What would your ideal world look like? I imagine there are few readers of this magazine who don’t yearn for a better world – and since the launch of Resurgence 50 years ago our columns have regularly resounded with our writers’ plans, proposals, arguments and exhortations to this end, whatever the topic.

We had an eloquent reminder of this a few issues ago, when we reprinted the personal manifesto of the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who wrote in Resurgence in 1970 of his “Heaven on Earth”. “Heaven will come to mankind when we learn to respect our limits,” he wrote, before outlining some of his dreams for sustainable, non-polluting technologies; societies that encouraged diversity; a contemporary morality “built upon all religions, but relevant to our era”; and, above all, “the acceptance by civilised man of those bonds which make all life interdependent and which make of us conscious custodians of the future”.

There’s more than an echo of Yehudi Menuhin’s manifesto in this issue of Resurgence & Ecologist. Certainly our Keynotes article is a reminder of the fascination we have with the concept of the ideal society. Five hundred years since Thomas More wrote Utopia – in part, admittedly, a satire on his contemporary world – Nicole Pohl sketches the history of utopianism, and its hold on us. Ideas that have informed small communities or great nations, social experiments that flourished, and those that failed. And, of course, the rich attractions for artists portraying utopian – and dystopian – societies in their work.

The ‘Brexit’ vote in June’s referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has also inspired writers from all sides of the debate to discuss what kind of society they – we – want. In this issue, we try to move the debate forward. Jonathon Porritt issues a clarion call to the green movement, and Paul Kingsnorth examines the values of local democracy. Helena Norberg-Hodge puts the debate into a global context, and Sarah Beattie-Smith reports from Scotland, where, paradoxically, devolution from Westminster may have only concentrated political power.

Elsewhere, we salute the work being done by other idealists. Oliver Tickell interviews John Letts, a remarkable farmer and archaeobotanist who is working to restore the diversity of the fields. Vandana Shiva reports on how, at the same time, food diversity is under new threat from industrial agriculture around the world. And in a moving poem, Matt Harvey reflects on the tradition of the Quakers, that there’s “something of God in everyone”.

Yehudi Menuhin admitted: “My Heaven on Earth is not a museum or a static state of unlikely bliss,” but, rather, “a situation fraught with problems and challenges, ones that would absorb tremendous amounts of courage, curiosity, effort, patience, dedication and self-sacrifice”. And Oscar Wilde famously observed of Utopia that “when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail.” We hope this issue of Resurgence & Ecologist is good company on that journey.

Greg Neale is the Editor-in-chief of Resurgence & Ecologist.