Future Generations, why should we care?
Most of us are incredibly busy with our lives. We have jobs to turn up to, families to organise, and interests to pursue. Of course, we are not blind to the challenges of our time, but often do we think about our offspring in the far future or our ancestors in the deep past? Reflecting on deep time helps us gain perspective on our lives and the responsibilities we have inherited.
Do Future Generations Have Rights?
A right can be defined in a number of ways. In society, a right is granted to individuals and legal entities such as companies, organisations, and states. These rights are drawn up and granted through a system of courts. People also have legally defined human rights from birth to death.
So, what about future generations who don’t exist yet? Do they have any rights? Philosophers debate this question, but from as far back as Ancient Greece, people have been concerned about the people to come. Legally, they have no rights, but they are in the human community.
What are the Needs of Future Generations?
The needs of future generations are an equally slippery topic. Some philosophers say that there is no way to serve the needs of future generations because their needs are unknown and are likely to be different. Future people may not appreciate a legacy of art and culture, for instance.
However, we can expect future human beings to be intelligent organic entities - at least in the near future - so there will be a need for the foundations of life, that is, water, food, clean air, shelter, and the conditions to support their human rights. So we can at least pass on the basics.
Can We Support Future Generations?
The short answer is yes! As human beings living today, we are uniquely placed to determine the direction of cultures and societies in the future. In fact, the decisions and changes we make today can fail to have an effect on the people of tomorrow, so we must create a legacy for them.
Present-day human beings have inherited a good natural habitat, along with a rich artistic, scientific, and cultural heritage. Of course, we have different needs and priorities from our ancestors, but we still use their foundations. It’s important to allow new ideas to also flourish.
How do We Create the World of the Future
Nowadays, there is a lot of chatter in our culture about living in the present moment. It’s true that the present moment is all we have in reality, and it’s important to be mindful of that, but it would also be irresponsible to ignore the past and the future. Life is greater than a present experience.
To create a world of the future that has stability, integrity, and sustainability, we need to look at how our ancestors managed the challenges of their time - what did they do well, and what could they have done better? We will also need to utilise technology wisely to shape our future world.
The Role of Future Conversations
Future Conversations is a program that attempts to dialogue with the past and future to create a new vision for the present day. Future conversations can be leveraged in the community, in businesses, and in households to create lifestyles and processes built on sustainable values.
There is a fire in the attic! An electrical panel became overloaded, and no one noticed. Then one day, on their way home, someone did notice something, smoke rising from the roof; they assumed it would go out by itself, and if not, someone else would notice before it was risky.
Since then, the fire has progressed, and the inhabitants of the house have become concerned - they can even smell the smoke and feel the heat. With climate change, we find ourselves in a similar predicament, but we are aware of the fire and our need to act now to begin rebuilding.
Key Takeaways: Climate Change
What is Net Zero and Why Does it Matter?
The future is in our hands! The choices and actions we take in the next two decades could determine the future of the planet, which is in jeopardy - due to accelerated climate change - if we continue with our current trajectories and approaches. But, there is also cause for optimism. The world is waking up, and we are starting to make sustainable changes in the right direction.
Net Zero Definition
Net zero is a global target to completely negate the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by absorbing and reducing carbon emissions. The planet is now 1.1°C hotter than in pre-industrial times - the late 1800s - resulting in melted sea ice, heat waves, and droughts. This is happening at a 1.1°C rise, but we are currently on a trajectory for an over 2°C rise.
Throughout the twentieth century, the warming was gradual, though not invisible, but since 1981, there has been an exponential rise in the planet’s surface temperatures. The year 2022 was the sixth hottest on record, according to NOAA data, and records will continue to break.
Climate Change Consequences
Climate change is caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; these are heat-retaining gases that prevent the incoming sunlight from escaping back into space; they warm the surface of the planet and increase ocean temperatures. The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and ozone.
