What is shaping how you think about the planet’s future?
To launch our new programme Forecast, we reached out to 50 people across the world to ask them that question: “what is shaping how you think about the planet’s future?”
We asked Antarctic scientists, energy experts, indigenous environmentalists, CEOs, activists, artists and many others. The full collection includes some wonderful perspectives from some truly brilliant people.
Many were hopeful, some were not. Some drew inspiration from ancient and indigenous wisdom, while others from the futures of their children. Data and models were just as prominent as the role of creativity and the interconnectedness of life on this planet.
Every one of them made us stop and think.
You can browse the collection of responses below. We hope you enjoy reading them too.
Can we destroy what we have invented?
Our imagined future was packaged as ‘better’ than our present. This ‘future’ no longer guides us. We must relearn earth-care and dream multiple possibilities in order to heal our relationship with her ecosystems and each other.
Can we step into the future lightly?
Indigenous peoples live in harmony with nature for centuries. Our grandmothers teach us a simple principle: “protect mother earth and she will protect you back”. With indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, we offer to the world concrete solutions to fight climate change and start a new relation of cooperation with Nature.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
Environmentalist and indigenous peoples activist
It’s a hard word to use at the minute but it’s never been more important. So please hear my voice.
I have hope.
Hope for the future. Hope based on our collective humanity. Hope from seeing the changes we are making to carbon emissions. Hope from experiencing the actions done in communities around the world. Hope from policy makers understanding that climate change is a vote winning issue.
I have hope. And I have enough for you as well. If you need it reach it, I will give you some of mine, then give some to the next person who needs it.
Then hope will go around the world.
Fuel Cell, Hydrogen and Energy Storage specialist.
Saturated with a melange of affects, my thoughts about the planet’s future form within a sphere of provocations: the knowledge generated by natural science; a sense of justice hewed from inheritance and philosophy; Indigenous wisdoms of other ways of being human, and; embodied attachments to all earth beings.
Sociologist, Sydney Environment Institute
I am trying not to think about the planet’s future and rather direct that energy into action in
the present, that can hopefully make a small contribution to a better future.
Co-founder, Synchronicity Earth
Horror and hatred at the continuance of capitalism, and its increasingly deranged sadism and death-drive.
Our bodies travel across it, swim within it.
Bodies of water, between bodies.
We mould it, shape it, build on it.
Push it to its edge.
It resists, but sometimes it gets sick
and we must care for it - for our future.
Bathe it, feed it, nurture it.
Acknowledging the science, listening to the youth, listening to indigenous communities, remaining open minded.
Author & Environmental Activist
What will my son’s life look like, being part of the first generation inheriting this planet we have damaged?
We have borrowed this world from the people who come after us. What can I say when handing it back? What plan and achievements can I pass on?
Executive Director, Invisible Dust
A mathematical way of thinking is one of the most powerful lenses to look into the future and understand what is going to happen next. Mathematics is the science of patterns and pattern is the key to connecting the numbers of the past with those of the future.
Marcus du Sautoy
During this period of uncertainty, we have witnessed how climate impacts the lives of the most vulnerable.
If we are to improve the ecosystem, then we must reimagine our status to ‘citizens of the world’.
Work with courage, solidarity and urgency before tipping our climate to the point of no return.
I recently chopped back my Datura bush, cut the clippings into twigs, stripped off the leaves and stuck the naked branches into dirt. Green outgrowths sprouted from the torn edges. Trumpet-shaped flowers will eventually blossom. They’ll release a sweet perfume. Nature’s ambition is everywhere. We have no choice but trust in it.
NASA Science Communicator
As the seen-unseen beings/non-humans/events unfold themselves in northern forests, lakes, peatlands and rivers through our rewilding work, they demonstrate through their resurgent, co-concentric existence that the future has not been set. It remains open. Whilst our northern land will transform herself she will continue to be a beautiful, recovering home.
Ecologist and indigenous knowledge advocate
I think about population growth and the need to feed ourselves, of water shortage, of plastic pollution and debris in space, and the raging sea, the sea of politics. But there must be hope, we must create hope and show there is a way forward so we can live together in peace.
