No.93 - July 2014

Last year, swarms of moon jellyfish disrupted a nuclear reactor in Sweden. Huge numbers of them were found clogging up the cooling water filters. It wasn’t the first time. In 2011, two nuclear reactors were shut down in Scotland, thanks to a jellyfish invasion. It’s no surprise that rising sea temperatures are causing species normally found in the Mediterranean to move towards the poles. But you’d be forgiven for not anticipating nuclear blackouts as a fall-out.

It’s an example that John Sweeney, Deputy Director of the Center for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies, uses to illustrate the concept of ‘global weirding’. For Sweeney, what’s going to happen (the prognosis) is a more interesting and urgent question than ‘why’ (the diagnosis). ‘Weirding’ is his prognosis: the massive changes affecting the very life systems we have come to rely upon.

As these systems fall out of kilter, understanding them becomes more important than ever. If we’re going to have any chance of preparing for the implications – both the risks and the opportunities they present – then we need to know what affects what. Mapping these webs of influence is no easy task. They weave in and out of our neatly defined sectors, and disrupt any sense of a value chain with a beginning and an end.

If we’re living in ‘postnormal times’, then we need to find new ways of talking about them. Linear news stories are out of their depth. ‘News’ is a misnomer: every development has a complex history as well as complex future implications. We need to become good listeners so that we can both detect changes in all sorts of unlikely places and be awake to implications that we could never anticipate. Difficult questions will emerge, and so we need to become very comfortable with debate. There may not be a right answer, but there will very likely be a more sustainable one.

For a magazine like Green Futures, with 18 years’ experience of tracking change, spotting promising solutions, and analysing the implications for sustainability, this is an incredible opportunity. In response, we are working with Forum’s forthcoming Futures Centre in Singapore to build a new futures platform. Through it, we will help people across the world understand how external changes might affect their future, so they can make better decisions today. In January we will publish the first annual edition of a new Green Futures Compendium, showing how the future is changing from one year to the next, and delving into the implications.

You can read more about this new journey on pages 14-21. Come with us.

Anna Simpson

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Green Futures magazine has been a source of solutions and inspiration for a sustainable future since 1996. Now, Forum for the Future has launched a new platform to turn inspiration into action. Please visit our Futures Centre and discover our new annual publication, Green Futures: The Long View.