Of these greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide accounts for almost 65% of the total; the majority of it is produced by human activity through energy production, agriculture, transport, and industry. The consequences are seen in rising sea levels, habitat losses, heat waves and wildfires. Without moving to Net Zero, these consequences will worsen throughout the 21st Century.
The impact of human-made climate change could be catastrophic for human and animal life. Rising sea levels caused by melting land ice will make some regions uninhabitable, and there will be food and water shortages. Human and animal communities will be displaced by rising temperatures, and conflicts are likely to break out over limited resources. But there is still time.
Net Zero Targets
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet is on course to increase temperature on average by 2°C in the next few decades, affecting all regions of the earth. Climate change already has a significant impact, causing wildfires, hurricanes, and habitat losses, but the severity of the damage will depend on human carbon emissions.
To move to Net Zero emissions by 2050, human carbon emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 to stay on course; this is a massive challenge for humankind - perhaps the biggest existential threat we have had to face. One key to cutting emissions quickly is resolving our global energy consumption, which accounts for three-quarters of the planet’s overall emissions.
Net Zero Business Changes
Everyone has a part to play if we want to reduce carbon emissions and reach Net Zero by 2050, but businesses and industries produce the majority of greenhouse gases and must be tackled head-on. It’s crucial for businesses of all sizes to make a Net Zero strategy as soon as possible.
Creating a Net Zero company seems like a daunting task, but The Surefoot Effect can help to optimise your business for Net Zero emissions. Creating an effective Net Zero change plan can be done over 3 to 12 months by your own Net Zero team, working with Surefoot consultants.
Net Zero Strategies
When it comes to creating a Net Zero strategy for your business, there are two steps - quick wins followed by significant changes. Quick wins - also known as low-hanging fruit - are the simple adjustments you can make today to reduce emissions, like switching energy providers.
After the quick wins, it’s time to turn your attention to systemic changes that can make you a carbon-neutral organisation. The Surefoot Effect operates a series of in-house workshops, instilling teams with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to develop a tailored action plan.
What is Eco-Anxiety and Why Does it Matter?
Everyone has some anxiety and stress from time to time; it is usually a pattern in their life, like the fear of getting onto a podium and speaking in front of an audience of peers or completing a sizable chunk of work before the deadline. Eco-anxiety is slightly different; it’s the fear you have on lunch break about what’s happening to the planet, a fear calling everything into question.
Eco-anxiety means a chronic fear of environmental doom according to some definitions; it has also been described as the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm. This existential fear is as real as the climate challenges facing the planet, and it can affect life quality and life choices.
Anxiety is caused by fears about the future; which range from mild to severe; but when faced with climate catastrophe and the idea of an uninhabitable planet, the sense of dread is crippling. People with eco-anxiety might experience some sleep disturbances, nervousness, and stress.
Causes of Eco-Anxiety
Eco-anxiety is caused by observing environmental changes caused by climate change; these include more frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and floods; there are also visible habitat changes for animal and plant life. The changes coincide with increased media and lead to a proliferation of catastrophic images in the collective imagination, causing deep fears.
Eco-anxiety - or solastalgia, is still a fairly recent phenomenon. It does not have a place in medical terminology yet, but psychologists around the world are noticing its effects. When fear and confusion are triggered by news of information about climate change or environmental destruction, you are experiencing eco-anxiety, which requires emotional resilience to manage.
Although solastalgia can be experienced in the short term, it is more likely to be a persistent long-term condition with elements of anxiety and depression - it can also be accompanied by other mental health issues. Solastalgia tends to affect people in different ways. Someone predisposed to the condition will experience more distress when they encounter climate news.
That said, there are some signs and symptoms that everyone with solastalgia will experience. There is likely to be anxiety and depression with accompanying thought patterns; despair, distress, and sleeping issues are also common. People with solastalgia might also experience anger - especially towards governments and industries. Emotional resilience is often needed.
Eco-anxiety doesn’t always require an official diagnosis; someone might be aware of their triggers and choose to practice mindfulness or attend an eco-anxiety workshop, but an official diagnosis can be made. A medical professional will look at the primary cause of the distress - media or climate changes in the local area - along with the medical history and symptoms.
