Lhasa, Tibet. At the signing the Lhasa Declaration, committing "all world faiths to a series of targets around environmental issues, poverty reduction, and active engagement in the community."

Gothenburg, Sweden, 2036. Flying wind turbines.

"Solar Salvation is a huge, integrated scheme in one of the largest slums on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, in 2023. The scheme provides both solar thermal water heaters and basic PV arrays."

Detroit in the 2020s: "precision agriculture using nano-sensors, smart metering, GPS tracking, and computer-assisted drip irrigation."

"China's 'Great Green Wall' now covers more than 300 million hectares, providing at least some measure of protection against encroaching deserts."

The New Petronas Tower, completed in 2042 in Kuala Lumpur. It is 750m tall, generates 92% of its own energy and is completely water neutral, using the latest aquacycle technology."

Songdo, South Korea, "the first city in the world to standardize wireless electricity."

"West coast of Scotland, 2042. Small, highly efficient wave power facilities of this kind are commonplace."

2013-09-23

Photos From The Future Show That The World In 2050 May Not Be So Bad After All

Science fiction books usually portray dark dystopias. But these renderings show an alternative future: an optimistic story that depicts a world where things went right.

Environmentalists tend to paint a dark picture of the future. It's only by showing us how bad things could get that we might do something about it today, they reason.

The problem with this approach is that it's disempowering. When people hear they can't help, they get depressed. As Jonathon Porritt, a leading British environmentalist, puts it, "they head down to the pub and say 'I might as well give up right now.'"

That's why Porritt, who has written plenty of dystopian books, is trying something different with his latest novel. Instead of a world that's fallen apart, he presents one that really has its act together. The world in 2050 is better than it is today (see the slide show for some examples).

"A lot of green books disempower people first, and then try and cheer you up. What I was trying to do was to say is 'this is a credible prospect for a brilliant world in 2050. Let's start in a good state of mind and make that happen'," he says.

The World We Made is narrated by a teacher named Alex McKay who spends the book explainiing to his students how a better world came about. He goes through 50 areas—from energy to agriculture—showing how humans managed to solve each problem.

By 2050, we have all the clean energy we need: solar is so cheap that we can put it anywhere, there is an "energy Internet" that distributes power between continents, and coal and oil have faded away because they're too dirty and expensive. We have an agricultural system that provides food for all (because of technologies like nitrogen-fixing wheat that don't need today's heavy inputs). Water systems are sustainable, because of new irrigation, purification, and desalination technologies. Population growth has flattened out (because family planning is more accepted). And so on.

We've even fixed climate change and reformed capitalism. In 2020, the world came together in Houston to sign an international agreement, primarily because the United States understood it was losing ground to China in clean technology. By 2050, tax havens are outlawed, there are taxes on financial transactions to replace ineffective national tax systems, and 450 million people work in co-operative companies. Collaborative consumption is flourishing.

Speaking from London, Porritt says there are three trends that make him hopeful about the future. One: a pipeline of technology in areas like energy and water "that's just incredible." Two: the fact that technology is more distributed than before. "We don't have to wait for top-down government or big business to sort everything out for us," he says. Third: "There's a sense that the old order has run its course. There's no new thinking coming out of the established [political] system at the moment."

Porritt insists he isn't some "insane Pollyanna who says everything is going to be absolutely fantastic by 2050." His point is to show that today's technologies and ideas can really bear fruit in the future, if we embrace them fully.

"I haven't moved away from my knowledge of just how huge a challenge this is. I'm just trying to get people to look at the challenge in a different frame of mind. It's a psychological gambit, if you like," he says.

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3 Comments

  • RickH301

    Censorship lives! I put in an excellent, well thought description of how this is a primer for a Brave New Socialist Progressive world to ensure that none of us escapes our duty to pay high taxes to the State, and submit to the will of our Dear Leaders. And 'Poof!' my comment is gone! What a sorry, scared person you have to be to publish such horrible propaganda and not allow dissent. 

    But don't worry - I'm writing my own article ;) 

  • freecountryaintit

    Wow, talk about a victimization complex. But anyhow, what are tax rates compared with the money absconded by bosses who earn 200 times as much as the average employee? Not even the same league, and yet somehow state profusion is the problem, not corporate profiteering. Not to mention the bailouts, the bonuses, the de-regulation, the fucking shit we are fed (both in the media and on our plates), the sweatshops, the crop failures, the hijacking of governments by lobby groups, the energy company propaganda (how does so called "green propraganda" compare, I ask?), the spying, the war-making, the stultification of society with religion and pop culture, the almost total plutocrats' control of most of the world's finances--how can this be dealt with by lowering taxes? Libertarians are the most laughable self-styled "dissenters", aside from the tragic consequences of their stupidity.

  • RickH301

    Ah, the reason that we don't have a utopia today is that there is too much freedom? If citizens of a country want to have a more efficient government and lower taxes it should be outlawed?

    Wow, oil gas and coal are too costly - since new tech can help these resources be produced more efficiently and with less pollution, the only way they can cost more is if they are taxed - again, higher taxes are the salvation of humankind. Oh  but wait! The U.N. oil-for-food scandal was so long ago, surely we can trust them with our money. 

    "Fixing capitalism" - Ah, again, every time you want to make an investment with your money, a national and a global authority get to use the threat of force and jail to make you give them some of your hard-earned money. I'm sure that these un-elected leaders (people used to call them "Royalty" or "Dictators"), who aren't accountable to individual citizens,  will someone come up with solutions better than millions of entrepreneurs unfettered by suffocating regulation. 

    And the worst part? The Progressive Socialists who created the stifling and corrupt welfare systems that destroyed the U.K. and are busy destroying the U.S., and who created the monopolies that have continue to frustrate the supply of low-cost energy to citizens everywhere, are now heroes. 

    And this person is allowed to teach these horrible lies to schoolchildren? Has anyone forgotten the over one-hundred million innocent children, parents, and others  killed by Cuban, Chinese, Russian, and other Progressive Socialist leaders? And how many billions had their lives shortened, their prosperity destroyed, by such stupidity?

    Ah, but I hold back too much. Please send me an e-mail and I'll let you know how I really think ;)