Priorities for developing sustainability-oriented foresight

A number of priorities – and associated opportunities – for sustainability-oriented foresight need to be better understood and addressed. Each also requires successfully addressing related barriers and challenges. The following are four areas where ‘foresight methods’ can assist: 1) Enabling greater ‘anticipatory learning’. The opposite of anticipatory learning is ‘learning-by-shock’ (see this paper which defines …

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Debate over the ‘Anthropocene’ – future events to monitor

Science journalist Paul Voosen has written a new piece on the debate over whether humans have created a new geological era or epoch – termed the “anthropocene” (coined by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, the atmospheric chemist who studied the creation and causes of the ozone hole). Voosen notes this is being debated by the International …

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Towards a more pluralistic, ‘third-wave’ of environmentalism?

The last couple of days I’ve been pondering the divergent, competing and – to a limited extent – evolving visions expressed in sustainability discourses and debates. A striking example is found in a recent paper by UTS physicist Prof Geoff Smith called “Green Nanophotonics” which highlights the potential for new technologies to reduce energy use …

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Call for greater ‘strategic materials’ foresight

A new whitepaper entitled ‘Simply no Substitute? Assessing and Enabling Realistic Potential Alternatives to Key Strategic Materials in Critical Technologies’ has been released by Cientifica, together with Material Value Consultancy and a senior editor of journal Nature Materials. It highlights increasing consideration of the potential for rare earth metals and other critical materials to limit …

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On sustainability (part 1)

There is no one set way of defining or thinking about ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable development’. In my case I was introduced to these ideas mostly in a business context, where related concepts such as the ‘triple bottom line’ framework (i.e. financial, social and environmental performance) and ‘sustainable enterprise’ are central. Within the consulting world I …

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Sustainability impasses and futures practices

How can ‘sustainability impasses’ be best understood and dealt with (ideally broken)? This increasingly seems like one of the most important questions. Just look at the situations of (mostly) inaction and major, increasing conflicts around the management of the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia over the proposed ‘Basin Plan’ for more sustainable water use, over major …

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Reconsidering the Shell scenarios case study

Recently I’ve been reading Art Kleiner’s influential book The Age of Heretics, and Kees van der Heijden’s Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversations, which both consider Shell’s early experiments in the 1970s with scenarios and scenario-based planning techniques. These books both highlight that there is much more to this case than the simple “success story” …

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