Head of Space Weather, British Antarctic Survey
Increasing human populations and consumption make continuing biodiversity change inevitable. Most environmentalists focus on reducing biodiversity losses, swimming against the tide. However, change involves gains too, so the challenge is to ensure that population and species ‘gains’ outnumber ‘losses’. I think about ways of maximising potentially beneficial gains.
Director, Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, University of York
I look at the brilliant minds who surround me, and I hold on to hope. Hope that we, who have contributed to the problem, by God's grace might rise to the challenge of putting it right, of creating a world worth living in. For the sake of our children.
Director of Innovation and Impact, British Antarctic Survey
Our future is reliant on propping up a system that has been forever unjust. If we recognise a pattern in our own pain, beauty and suffering that lives beyond our own body, then we may never leave anyone or anything behind. The shape of my thinking comes from imagination.
Michelle St Anne
Deputy Director, Sydney Environment Institute
It's important my explorations and photography mirror our contemporary environmental concerns, intending that my work contributes to the discussions about the future world my children will inherit. It's important my children understand that using creative tools, we can have a visionary impact on making the world a better place.
Black Lives Matter has sent a wave of emotion across the world, fuelling an extraordinary impetus towards people centered policy and structural action for diversity and equality. I see our new found collective courage moving us to push for boldness to address climate justice, and come together positively as an interconnected world.
Judy Ling Wong
Honorary President, Black Environment Network
As Planet Earth near its tipping point, I dare to hope we will choose our future wisely. I dare, because I see now, the limitless resource on Earth is the human mind, the irresistible force is the human spirit, and the sound that can never be silenced is of our children learning more than we can ever know.
Director of Science, British Antarctic Survey
I look at measurements we make, of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere at our remote Antarctic station; concentrations rise relentlessly, year after year… I listen to scientists explaining how Antarctic ice shelves are melting because of warming oceans below. And I wonder whether I’m optimistic.
Science Leader, British Antarctic Survey
A destabilising question. After all, I won't be around in that future; sooner or later our species will end. So, why care? And yet: this is what we are. A drive towards life, not just ours, but our children's, friends’, our family’s: humankind. And we love our home, this planet.
Science and technology create as many problems as they solve. But evidence-based reasoning and scientific progress remain our best hopes for overcoming the challenges and threats we face. As a global society we need to rebuild trust in these pillars of civilisation, through institutions, education, and conversation.
Social dimensions of environmental issues, including the role of culture in changing human relationships to our environments. For people to see the environment as a part of their lives that they hold a stake in requires a shift in individual and societal values. If we change the culture, we change the future.
Science and environmental policy researcher
The climate emergency and global ecological crisis are now savagely upon us: but love, life, joy, immeasurable beauty and unknowable future possibilities all persist. So there is urgent work to be done together; that we may yet secure an earth capable of nurturing life in its magnificent diversity.
CEO, Greenpeace Australia Pacific
John Ruskin’s personal motto was ‘To-Day’. He believed the way we see things ‘today’ shapes the way we think and behave in the future.
In our ‘Today’ artists and scientists working together globally can give us new perspectives and inspire us to take action on equality and our environment.
Artistic Director and Founder, Invisible Dust
Relationship. To ourselves, and to the natural world – we are totally intertwined. And, a
constant query: how we can act with urgency in the present, while understanding the past –
rooting ourselves in ancient and indigenous tried and tested ways of being – as we move
beyond linearity, engaging in the future?
Co-founder, Synchronicity Earth
My children and the young people I interact with as part of being a parent. They give me hope in the way they react to life as well as prompting me to appreciate different ways of living and being. We urgently need to learn from each other’s stories.
The increasingly thickening layers of technology mediating human experience of “reality”, human position within and relation to other non-human makers. While technology can provide insight to the processes governing the equilibrium within the biosphere, it also often distracts us from the direct experiences of nature. How to hack it so that we can embrace non-human makers and nature as collaborators rather than a product is a central question of my worries and hopes for the future.
