Posts Tagged ‘Ethical advice’

FutureScapes Scenarios for 2025

Jul 31 2012

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!

Facing the 2020s: a job for the elders? Creative simplicity or dismal austerity is a CHOICE!

Feb 24 2012

Most people I talk to, even the alert ones, are in denial or despair about the future.  I’ve been terrified, but I’m starting to feel hopeful.  Many of the threats could be blessings: all it needs is a rapid, radical, miraculous shift of attitude by most people…

The future I’m on about is the medium term: the 2020s and decades beyond.  Try to read this without denial or despair.  The challenges include: peak oil, climate change, crop failures, debt crises, economic contraction and lots more.  The potential blessing is a move to a more local, more sociable, less materialistic way of life.

A few months ago, I wrote a list of the crucial questions for the next twenty years: not only the challenges, but also responses to them which could maintain a fair quality of life.  Although many of these challenges are global, my questions focus on the UK, to keep the scope manageable.

In January 2012, I approached two of the leading UK organisations already exploring these issues, to ask what answers are currently available, what research they are planning, and how I could help.  It’s important that none of us feel useless or irrelevant in this situation.  I’m not an expert in global sustainability, but I do have some relevant local experience (see, and I have some funds in a charitable trust which could help pay for some of this work.

The response from both New Economics Foundation and the Transition Movement was rapid and positive, and in February I’ve had promising initial meetings at senior level with both organisations.

These meetings show that some useful data already exists, but there are major gaps.  For example, NEF tell me there are no good UK forecasts through the 2020s and 2030s for economic and social trends, especially taking account of commodity shortages (oil, precious metals, etc), and the global debt crises.

Based on these meetings, I am now exploring with NEF and Transition a joint research project, which may also involve other organisations or individuals.  The 3 phases of this are currently envisioned as:

  1. A UK forecast through the 2020s of the economic and other impacts of major global trends, including scenarios for the social pressures, eg unemployment, arising from them.
  2. Gathering relevant successful responses to these economic, environmental and social pressures, from the UK and elsewhere, including local Transition Towns.  Highlight issues where responses cannot be identified, and seek to create responses.
  3. Explore how the knowledge, skills and desire to use these responses could be encouraged in local communities around the UK, and among policy-makers.

If you’d like further progress reports, subscribe to this blog.  If you have relevant skills or funds which could help this project, please contact me.

Giving Back in Tough Times

Dec 15 2011

Here are two more inspiring ‘Giving Back’ ideas plus some joined-up thinking for Christmas:

1.) and micro-finance

Think things are tough here? Try living in Bosnia! You may think of it as a small war-torn country somewhere in a far-off place called the Balkans, but in fact by air it is only two half hours away. You also might think that some of the benefits of being in central Europe close to Germany might have trickled down to Bosnia in the last ten years. Far from it!  The unemployment level there is 40%, and in one of those crazy contradictions of normality the state levies an effective 70% jobs tax on employers. ITV News Presenter Alastair Stewart wrote on his blog last week of the shock of his recent vist there and finding communities “where they’ve virtually got nothing”.

Alastair Stewart was travelling to Bosnia with Care International in order to promote micro-finance project run by this charity called Small loans make big differences, and on the website you can find out how:

  • There is no minimum amount to lend
  • These are loans not hand-outs
  • Money is paid back by instalments over six to twelve months

Micro-finance projects (say £800 to help a Srebrenica small-holder buy animals and plant crops) amalgamate our loans, and are carefully administered by the charity. In the vast majority of cases the loans are paid back in full and on time. As Alastair Stewart writes, “That’s pretty moving economics”.

2.) Less Stuff, More Happiness

‘Less is More’ – could it be true for older men? Could having less things to worry about and needlessly occupy us as we get older, be a recipe for developing some wisdom and contentment?

Here is a recent inspiring talk by a younger man arguing the universal and personal benefits of having less stuff (leading to less personal debt/ less C02 / less stress).

So how about putting these two bright ideas together this Christmas and see if they make us feel happier:

  •  take £20 out of what we were planning to spend on ourselves
  •  make a £20 micro-finance loan at

Personally, I am feeling hopeful – the feedback from people on the website suggests THEY are genuinely feeling happier!


Health Information on the Net

Nov 01 2011

How to navigate the web for good health information and advice?

Whether it is searching for information on a serious illness, healthy lifestyle advice, or simply to find out more about a specific symptom, the web is a wonderful source of reliable and trustworthy information. It is also a place where fools, sirens and charlatans peddle fictitious medical cures and dangerous health advice. This can make the shipwreck experience of an illness much worse, cost us a lot of wasted time and money, and can even seriously damage our health!

My strong advice is always to use a health Gateway Site* as your first port of call. A good Gateway Site will often have all the answers to our questions in one place. Rather than putting the symptom or illness name into our Google search, always go to a health Gateway first.

(* Gateway Sites (or Internet Gateways) are freely available web-sites that provide links to online resources which have been selected and evaluated by specialists and are designed to provide information in a form which we can all understand.)

However, be warned, not all Gateways are the same! Some are NOT trustworthy. Others are badly designed and impenetrable. In order to have confidence the information is accessable, reliable and trustworthy, the best health Gateways are kitemarked:

Health on the Net Foundation provides this HON Code Certification. Always look for this sign on any health Gateway home page!

Which are the best health Gateway sites?

In the UK the National Health Service provides an enormous amount of very good quality amount online information sources. However, the oceans of NHS information are so vast it is not always easy to find what one is looking for. Here are some helpful pointers:

NHS Choices : information on over 800 conditions including many serious illnesses.
NHS Direct : health advice dealing mainly with everyday symptoms.
NHS Live Well : for healthy lifestyle information and advice (very high quality and research based).

If we want to find all the above in one place, my recommended first choice is This site does everything a really good health Gateway site should; the advice is trustworthy and reliable, and it is easy to find and understand the information being provided.

Another high quality ‘Gateway Sites’ is the US Government’s Healthfinder, which provides access to health information from a range of reliable sources and has links to other online databases.

For a complete list of all the health information databases which are available worldwide, including non-English sites, go to OMNI (Organising Medical Networked Information) research project based at the University of Nottingham lists them all! Sadly this research project has recently lost its funding so it will not now be being updated, but the existing online information should remain helpful for some time.

You need look no further – Happy Searching!

(image created by jscreationzs)