The World We Made: Visions of a Sustainable Future
In 1990, amidst an extraordinary surge in public concern for environmental problems, Jonathon Porritt wrote an optimistic book and accompanying BBC television series, Where on Earth are we going? It paints a pragmatic picture of what a range of sectors could look like if they took a sustainable path. Not shying away from the difficult position we were starting from, he awakened a sense of excitement and ambition for what “could be” in the months leading up to the first Earth Summit.
Over twenty years later I was humbled to find myself sitting opposite Jonathon while he asked for my help to once again rekindle public imagination around sustainability. Considering biodiversity like coral reefs has plummeted since 1990, billions have been displaced by environmental catastrophes such as typhoon Haiyan, we are several leaps further towards runaway climate change, and (at the time) a watered down talk shop of an Earth Summitt II was being billed, I was impressed by Jonathon’s stamina.
I immediately saw the importance and potential of the project Jonathon was proposing. The World We Made showcases some of the most innovative and desirable trends that are shaping our world right now. It unifies and presents them through a voice from the future, Alex from 2050, whose life is shaped by our decisions today. Alex is able to make the potentially dry idea of sustainability into something personal and exciting.
I have felt for the last few years that the environmental movement has been in a bit of post-Copenhagen Summit hangover (the big global conference where we were supposed to solve climate change, but didn’t). I have also felt that many of the old tricks of the environmental movement such as catastrophism and righteousness have been exhausted. A new kind of environmental populism is called for—one that’s vibrant, tech-savvy and go-getting.
As Jonathan’s researcher, I have been delighted to help locate the facts, trends and signals of how a sustainable world could unfold. It has been fascinating exploring topics like robotics, biotechnology, miracle cures, religion, personal manufacturing, new travel modes, geo-engineering, designer brains and social mobilisation from a sustainability perspective. Like Jonathon, I am left with a wide-ranging awe and optimism for our ingenuity.
It is an honour to have Jonathon present on The World We Made at our next HUB Eco-Series on the 26th of November. This event will mark the culmination of a fantastic first year for the Eco-Series, which included experts in community energy, London cycling, future energy mix and tackling climate scepticism. We hope you will join us in exploring the book’s big dream and visioning steps we could take to realise it.
Written by Ali Freeman, sustainability consultant, working with nef consulting (new economics foundation) with particular expertise in organisational strategy, impact assessment and stakeholder engagement.