Copying The Future
The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.
So said fiction author, William Gibson. What he alluded to is the fact that the things that will be normal in the future already exist in some places today. Most of what will constitute large scale change, at least in the near term, is the spread of these existing niches to become more pervasive.
We can identify the elements of a cleaner, fairer future today, even if they are not yet in place everywhere. The sustainable transport of the future looks more like bicycles and electric mass transit than flying cars; rebalancing our impact on natural resources looks more like commoning than geo-engineering; economic growth looks more regenerative and circular than extractive and linear.
It’s exciting to see examples of what the future looks like in practice:
- ReFLEX Orkney is interlinking the local electricity, transport and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system that serves the islands. At the heart of this pioneering microcosm is responsive flexibility (‘reflex’) to variations in renewable energy and demand from businesses and communities by integrating battery storage, electric vehicles, smart chargers and smart meters.
- Coventry has its own Bicycle Mayor, Adam Tranter, who is not part of local government but instead is a volunteer recommended by local cycling groups and city stakeholders. Bicycle Mayors are catalysts who bring together the public and private realms to uncover the massive economic, health, and environmental benefits of increased cycling capacity.
- In Bethesda, over 100 local households and a hydro have come together to form an ‘Energy Local Club’. This project is – like many other renewable energy co-ops in Wales – about community resourcefulness; helping Bethesda realise its collective strength and shared resource in terms of both people and energy.
- Stockton-on-Tees plans to demolish half the high street and replace a tired retail arcade with a park, in a vision for the future that is not about more shops but about culture, outdoor events and recreation. Tiny Forests integrates urban greening on a very different scale, helping people establish dense native woodlands as small as a tennis court, right in the heart of our cities and urban spaces.
- Bristol Waste Company, wholly owned by Bristol City Council, runs its own Reuse Shop next to an existing city recycling centre, diverting tonnes of items from the waste stream. They salvage and repair electronic items for reuse and send over 22 tonnes of unwanted paint to be remanufactured.
In the future, progress is measured not only in terms of reducing carbon emissions but also in terms of resilience, resourcefulness, repair and renewal. These kinds of benefits have a positive impact on us economically, socially and environmentally, and therefore mobilise many more people to take action.
A better world for all is in reach, if we replicate these initiatives everywhere. It’s liberating to know that we don’t have to wait for a new technology to be invented or a national policy edict to be issued before making similar transformative changes where we live. We just need to join in.