Solastalgia is a form of anxiety and is treated in much the same way. What makes the condition slightly different from conventional anxiety is the lack of agency over the cause - it’s not possible to avoid the effects of climate change. A medical professional can prescribe medications for solastalgia, but it can also be treated with mindfulness, CBT, and online community resilience.
Eco-anxiety, solastalgia, climate anxiety: people of any age can be affected by the stark realities of the global situation. That said, children and young adults are very vulnerable groups when it comes to handling the difficult realities that they will have to confront in their futures.
Emotional resilience is crucial. We must not hide the realities of climate change from people; it is counter-productive. Instead, we need to face the scientific data that shows the planet is in crisis to free up the energy needed to process anxious feelings and create the best possible future.
The Importance of Having Future Conversations
The future starts today because the actions we take on a daily basis determine our future happiness and prosperity. This is true in all walks of life, including creating a sustainable planet for future generations. But if we don’t have the conversations, it will be impossible to adapt.
What are Future Conversations?
Have you ever been on a road trip with family or friends? Unless you have a direction in mind or an idea of where you’re going, you are likely to end up somewhere you didn’t intend; by the time you reach your destination, it might be too late. This analogy is also relevant to climate change.
“Future conversations” is a process of developing and implementing ideas about the future that help individuals and communities to create a roadmap for how they would like to live, relate, and work together in a low or zero-carbon world. The conversations also help bring people together.
Eco-anxiety can be crippling, but it can also be enabling. Future conversations replace future fears with future hopes, building resilience and creating a collective vision that can be pursued proactively. In the end, it is better to have a positive, proactive vision than no road map at all.
Nine Planetary Boundaries
Back in 2007, Johan Rockstrom, a director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, developed the nine planetary boundaries - these are limits that must be met to sustain modern life on the planet. The boundaries include climate change, biosphere integrity, and biochemical flows.
Credit: Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al. 2022 More information The “novel entities” planetary boundary encapsulates all toxic and long-lived substances that humans release into the environment — from heavy metals and radioactive waste to industrial chemicals and pesticides, even novel living organisms Biochemical Flows are Phosphorus and Nitrogen - essential for farming Biosphere integrity refers to species loss; e/msy = extinction per mammal species years - technical measurement of extinct rate
In January 2015, Rockstum stated that the planet had moved past four of the nine boundaries needed to maintain stability; as of 2022, it is thought to be six. But Rockstrom’s message is not a doomsday one; the planetary boundary system is an efficient way to gauge how well the world is adapting to a sustainable future. Current performance is poor, but systems exist to improve it.
Resilience and the Future
Bringing the planet back from the brink of disaster and onto a more steady and sustainable footing will require emotional resilience and future conversations. Through decades of inaction and business as usual, the planet has reached a point where the climate is changing very rapidly; species are going extinct, and ecosystems are being lost at increasingly alarming rates.
In order to navigate this perilous course through the 21st Century, governments, businesses, and individuals must recognise the realities of climate change and channel any fearful energy into positive action. Climate action takes place at all levels of society, from governments creating greener infrastructure to businesses using less energy and the everyday changes of individuals.
At one time, people and nature were inseparable, but then agriculture happened for better or for worse, and suddenly, nature was used as a means to an end. Through the centuries, there have been attempts to reconnect with nature - eg, the Romantic movement in the 18th century - but it is needed now more than ever. Connecting with nature and animals again can inspire our future.
When it comes to climate change, our minds ping-pong between positive outcomes and catastrophic consequences. We know that we want a sustainable, thriving planet to live on, but our human habits are not creating this future - it’s the opposite. A dystopian vision can offer a cautionary tale, but a utopian vision is powerful: it is a collective long-term vision for the future.
To continue our analogy, the house fire is upon us. There is black smoke billowing at the top of the staircase, and the walls are becoming hot to the touch, but there is still plenty we can do to save our home. Using the visions, technologies, and creativity of the collective, humans can find a way to collaborate with the planet, reduce consumption, and then build a progressive future.
