For me, one of the more pleasant things about being in lockdown has been is that it has provided me with plenty of time to think about what might be. What if we really did learn the harsh lesson of this pandemic, that we cannot escape from the consequences of our actions (and inaction)? What if we put aside the crass materialism of the past four decades and started listening to what nature is telling us? Too big a change when most people want everything to go “back to normal”? But if we humanity did find hidden wells of humility, then everything becomes possible.
Here is the world I dream of awaking to in 2030:
- Black lives really do matter. The protests of 2020 have been responded to in a manner previously unimaginable. The change has been so fundamental that antisemitism and islamophobia have disappeared alongside racism.
- Carbon emissions have since been reduced by 25% from 2020 levels, with environmental sustainability becoming the prime objective of the world economy. GDP as a measure of progress has been relegated to history. Business is now focused on enabling the transition to a fully sustainable economy. Built-in obsolesce is a thing of the past and simplicity is the prevailing fashion. “Blue-sky thinking” now means something very different to what it meant in 2019.
- Across the world, the priorities of taxation have changed. Taxes now have a dual purpose: to create greater equality and to ensure greater resilience in the face of the climate crisis. Carbon taxes have reduced carbon extraction by 95%. Tax avoidance by the superrich is no longer acceptable. A sea-change has taken place in attitudes once the first billionaire had been imprisoned and his assets confiscated. The list of billionaires has shrunk and continues to shrink.
- Signs of a levelling out between nations of the world, as well as within nations, with debt cancelation and significant resource transfers to the most vulnerable regions. This has resulted in a remarkable reduction in poverty at the local level, particularly in the poorer parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
- The infotech monopolies have been broken up, while local businesses thrive in this new economic climate. A shift to “localism” has spurred increased efforts to self-sufficiency and greater value being placed on community wellbeing.
- Power is generated almost entirely from renewable energy sources. Transport is likewise powered solely by renewable energy, while air travel plays a much smaller role than it did in 2020. Modern aircraft are increasingly powered by a combination of biofuels and new-generation batteries.
- Much of the R&D skills and resources previously oriented to the arms industry have been refocused on developing carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The programme has been given the same priority that was once given to the NASA Apollo programme. Rapid progress is being made, with the first large-scale systems already in operation. International conflict is becoming rarer, with multilateral nuclear disarmament is underway.
- Following international realisation of just how urgent tackling the climate crisis has become, the United Nations has been revamped and has been given the ability both to prevent wars and to focus national activity on tackling the challenges humanity faces. There has never been a more peaceful period in history.
- Israel-Palestine has become a model democracy. Its federal model ensures long-term stability and gives full equality to all Israelis and Palestinians. The state now has an exemplary human rights record.
- Re-wilding has become a priority in many nations, including in Brazil and Indonesia, where the regeneration of the rainforests is already having a positive impact on the global climate system. Worldwide, the rate of decline for many species of flora and fauna is starting to slow, though not as quickly as many would have hoped.
- Globally, there has been a 25% reduction in meat consumption, with a drop in excess of 75% in the West. Following increased consumer pressure, kindness has become paramount in animal husbandry. Sustainable farming, including permaculture, urban hydroponics and organic farming, is now the norm. The use of petrochemicals in fertilisers and pesticides has been eliminated from agriculture. All fresh food is organically farmed.
- Beauty has made a return in art and art has made a return to the eternal. Small is beautiful, and simplicity king.
- The human species, having discovered just how fragile their life on planet Earth has become, is learning collectively to walk softly and to act gently.
While some might feel that meeting all these objectives by 2030 is overly optimistic, nothing stands in our way but us. Plenty of examples from history, from the Apollo programme, to the evacuation at Dunkirk, to the creation of the United Nations in 1948, show us that given sufficient will and purpose remarkable effort is possible and that such effort can achieve results. The complete reorientation of our economies and the sudden discovery of unlimited resources in the face of the pandemic shows us that when we believe collectively that something is truly important, goals can be achieved very quickly indeed.
What would you add to this list?