Sir Jonathon Porritt – legendary British environmentalist, campaigner, commentator, writer, broadcaster, former Green Party co-chair, sustainability advisor to corporations and individuals including the Prince of Wales, and co-founder of Forum for the Future – is currently promoting his latest book, The World We Made.
Officially classified as non-fiction by its publisher, The World We Made is a most unusual book — part speculative fiction, part road map to an exciting future — that is, according to its optimistic author, clearly within our reach if only humanity can find the courage and vision to “get a move on it without further delay.”
Set in the year 2050, The World We Made is narrated by a fictional British history teacher, Alex McKay, who recounts to his students the key historical events, technological breakthroughs and lifestyle revolutions that helped transform a world which was stuck in polarized environmental debate and climate change inertia in the early part of the 21st century into a healthier, more prosperous world that is green, fair, connected, collaborative and genuinely sustainable for all nine billion of its inhabitants by the year 2050.
According to Jonathon’s blog, “this is the biggest thing I’m working on at the moment. We simply have to change the ‘mood music’ in terms of the way people feel about sustainability.”
The World We Made is packed with futuristic photographs, info-graphics and hand-drawn sketches that help readers visualize what it would “feel like” living in a world in which 90% of our energy comes from clean sources; where IT devices compute at the speed of human thought; where nanotechnology and 3D printing transforms manufacturing; and where personal genomics allows everyone to lead longer and healthier lives.
“The business community has a lot to feel excited about in terms of the opportunities between now and 2050. It is going to be just the most exciting roller coaster ride you can imagine as we move away from our dependence on fossil fuel and very wasteful economies, to renewable energy, efficiency, closed-loop production systems, new materials, nanotechnology, new manufacturing systems, more efficient transportation systems, one global currency… It’s a brave new world to say the least.”
These ideas are not science fiction, according to Jonathon. All of the projections made in the book are based on the best possible forecasts and scenarios currently available. “What I did was to take the forecast for 2050 and backcast it – if that’s the forecast for 2050 then how do we actually get there? It was refreshing to do it that way… if you start from (today) and you look at what’s going to happen in 2015 it’s usually so depressingly small that you think, oh my god, this is never going to get moving fast enough.”
There are, inevitably, some serious shocks to the system that humanity will encounter between now and 2050 – accelerating impacts of climate change, threats to food and water security, for example. But Jonathan believes these shocks will actually “help jolt politicians out of their current inertia.”
By taking the technical concepts of sustainable development and climate change out of the theoretical – which clearly does not resonate with most audiences – and making them engaging, tangible and human, Jonathon has found his secret weapon – the character Alex McKay – to help make climate change more “personal”. He tells an engaging – and surprisingly believable – tale of how humanity finally woke up from its early 21st century slumber to save itself – just in the nick of time – from the brink of climate collapse.
The World We Made is essential reading for anyone thirsty for some positive news as an antidote to the relentless onslaught of negative stories and images with which we are confronted daily. Through a humble fictional “everyman”, Sir Jonathon seduces us with a tantalizingly realistic sense of optimism and hope for the future, inspired by many of the same cleantech revolutionary ideas that are already being developed today. If we would just allow ourselves the pleasure of focusing beyond the stalemate of today’s international climate change negotiations, we might be able to see — even believe — that humanity may already be on the path to unprecedented transformation as described by Alex McKay. The secret is to stay focused on the positive, to keep our eyes on the prize. The World We Made may just be what the doctor ordered.
Joan Sullivan is a renewable energy photographer based in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, Joan has focused her cameras (and more recently her drones) exclusively on solutions to climate change. She is convinced that the inevitable transition to a 100% clean energy economy will happen faster – and within our lifetimes – by creating positive images and stories that help us visualize and embrace what a post-carbon future will look like. Joan collaborates frequently with filmmakers on documentary films that explore the human side of the energy transition. She is currently working on a photo book about the energy transition. Her renewable energy photos have been exhibited in group shows in Canada and the UK. You can find Joan on Twitter and Instagram.