What’s the Future Like?

My mother told me the other day: it looks as if the world is coming to an end.

She had just read about the new report issued by the Club of Rome which indeed does sound rather scary. But the makers of Limits to Growth are not the only ones who believe that the world is going down if we don’t act.

The Tellus Institute is asking similar questions.  The Boston based research institute is driven by the idea of a different world. According to the project called Great Transition Initiative there are three main perspective for the future of our planet, it is up to us to see that it heads into the right direction. Do we want to go on as we did so far? Do we want to risk even more loss of control or do we want to head into a better future?

The first option, what the Tellus institute calls the Conventional Worlds are “futures that evolve gradually from today’s dominant forces of globalization as economic interdependence deepens, dominant values spread and developing regions gradually converge toward rich-country patterns of production and consumption.” Basically, what we have today but worse. There is two alternatives, one is the “Market Forces variant” in which “powerful global actors advance the priority of free markets and economic expansion, relying heavily on technological innovation to reconcile growth with ecological limits.” In alternative to that there is the “Policy Reform variant” where governments finally take the lead and bring about certain changes to make the economy more sustainable. Key in this option is that “Fundamental change is absent.”

As a bad alternative to this there is the Barbarization. It is basically the option of things going bad. It’s what happens if the changes in the “conventional worlds” is not big enough. What they image could happen is that “social stress and problems spiral out of control, leading to a general crisis and the erosion of civilized norms.” Again we have two scenarios: In the “Fortress Worlds variants“, we head into a global system of those inside and those outside – “an authoritarian system of global apartheid with elites in protected enclaves and an impoverished majority outside.” As alternative we have the “Breakdown variants”, where there is no one on the inside – all institutions collapse – and everyone is living in chaos. Both very happy prospects, aren’t they?

Finally, and here comes the solution to it all: the Great Transitions.  It follows the idea of a world where human kind has managed to actually do something about the problems it is facing, embracing new values. Also here we have two different paths: “Eco-communalism encompasses the small-is-beautiful visions favored by some environmental and anarchist subcultures.” How we downsize to that level is, however, the point where they do not have an answer. The “New Sustainability Paradigm”, is therefore easier to focus on. It “sees globalization not only as a threat but also an opportunity to construct new categories of consciousness – global citizenship, humanity-as-whole, the wider web of life, and the well-being of future generations – alongside a governance architecture that balances the twin goals of global unity and regional pluralism.”

What do you think, is it time for the great transition?


6 thoughts on “What’s the Future Like?

  1. It seems only a small minority of people are able to think along the lines New Sustainability Paradigm, which as you pointed out is probably an easier concept for the world to grasp compared to Eco-communalism. I think to achieve any semblance of the great transition we’ll need to see a shift in the way society thinks as a whole–but how do we get an entire world to shift their focus to a different ideal that only the minority believes is important?

  2. One of the ICC or FAO (UN related somehow) reports had a wonderful quote from the chairperson that went along the lines of:

    “We are the first generation to plan for climate change and the last generation with the ability NOT to be able to.”

    We are on a cusp that can not be ignored, and I believe it is our moral obligation to plan for mitigation. (Hence my two blogs).

    Great post once again, Rahel. Cheers for the knowledge share.

  3. So true! I prefer the transition scenario, especially after learning about transition towns and loving how advancing and embracing our more humble, simplistic and work intensive past unite to give us the best possible outcome. Forging communities where the precious knowledge of the old gives way to the chance of a real future for the young rather than the continued uncertainty of today. My children (30/24 and 22 respectively) are not going to have children. They all think that it would be immoral to have children in the world that they would inherit. I find that more terrifying than any sort of scare mongering about climate change…when an entire generation refuses to take part in contributing to the melting pot gene pool there is something extremely wrong with how the youth of today views their own, and their prospective childrens future chances. I prefer to listen, learn and put positivity into action and am doing whatever I can to share hope with anyone who will listen. Everyone who has a brain is scared about our prospects but we need to ensure that first, our voices are heard and what matters for the good of humanity (not big business or political careers…) is truly represented in the choices we make right now and second, that we transition as soon as possible…forget the nay sayers about climate change…who cares if we are “making the world a better place for nothing” like the old stalwart cartoon says…

    • So true my friend, if people don’t even want to have kids anymore it means that things are bad! It’s something happening also in Europe. You inspired me for the post I wrote day…some kind of an answer to this one, thanks!

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