I bring hope from the energy transition: the explosion of green energy is the proof we can change. I also bring urgency, because we have to do the heavy-lifting on decarbonisation during my baby’s childhood. She reminds me that hope for the planet is not enough: we need action now.
CEO, Energy UK
It’s a strange time where people seem invested in highlighting our differences; while these nuances are important, in order to recognise and acknowledge each person’s identity, ultimately, concerning our shared environment and the planet, the only thing that will get us through, is understanding and respecting our shared humanity
Curator, writer and producer
I stand on the Antarctic ice sheet, a splinter of newly drilled ice core in my warm hands, hearing bubbles of trapped air from the past popping as the ice melts, knowing that nobody alive today will see the level of carbon dioxide sink back below 400 parts per million.
Glaciologist, British Antarctic Survey
Some say the future is an unwritten page, but as a scientist I see it through the lenses of data and models. The outlook is dire: business as usual would mean a planetary disaster for people and nature. Societies must break current trends through knowledge, targeted investments and urgent action.
Director of Science, Kew
The youth is changing how I think about the future. The youth is not only demanding for daily and systemic changes in society, but also holding the power of future’s investments. Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders.
I designed an environmental course with a page to describe global tCO2e of 390ppm*. A year later I had to update it to 400ppm. We have just had to revise it to 410ppm. This is not in a generation or a decade, this is in an average job plan.
*ppm. Parts per million. A way of measuring global average atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Head of Visual Arts Programme, British Council
It is human beings ignoring the need of making our beautiful planet prosper in a sustainable way rather than in the context of their life-span, observing the world population explode without taking action, quietly accepting the extinction of many unique species, and not treating the planet’s issues from a truly global, fair perspective, which shape my concerns about our planet’s future.
Head of Arts, British Council Germany
Learning stillness, to listen: See our damage (to each other/to the planet), our impact conveniently hidden by our privilege; we’re addicted to short term comfort!
From this new start (seeing us for what we really are) look far ahead, empathically, collectively. Our individual worlds won’t collapse if we ‘play nicely’ - instead, our imaginations can let rip!
We think about slowing down, about taking the time to contemplate and appreciate the world in front of us right now. We think about measuring the future in terms of minutes and days, in the hope that we can continue doing so for many centuries and millennia to come.
There is an immense amount of transformative work being done on the ground, in communities, to adapt and make more sustainable our everyday practices. These are examples that challenge and renew the way think about and grow food, generate and distribute power, and make things to meet basic needs.
Director, Sydney Environment Institute
I've read somewhere that 'aggression is biological but that violence is social'.
Since then, I realised that language is often the accomplice to that same violence.
This makes me wonder what our planet could look like if we all just learned how to better understand each other, and in turn, better understanding our environments.
We ALL need to wake up. Our personal and collective survival demands we recognise we are part of an ecosystem and must take environmental and equitable responsibility for all our decisions and actions. Transitions are painful, so global collaboration with strong and open leadership are imperatives. We need green investment.
Trustee, Invisible Dust
The urgency to address the planets environmental path and the skewed distribution of wealth across the globe lead me to believe it is now more imperative than ever that we have leaders who can align their own actions, corporate strategies and hold governments to account for the good of all.
PwC Partner. London Region Chair. (Own views)
To re-sync with the planet and human altruism; we need to flatten the curve of our colonial legacy, and its perpetuated myths.
The reality of transitions; ending that which is known, unpredictability and chaos. Growing my capacity to feel my centre despite the external. Remembering something new IS emerging. Meeting the intense emotions transitions evoke. Appreciating beauty in ‘small’ things & all I have right now. Cultivating a gentle strength. More than ever, we need kindness.
Director, Flourishing Diversity
If we want our cities to evolve into systems that enable both human and non-human species to co-exist and be mutually supportive we all need to be involved in a radical transformation — and in making decisions about that transformation — changing how we live with each other as well as the natural systems that envelop us.
Founder and Creative Director, Umbrellium
We could consider 2020 as a fire drill prompting us to analyze our planet and our society. Justice treats individuals as innocent until proven guilty. What if Economy treated individuals as substantial until proven marginal ? We have some Trust issues.
Suraj Prasad Mahato