This short story, reproduced from the Deep Transitions website, introduces the second of three desirable worlds created for the Investors Panel in 2021. For more on the philosophy and principles of Transformative Investment, visit www.transformativeinvestment.net.
‘Do No Harm’ imagines a world characterised by a very different understanding of the relationship between our natural world and humankind than today.
As biodiversity plummeted and the degradation of millennia-old ecosystems became ever-more apparent, the sometimes-forgotten dependence of our societies on the natural world, for the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe, was thrown into sharp relief.
Shaken out of our profound neglect and disregard for the living world around us, we resolved to transform our systems, working ‘with and through nature’, understanding that we are only one part of a spectacular indivisible web of life.
Long Live The Prosumer!
First, we made tremendous gains in renewable energy, harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of energy independence and sustainability, and uniting communities throughout the world in the continuing rapid progress toward total decarbonisation.
This began as a bottom-up trend, with projects being set up by and for communities in the absence of coordinated governmental action to decarbonise. First hamlets, then villages, towns and eventually whole cities took action, set up renewable energy generation and decoupled themselves from national grids.
Even governments in the global north, initially hesitant to break their addictions to both fossil fuels and the centralised energy systems that entrenched their own power, came to embrace this new democratisation of energy.
In rural areas and across much of the global south, this decentralised model allowed for a rapid reduction in energy poverty, even in remote regions, and coupled with global provision of digital services through satellite-constellation provided internet, the result was a global society more connected yet less intensely concentrated than ever before.
Mobility as Public Right
Leveraging this appetite for change, major infrastructural investments in public transportation and mobility-as-a-service provided the means for radical change in the mobility system.
The ‘mobility-as-a-right’ movement grew in conjunction with this new infrastructure, which, by providing low-cost, fast, and efficient public transit within and between communities, offered an alternative to the car-dominated approach of the 20th century.
As transit networks grew both in reach and capacity, ‘hyperloops’ began to emerge, connecting a plethora of different vehicles, from inter-region trains to city and town bus links, to electrically powered bikes and canoes for more remote areas.
At first, these services were most effective in urban areas, but by the late 2030s, they had expanded to more remote regions too.
First, Do No Harm
The resulting de-urbanisation and diffusion of society were particularly important in enabling the transformation of agriculture in the global north from an extractive, polluting industry to one which not only embraces nature but which actively seeks to regenerate the natural world.
Doing so has necessitated adopting a mixture of traditional practices and new scientific understandings of ecological health.
In particular, the emergence of the ‘nature’s share’ movement, calling for profound changes in an agricultural practice centred on regenerative agriculture, mosaic farming, agroforestry and permaculture, paved the way for a complete re-evaluation of the purpose and proper functioning of the food system.
Farmers are no longer seen just as food producers, but instead as ecological stewards, managing ecosystem health, including both biodiversity and soil health, above all else.
In tandem with this, supply chains designed around the global trade of high-quantities of standardized products diminished, and the previous focus of agricultural research on industrial farming techniques was shifted to support regenerative agriculture and nature-based solutions.
Nonetheless, despite fundamental changes in the direction of energy, mobility and food development, the creation of a socially just and sustainable world is still a work in progress, and all the developments recounted above fall short of being universal.
Yet we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour. Our impact on the planet, both in terms of emissions and resource costs, peaked in the 2030s, and biodiversity, once in free-fall, has stabilised.
There have been some large bumps in the road over the past 30 years, but we have clearly chosen the right path into the future, leaving the worst of the past behind.
Our thanks to the TIPC sister project, Deep Transitions Futures, for sharing this resource.
Deep Transitions Futures uses the findings of Deep Transitions History to explore a set of future scenarios that illustrate the transformations needed to combat the great challenges of our time. These scenarios are created and debated by the Deep Transitions Futures Project Team, made up of members of the sustainability transitions research community, and a Global Investors Panel, made up of thought-leaders from the private and public investment sector. Together, they strive to develop a new signature investment strategy for transformation, termed ‘Transformative Investment’, which places sustainability and socio-technical system change at its core.
Deep Transitions Futures is a collaboration between the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School in the UK, and the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe) in the Netherlands. It is supported by James Anderson and Baillie Gifford & Co and led by Professor Johan Schot, Professor Ed Steinmueller and Susanne Keesman.
Keesman, S., Steinmueller, E., Penna, C., Kanger, L, Ghosh, B., Witte, J. (2021) World 2: Do no harm. Available at https://tipresourcelab.net/resource/world-2-do-no-harm/