2084: Why the venture into the unknown is worthwhile

“It was a bright [warm] day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

It would hardly have been surprising if Paul Raskin’s utopia of a “homeland earth” had begun with these words. Given the current global developments, a dystopia based on Orwell, an updated Twenty Eighty-Four version, would be a likely outcome in an attempt to look to the future. But Raskin delivers with his Journey to Earthland [2] the exact opposite: the vision of a positive future.

The co-founder and President of the US Tellus Institute has spent many years developing models and scenarios to describe humanity’s potential development pathways in terms of water and energy consumption, economic and demographic growth, and CO 2 emissions (Raskin et al., 2010; Raskin et al 2001, SEI 2006).

In Journey to Earthland, Raskin summarizes the results of his work and outlines in the first part of the book the path of human history so far, which describes the well-known curves of uninhibited growth. Arrived in the here and now, the author shows possible development paths of the future (various Tomorrowlands ). Of these different paths, however, the author chooses neither the dystopian nor the business-as-usual scenarios (if there is any difference between them). Instead, in the following section, the author looks at the “Great Shift,” the viable path to a civilized, planetary future.

This path represents a departure from the previously dominant growth paradigm. Raskin describes this way (and this is what distinguishes the book) that readers are not afraid of a future of privation and renunciation. Raskin succeeds in doing this in the third and last part of the book by taking a look at this future or, better still, by looking out of this future in the year 2084, a snapshot of Future II, the “perfect future”. He emphasizes the many gains in the coexistence of people through a new global “we-feeling”, without denying diversity and individuality.

That does not mean that Raskin has written down pure fiction or even castles in the air. His scenarios are based on solid scientific work (see Raskin et al., 2010). This is also the foundation of his vision of the future of Earthland , which, albeit fictitious, is in the best sense of the word a scientific or science fiction .

In Part 1, Raskin begins the journey into “Homeland Earth” in the forgery through human history, which he describes as a history of ongoing exponential acceleration. While the Stone Age lasted about 100,000 years, the following phases of human history are each one-decade shorter. The early phase of civilization, beginning with sedentary life of 10,000 years, on the modern age, including nation states and industrialization (about 1000 years) to the planetary phase of globalization, which may have passed before the end of the century. Today, after entering the planetary phase, whose many changes have brought us to a historic crossroads, mankind must make a directional decision despite the described acceleration: The signpost shows the three main paths “Great Change”, “Conventional Worlds” and “Barbarization” , The author sketches these paths with their different branches from “collapse” to the “new paradigm” before embarking on the path of “great change” with his readers.

In the second part of the book, Raskin describes the guard rails of this path to planetary civilization through two retrospectives of the future in 2084. In the first part of the book, he follows the turn “Political Reform” on the path “Conventional Worlds”. In this way, the many voices for a reform of the current political rules of the game will slowly become established and lead to the formation of a global social democracy. The world would become a “well constructed shopping center” that could service most people, but not allow people and nature to flourish. The second review comes from a “world of fortresses” after humanity has followed the path of “barbarization”. Raskin sees the emergence of climate disasters, pandemics and social chaos as a consequence of this future.

 

Following on from these future reports, Raskin contrasts the adherence to the growth paradigm (scenario “market forces”) with the departure from this (“Great Change” scenario). He uses these two scenarios to show the range of possible developments of variables such as the world population, working hours, carbon dioxide emissions or energy consumption (Raskin et al., 2010).

The third part of his book is dedicated to a report from the civilized future in 2084. This report first tells the story of the Great Transition in its five stages: Takeoff (1980-2001), Rolling Crisis (2001-2023), General Emergency (2001-2023). 2023-2028), The Reform Era (2028-2048) and Commonwealth of Earthland (2048-2084). To give some color to the “homeland of Earth”, Raskin again borrowed from Orwell and translates its tripartite division into the super- states of Oceania, Eurasia and East Asia into new ” superregions ” of Earthland. While Orwell’s tripartite division clearly reflects the ideas of the “First World to the Third World”, Raskin also tries to take into account today’s ideas of geographic, cultural and ideological differences: Agoria, a market-believing “Sweden 10 times”, about ecodemia , an economic democracy socialist traces, to Arcadia, a region of idyllic, rural and anarchistic dreams. Detailed descriptions of political and economic structures, of the people themselves, of education, spirituality as well as justice and environmental aspects give a picture of Earthland with great courage to detail. Finally, the Future Report – and thus the book – ends with words of gratitude to the previous generations who have taken the first steps on the path of Great Change.

In a time when, despite niggling doubt, in the global North the passive persistence of preserving the status quo in the false hope is the supposedly safer choice than the active departure into a new future, one thing is lacking above all else: a concrete idea of the future – a goal for which a departure into the unknown is worthwhile. Although it may not be the original task of scientists to design such a vision of the future, it is the task of every human being who is committed to the survival of (human) life on earth. And this group should – like Paul Raskin – confess all who do science.

 

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