By Ali Freeman, The HUB Eco Series
In 1990, amidst an extraordinary surge in public concern for environmental problems, Jonathon Porritt wrote an unashamedly optimistic book and accompanying BBC television series. Where on Earth are we going? was a pragmatic picture of what a range of sectors could look like if we took a sustainable path. While not shying away from the difficult place that 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 also saw immediately the importance and potential of the project Jonathon was proposing. The World We Made, showcases some of the most exciting, innovative and desirable trends that are shaping our world right now. It then wraps them up in a voice from the future, the voice of Alex in 2050 whose life is shaped by our decisions today, and who is able to make the dry idea of sustainability into something personal.
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, techno-savvy and go-getting.
I have been delighted since then to help Jonathon dredge up the facts, trends and signals of how a sustainable world could unfold as the book’s researcher. Getting lost exploring topics like robotics, biotech, miracle cures, religion, personal manufacturing, new travel modes, geoengineering, designer brains and social mobilisation from a sustainability perspective has been fascinating. And like Jonathon, it has left me with a wide-ranging awe and optimism for our ingenuity.
It is an honour therefore to start a conversation with Jonathon and have him present on The World We Made at our next HUB Eco-Series on the 26th of November. This event will culminate a fantastic first year for the Eco-Series, having already had experts in community energy, London cycling, future energy mix and tackling climate scepticism. We hope you will join us to explore the book’s big dream, and steps we could take realise it.
Ali is a sustainability consultant, working with nef consulting (New Economics Foundation) and with particular expertise in organisational strategy, impact assessment and stakeholder engagement.
A greener life, a greener world is a media partner for the HUB Eco Series.