FutureScapes Scenarios for 2025

FutureScapes is a recent collaboration of Forum for the Future a leading UK sustainability charity and Sony.  Their late 2011 report is available as a free download, but is work in progress, with public and organisations invited to join in its future evolution. This work is not a prediction, but it is an interesting set of speculations, and they are built from four Climate Futures scenarios, helped by experts from academia and think tanks, as well as Forum and Sony.

Technology, sustainability, virtuality… 

Common to all four scenarios is the expectation of a major, global, carbon crisis, somewhere in the 2010s or early 2020s.  However, the report shows how much difference there could be in our route to low-carbon living.  Here’s a brief view of each scenario:

  1. Hyper Innovation: This is a society still dominated by business, materialism, individualism, where rapid moves in technology make eco-living easier, cheaper and fun.  They quote several recent innovations to illustrate this trend, such as artificial meat, and the super-strong conductive material, graphene.
  2. Shared Ownership: Here, governments have changed the groundrules to ensure huge carbon cuts, and business has responded with innovations in the way products are bought and used.  Many products are leased and/or shared, and designs prioritise reusability and adaptability.  Such trends can already be seen; eg in car clubs, ‘personal factories’ (Ponoko), and online bartering marketplaces like Favabank.
  3. Centralised Survival: In this scenario, voluntary responses to climate change were too little, too late, so draconian intervention by governments around the world has imposed sustainable behaviour, with technology used to police and to reward behaviour.
  4. Prosperity Redefined: An extended recession helps shift the prevailing values in society to wellbeing, quality of life, and community.  Technology is geared to enabling this.  Denmark, which often tops quality of life lists, can be seen as a pioneer of this philosophy.  This scenario has many of the features of the way I hope the UK will respond to the problems ahead, such as:
  • More focus on neighbours and face-to-face communities.
  • Growth of donation and exchange of services and volunteering, less on the money economy and paid work.
  • Quality of life is a greater priority for most individuals and nations than maximising economic growth.
  • Traditional jobs are less important than learning, leisure, and contributing to the local community.

FutureScapes is tantalisingly silent on how we can help bring a preferred scenario about: but that’s what Facing the 2020s should help with!

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