The World in 2052

Humanity has made immense progress over the last few decades. The starting point for setting a future’s agenda can be anchored in a healthier, better educated, more prosperous, and better informed and connected world than ever.

Humanity finds itself at an evolutionary crossroad. The choice is between a perfect storm of progressively deepening crises and expanding perspectives of unprecedented opportunities.

Viewed from the perspective of the past, the current crises predict a gloomy future. Viewed as an evolutionary opportunity to break with outmoded ideas, values and institutions, they provide the essential conditions for the rapid transition to a more peaceful, prosperous, equitable and sustainable future.

The recent failure of collective action to address international financial instability, climate change, unemployment and food insecurity seems to justify pessimism. But this failure has been the result of a piecemeal, fragmentary approach to both understanding and addressing the issues.

The root causes of the crises we are witnessing rest on outmoded theoretical concepts, values and institutions. The remedy lies in the formulation of a new theory appropriate to the radically different conditions of the 21st century, commitment to progressive values that integrate individual freedom and equitable cooperation to maximize the welfare and well-being of all, and establishment of more effective national and global institutions.

There is a growing understanding and an increasing consensus of the kind of world we want to live in. A global society which has moved beyond hunger and suppression, a world that manages to live off the resources which the finite planet and the infinite human ingenuity provide, an equitable society which lives sustainably and is a lot better off and happier than today. The vision of the Club of Rome is one of an enlightened world guided by values of cooperation.

The world in 2052 can be a much safer and resilient place than it is today. Humanity has the opportunities, the tools, the science, technology and the insight to overcome the systemic crisis and to move into a better world. Whether we manage to do so will depend on each one of us.

1. Global limits, a systemic crisis and its root causes

In 1972, the Club of Rome published its first report, The Limits to Growth. The report warned that if growth rates seen between 1900 and 1972 were to continue, humanity would overstep planetary boundaries sometime between 2000 and 2100. 40 years later, there is no doubt that the world has been crossing and continues to cross planetary limits. The consequence is a series of crises faced by our global society.

Within the first decade of this Millennium, humanity already finds itself in at least five major ecological and social crises. Each of them is a warning sign, that something is going wrong: An unemployment crisis, a food crisis, a global financial crisis, an economic crisis and a global ecological crisis.

These individual crises are, in fact, driven by many of the same root causes: Values not aligned with the crises we are facing and an antiquated belief system, an outdated economy, outdated institutions and inadequate delivery mechanisms.

2. An emerging movement and opportunities as never seen before

We are faced with the necessity to evolve towards new and higher social systems that are needed to effectively manage higher levels of technological capability, globalization of society, greater human mobility, etc. We should not focus on what seems to have been lost, but on what humanity has until now never possessed. Society is evolving. Understanding the present in the light of the past, we see only the problems resulting in gloom. Understanding the present in the light of the future compels us to evolve, we see the opportunities it points to.

Entire sets of beliefs and behavior have become outdated and counter-productive and need to be replaced by new thinking and new approaches. The good news is that this change is effectively beginning to take place, despite the stiff resistance it faces.

A groundswell of a global movement seems to be building up as millions of people are actively engaged in building a global society, which is sustainable, just and equitable. What unites them is a vision for a better world, one where humanity lives in peace with nature and itself, a world which can be called “sustainable and equitable”, a world which would be much more secure, stable and habitable than the one we are living in today.

This groundswell is aided by an unprecedented array of tools and resources such as innovations in technology and communications, higher levels of education, greater democratic freedom, greater tolerance and international understanding, increasing capacity for organization and progress of all types of social institutions.

3. 2052: what will the future hold?

Over the next 40 years the world population is likely to grow from close to 7 billion to 9.5 billion people, with a corresponding increase in demand for energy, land, water and food, resulting possibly in a tripling of GDP. It is assumed that the population will level off at around 9.5 billion in 2045 – a unique era in human history.

These developments are bound to further increase humanity’s footprint and to reduce resilience in natural and social systems. They even carry the potential of propelling us into an unknown world, driven by non-linear processes, largely out of human control.

We maximize our chances that, by 2052, in 40 years’ time, we can look back and understand that we have succeeded in transiting into a fundamentally more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world by

  • Redefining the values which effectively guide the development of society
  • Developing a new economy, both in theory and practice, so that
    • natural and social capital are correctly valued new financial markets
    • deliver the goods and services mankind needs in and for a sustainable world
    • sufficient jobs are created to allow a decent income for all
  • Creating appropriate governance institutions on a global, national and local level

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