The Future of Sustainability.
The Future of Sustainability. The 2020s are almost here and they promise to be challenging and uncertain. We have identified seven areas of change that, from the perspective of early 2019, look likely to play a major role in shaping the 2020s. We have chosen these trends based on experience working on the frontier of change for the past year, drawing on research, interviews, contributions to the Futures Centre, our global futures platform, and system-changing projects across the world. For each one, we look at what’s happening now and ask where it might lead in the future. We also ask where we’re beginning to see a deeper shift: in patterns of behaviour, structures or mindsets – either towards or away from the future of sustainability
The Plastics Kickback
Despite almost unprecedented attention and activity, responses to pervasive plastic pollution have so far largely failed to address the root causes or avoid unintended consequences. We remain desperately addicted to this cheap, ubiquitous material.
Migration and the Climate Crisis
Migration reached its highest point since WWII in 2018 and climate change will become a major driver of it in years to come, potentially sparking a humanitarian crisis and protectionism. Will the world put in place the structures and systems to cope?
Nationalism Marches Again
Nationalist governments and sentiment are rising around the world. We may be leaving the globalist era and moving into a period of fragmentation and competition. If so, navigating this divisive narrative will be crucial to effective action on the future of sustainability.
Half the world will be online in 2019. This almost unregulated space feeds off our attention, herds us into echo chambers and could have some serious consequences for society and our ability to create change.
The Rise of Participatory Democracy
As the globalist vs nationalist debate intensifies, citizens and governments are experimenting with new ways to come together and make decisions – a local antidote to global issues.
Changing Consumerism in Asia
Lifestyles with heavy environmental footprints are becoming the norm across the world, but in Asia there are faint hints of a new flavour of consumerism brewing.
Biodiversity in Free-Fall
We are experiencing a sixth mass extinction event that undermines the natural systems on which our very survival as a species depends. There are signs of restoration and regenerative approaches, but they need joining up and widespread adoption to have lasting impact.
Addressing Global Challenges
Taken together, these seven areas have big implications for how – even whether – we are able to address global challenges. Positive developments abound, but the deep shifts in mindset and attitudes represented by the rise of nationalism, the growth of consumerism or the emergence of the ‘onlife’ are pushing in the opposite direction. Is the Sustainable Development Goal ambition “to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment” already a pipe dream?
Targeting Structure and Mindset
Action for the future of sustainability should ultimately target the structures and mindsets that govern the way the world works, but to date we have seen little of this. We need to step up and skill up: step up our ambition levels, and skill up on how to work towards fundamental and lasting change. At Forum for the Future, we believe that means understanding how to work systemically on global challenges, by:
- Realising the scale of the challenges we face and the time within which they need to be solved;
- Building connections beyond your field and outside echo chambers to bring in new perspectives and to foster empathy;
- Identifying and addressing the root causes behind the problem, helping to avoid ‘sticking-plaster’ solutions;
- Aligning on the goals of the change you’re trying to make;
- Understanding your role in the system and the power you have, and doing everything you can to leverage your assets for systems change;
- Moving beyond competition to experiment, learn, share, be open and collaborate.
Recycled from Forum for the Future