We live in the Anthropocene period. Human interaction with nature has rapidly and radically changed our ecosystem, our habitat, our planet. We all know the challenges flowing from global warming, the crisis of biodiversity and the accelerated exploitation of natural resources. The Energy war in Europe will speed up the need to make up our mind. But the best is yet to come. What is at stake is the fundamental relation between humankind and nature.
By futurist Liselotte Lyngsø.
By 2050 we will have lab grown meat from stem cells at a very low cost. Animal production will be transformed to high-tech facilities able to meet consumer demand on an individual level. Likewise, agriculture from the fields will be replaced by efficient harvest from local urban vertical gardens that only need LED light, water and minerals in order to get the produce to grow and with at least 4xtimes the capacity.
So, thanks to these new industries, the whole world will be fed well despite drastic climate changes, draught and flooding. This will be unevenly distributed – as most technological progress has been – but eventually the conclusion will be the same: 30 years from now we won´t need nature as we know it. Agricultural farmland, pigs and wild prawns from the oceans will belong to the ZOOs and a few organic aficionados.
Today, half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture. This ratio will decline in significant numbers! On top of this shift in the production paradigm, more land will be freed thanks to driverless mobility and people working online as avatars – freeing up land.
What will happen when this formerly scarce resource becomes abundant? Will we still care about nature, when we no longer need it for producing food to survive? Will we still respect the “limits of nature” when in essence there are none?
This is a fundamental new point of departure for decisionmakers in politics, finance, industry, art, academia and leaders in the spiritual sphere. Vested interests will be confronted with a new reality in which they need to adapt and transform in ways they can’t even imagine.
Two scenarios that stress the need for radical and disruptive thinking
Two scenarios can direct our way of strategic thinking about the crucial nexus between humankind and nature in the coming years. The scenarios are by definition “ideal-types”, work in progress, but they stress the profound need for radical and disruptive thinking.
1st scenario: Worshipping nature
– Technology is used to restore nature and biodiversity
So, will we respect the limits of nature in 2050? Yes of course! Climate change made us aware of the huge interdependence between mankind, biological systems and fauna diversity. The complexity of nature including chains of reactions and tipping points that we did not foresee made us humble and urged us to take action.
After a growing number of global cyber-attacks from both hostile governments and criminals closing down the internet access for months, our vulnerability became apparent to everyone. Worshipping nature and obtaining Mother Nature’s living skills became the new gold rush. The industrial era when we thought that mechanics could sort out everything was replaced by an augmented and smart nature that was decentralized and able to survive both on and off the grid.
The true religion for most people became nature. As the catastrophes mounted due to climate changes – the green movements got more and more radical. Nature parks became sites for congregations. Wildlife Guardians evolved into a new cast of “warrior monks” fighting polluters to restore the glory of the biological sphere. Nature obtained legal rights like people as a bid to protect it from future threats. Animal consciousness was taken seriously. We no longer compared pigs to three-year-old children, but cherished them in their own right.
People left the big cities, for self-sustained communities connected to a global grid of knowledge. Supplementing local produce and power generation with online knowhow, monitorization and the latest recipes for 3D-printing.
Wild gardens and animals where the parking lots used to be created an explosion of small village ecosystems. Smart and varied sustainable driverless mobility freed up huge urban spaces that were allowed to lie fallow.
Back in 2030, people still sat themselves to death as most work had to be conducted sitting inside behind a screen. Now we have mind reading devices and augmented surroundings powered by body-flow and movement that makes us prefer to stand up, meet up and move around outside. The fact that much more time is spent outside makes us care way more about our surroundings and the positive impact it has on our health and wellbeing.
Concepts like interdependence and networked society, once used as empty buzzwords, have become meaningful terms underlining the umbilical cord connecting us to the planet.
Regenerative produce has become the norm as smart tech was able to monitor watering and protect plants from pests without using fertilizers.
The world population of people is decreasing as global awareness is increasing and most of us are no longer starving. We are using a lot of both physical, social and mental energy on organizing a sustainable life locally while engaging and inspiring back to a common good globally. Biodiversity plays an essential role in all strains of life.
2nd scenario: Jurassic Park in your backyard
– Technology is used to create a human centered world of abundance.
At the beginning of the industrial age, we were dependent on horses for cargo. Then cars came, and we stopped thinking about animals as a part of the transportation grid. Out of sight – out of mind! Today horse riding is for the few and just for fun. Likewise, we will stop caring about nature once we don’t need it anymore – especially when it comes to agriculture and animal farming. The business of business is business! A few areas are kept wild for tourists to explore – but interest in wildlife and nature is low.
Most of us have lived in mega cities far away from forest and wildlife for generations. 68% in 2022. In 2050, we are close to 90 percent! Mega cities are sophisticated networks of technological enhanced personalized universes providing us with all the stimulus that we could ever dream off. Virtual nature is with hyper realistic graphics and stimulus. A better substitute than any great outdoors.
When we think about nature it’s the green plants that are invited in to decorate and absorb water on our skyscrapers or when visiting the local park.
By 2030, we concluded that staycation – bringing the world to our home via virtual reality rather than venturing into nature ourself – was way more entertaining, informative, indulging, much safer and easier. And cheaper!
It is not likely that we will care much about the real nature as we can climb Mount Everest in virtual reality getting the exact same smells, tastes, sensations and rushes without risking our lives, stressing the environment or our wallet.
Parking lots, fields and animal farms has been replaced by solar cells, mining spaces for minerals, CO2-storage, growing cities and concrete. Furthermore, a lot of land has disappeared due to rising sea levels.
A few gated communities with nature reserves have been kept as museums. They contain species from across time: Mammut’s, dinosaurs and more recent species – all de-extinct for research purposes and expensive adventure.
The world of people is rapidly increasing as no-one dies of old age or diseases any longer. Life expectancy is growing dramatically, as we are able to replace and regrow broken bits and tissue and have developed vaccines against cancer, malaria, diabetes and most else. Everybody has a backup in the form of a digital twin – intact with all your memories and sensations. New born babies have all had their genes edited to favor longevity and contentment.
Even our pets live until their 40s. And when they die, we tend to get a similar one thanks to affordable cloning.
We have turned our back on nature as it turned its back on us. We have become intertwined cyborg artifacts that are cloned, bred, and designed to survive – whether we thrive is a question of getting the programming right. The gamer generation has designed a multitude of realities that we can choose to live and work in. Nature has become a tired symbol of humankind’s physical attachment to earth. Of weakness and fragility. We are just about to embark on real space living, changing thousand years of history. For the first time, we will have freed ourself of nature. You will be able to construct life anywhere – from Mars to underground!
The climate changes that are confronting us will no doubt invite to radical action towards 2050 – we will be fighting for our future existence. Exploring different scenarios can help us posing the right questions and addressing the important dilemmas. Do we want a better life or a longer life? Do we want to fill the planet with people or wildlife? Do we want lifted or stupid children? The ethical dilemmas will only get bigger!
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