ubuntu Lab and Saïd Business School, Oxford University

“Expanding our time horizons to envisage a longer now is the most imperative journey any of us can make. Roman Krznaric’s inspirational book traces out these steps for us. Stacks of books on my shelves mourn the impending loss of the living world. The Good Ancestor emerges as the most necessary, and the most hopeful, providing keys to create profound and lasting change. Join the time rebellion, and help shape the lives of those to come.”

Katie Paterson, deep-time artist and creator of Future Library

“From the seventh-generation thinking of Native American tribes to legally empowered guardians of the future and citizens’ assemblies, Krznaric explores a wealth of ways we can become good ancestors. For anyone who is interested in how we can get today’s society to leave the world better than they found it – this is your Guide.”

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

“A philosopher’s contribution to saving the world.”

Andrew Anthony, The Observer

“An important and fascinating book that asks whether we’ve got what it takes to become citizens rather than consumers and create an ecological civilisation. The Good Ancestor is a triumph.”

Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project

“In The Good Ancestor, the philosopher Roman Krznaric calmly calls for a reorientation toward the future, not to benefit us (as is typically the pitch of the pop-futurist book), but to benefit our far-off descendants.”

Samantha Culp, The Atlantic

“How timely can a book be? Roman Krznaric fizzes with ideas about how we tackle that cuckoo in the nest, short-term thinking. We need to think today for tomorrow, to give future generations their rightful seat at the table.”

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue

“We desperately need to become long-termist in our way of thinking and acting. There could be few more urgent tasks for any thinking person alive today than encountering this book. Read it: with slow deliberate care…”

Professor Rupert Read, author of This Civilisation is Finished and Extinction Rebellion spokesperson

“Krznaric’s seamless and magical prose delights on every page. Let’s engrave his ‘six ways to think long’ across the gateway to every Parliament in the world.”

Professor Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth

“I judge a book’s usefulness by how many pages I’m compelled to dog-ear and underline. This book on the pragmatics of long-term thinking earned 50-plus dog-ears.”

Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, co-founder of The Long Now Foundation

“A superb intellectual history and razor-sharp analysis of contemporary politics, this book will change how you think about the world and is a call to action. Read it. You owe it to your children’s children.”

Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive, Save the Children

“Roman Krznaric passionately argues that thinking long term would bring untold benefits and may very well be vital to our survival as a species. Lose yourself in these pages, expand your time horizons, and reimagine your relationship to time, to the future, to activism.”

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Town movement and author of From What Is to What If

“With a dazzling range of sources, zinging with ideas, stories and jaw-dropping graphics, The Good Ancestor is packed with information and insight. Every school should have a copy, with its maps and plans on every classroom wall.”

Michael Wood, historian, broadcaster and author of The Story of China

“In this persuasive book, one of our leading thinkers Roman Krznaric expands his ground-breaking work on empathy to argue that our only hope of survival is to develop deep empathy for future generations across time and space.”

Professor Morten Kringelbach, neuroscientist, Universities of Oxford and Aarhus, Denmark

“A great antidote to the short-term thinking that comes easily to us all. If you want to be a good ancestor, start by reading this book.”

Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy and founder of the Philosophy Bites podcast

“’A masterpiece – and a must-read for conventional economists.’

Anders Wijkman, Honorary President of the Club of Rome

“A fascinating and inspiring exploration of one of the great relationship questions of the 21st century: how can we extend our circle of care to future generations?”

John Gray, New York Times bestselling author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

“A terrific read. The Good Ancestor is a brilliant, concise treatise on time that makes a persuasive case for radically rethinking the timescales over which we are accustomed to think and plan. It is essential reading for any architect concerned with what it means to be contemporary.”

Michael Pawlyn, RIBA Journal

“Krznaric’s remarkable book encourages us to think beyond our limited horizons into ‘deep time’. What responsibility should we take, as doctors, for the health of people born many decades, even centuries, from now?”

Euan Lawson, British Journal of General Practice

“What is fantastic about The Good Ancestor is that the more I got into it, I realised how rich this concept of long-term thinking is.”

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society of the Arts

“Really brilliant and well worth a read.”

David McWilliams, economist and broadcaster

“A brilliant thinker takes on one of the thorniest big questions facing the species – how to shift from short to long-term thinking. The ideas here are big (huge, even) and crucial. This is a significant book.”

Duncan Green, Oxfam’s From Poverty to Power blog

“Brimming with ideas about how to tackle our pathalogical short-termism. As Krznaric writes, being a good Samaritan is no longer enough. The 21st century requires us to become good ancestors.”

Diego Arguedas Ortiz, MIT Technology Review

“An excellent book, full of fascinating stories and compelling arguments.”

Dan Jones, British Journal of General Practice

“Packed with thoughtful suggestions and inspiring stories. An impressive work of humanistic philosophy.”

Lit Hub audio book review

“It is a cliché to declare a book essential reading, but in this case it is true. In a little more than 300 pages Krznaric develops a powerful set of concepts and a frame that will serve to refresh and undergird the civic rationale for public planning.”

Tim Beatley, Journal of the American Planning Association

“There is a sense of both anger and playfulness in the way Krnzaric deploys his arguments – all to better effect..”

Martin Stott, Town & Country Planning magazine

“Krznaric writes that we treat the future as a remote country that we plunder to our heart’s content. As if no people will live there. I found that in its simplicity an astonishing insight.”

Tommy Wieringa

“The author takes us on an odyssey of what living for those not yet born—our highest purpose as humans—might look like. Profoundly thought-provoking. Everyone should read it.”

Sunny Bindra, Best Books of 2021

“Stimulating ideas…This accessible book is valuable for all stages of education. His approach has implications for how we teach all subject disciplines.”

Helen Young, London Review of Education

“We live in a world of instant news, instant internet shopping and instant noodles – it’s all very fast, but how nourishing is it? Philosopher Roman Krznaric looks at how this culture of instant gratification feeds into the climate and ecological crises (amongst others) and examines how we can start to think long term about the human project.”

Harry Cockburn, The Independent, Best Books for World Environment Day

“Krznaric is successful in fulfilling his self-declared goal to fill the ‘intellectual vacuum’ surrounding long-term thinking. He provides a conceptually sound, wide-ranging, academic, but empathetically argued text which not only defines long-termism but speaks volumes for its benefits.” Grace Clover, Intergenerational Justice Review