Facing A realistic future

Our global predicament

“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” 

- William Gibson, interview on Fresh Air,  NPR, 31 August 1993 

Human society is in overshoot. Our world is increasingly refusing to satisfy the exponentially increasing material demands that underpin our fossil carbon based global civilisation. Immensely powerful natural systems’ dynamics are interrupting and disrupting and ultimately limiting this growth. This includes resource depletion, soil loss, ecosystem degradation, and climate change and related effects, including sea level rise, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, and numerous interconnected feedback loops. 

Dramatic and chaotic changes are already happening. Some of them local; some of them national, regional or global in scale. The disruptions may be experienced as gradual in some times and places. At others they will be sudden and acute, if not catastrophic. They will increase and become more widespread throughout the coming years. It is those disruptions and how we respond to them that will define our future for generations to come.  

In the near future all of us are likely to experience unavoidable discontinuities to the social structures and ecosystems we are familiar with and rely on. This presents significant challenges to our prosperity and well-being. It may also threaten our personal survival, the survival of our families and that of our species. 

Unsustainability is inherent in the current dominant culture. We are in the midst of the breakdown of a highly structured and complex global civilisation. The scale and scope of this is way beyond our individual or collective control. We are living through the unravelling of a vast array of interlocking interdependencies which have been built up over centuries. We are hampered by a human biology and psychology ill-equipped to deal with large, systemic, long-term challenges. We are up against widespread and deep denial. This comes in both the negative and positive varieties. There are those that insist there is no problem, and those that insist it will be solved. Nearly all of our key systems and institutions are subservient to a deeply embedded cultural myth of progress. There is a generalised, almost universal, avoidance of reality.

However, our current situation also presents a range of opportunities for shifting to new ways of living, new cultures. They could, for example, be based on a resurgence in genuine community or extended family networks. They could be based on a slower, more meaningful pace of life. They could move from consuming nature to re-affirming our place within it. It is the potential and dynamics of this shift that we are most interested in, including the necessary transformation of the economic, social and political systems. 

There are a number of vital questions that are currently only being peripherally considered. We have come together to address them, urgently and directly. They include: 

  • How might we overcome our society’s collective denial of reality? 
  • To what extent might we adapt our systems and way of life to better meet our long-term needs?
  • To what extent can we adjust our material circumstances to maximise resilience through these turbulent times? 
  • Can we create new cultural capital that will sustain us through the 21st century and beyond? 

We’ll use our best scientific and systemic knowledge. We’ll develop a broad understanding of the pattern of probable future scenarios. We’ll apply the lessons of history. We’ll report on how other contemporary states, bioregions and communities are realising and responding to their own limits.