What are the 5 main effects of climate change?
At present, we can notice at least 5 tangible effects of climate change; these include record temperatures, heatwaves and wildfires, hurricanes and flooding, sea levels and melting ice.
What will happen if climate change keeps going?
If we do nothing to stop climate change, the 5 main effects will worsen and become more extreme. We can also expect there to be food shortages, geopolitical conflict, and displacement.
What does it mean to have a Net Zero planet?
A Net Zero planet is one that is in balance; it means that human-produced carbon emissions are lessened to the point where they can be reabsorbed by the planet through trees, technology, and the ocean. It is not in the atmosphere.
To change the future we need to change the present, but to do that we need to have the right conversations. That’s exactly what Alan Heeks and Pamela Candea understand when they work with local people using Future Conversations. Recently, Pamela worked with people from the Uist community, using Future Conversations to help outline a community-led local energy plan.
Local Energy Plans
To address the looming spectre of climate change and meet net zero targets it’s no longer enough to address the issues at an individual level. Of course, it makes an impact if we reduce our carbon output and eat less meat, but to make leaps forward collaboration is needed.
One form of collaborative action on climate change is a Local Energy Plan (LEP) which is a community-led and government-backed process for helping people to identify areas of action in their local communities. Focused action for local climate change targets can then be made.
The Island of Uist
The Island of Uist is located in the Outer Hebrides off the North coast of Scotland, it is known for its natural beauty, but it’s also the place where local people from a variety of community groups are building a (LEP) with support from Community Energy Scotland and The Surefoot Effect.
Surefoot trained a group of facilitators from across Uist to enable them to help local groups identify their needs and make changes to benefit the region and contribute to climate targets. A structured series of sessions, called Future Conversations, created by Alan Heeks, founder of Seeding our Future, was used as the basis for workshops for the facilitators to run with local community groups.
“The changes to decarbonise the energy and travel infrastructure will be complex to implement,” said Pamela Candea, a facilitator and Managing Director of The Surefoot Effect, "but the good news is the Scottish government is encouraging groups to create these Local Energy Plans and has agreed to support the implementation.”
“Often the changes needed in a local energy plan require large-scale infrastructure like wind turbines; however, the Scottish government is currently interested in supporting these initiatives and helping to ensure local people benefit from them. It’s a key step forward,“ she said.
Local buy-in to infrastructure changes starts with including local people at the initial stages of planning and the workshops being run on Uist do just that.
Future Conversations is a series of six workshops that train facilitators and empower local people to think about their energy needs for today and tomorrow. These can be adapted to local circumstances and requirements as was done for the project on Uist. This conversations series has been used in several communities across the UK, and more recently in online sessions.
At the heart of a Local Energy Plan in collaboration with Future Conversations is a community spirit that strives to improve the planet by improving its local area. Measurable outcomes are achieved and new perspectives are developed through creative activities and local interactions.
In this example, an area of Scotland, armed with a Local Energy Plan of their own, can then lobby the Scottish Government for the funding it needs to make practical changes.
The road to Net Zero is not straight and predictable, but if there’s one thing we can do it’s to empower local people to communicate, organise, and lobby governments for the actionable changes that fit their requirements so they can move to low carbon sustainable future.
By James Bollen
James Bollen is a digital writer and content creator. He writes articles and blogs in a wide range of niches including business and technology but has a particular interest in conscious living practices, nature appreciation, and creative pursuits. He lives in Glasgow with his partner and sibling cats, Hansel and Gretel.
‘What are your hopes and fears for yourself and your community for the next 10, 20, 30 years?’
This is how we start Future Conversations, a series of workshops tailored for your community to provide time, space and impetus for a group to work collectively to begin making transformative changes toward a more resilient society.
Pam recently held the space for a set of Future Conversations for a group of Danish women looking to build their capacity to help their community continue its transition to a resilient sustainable and caring society.
Over the group’s time together they explored hopes and fears for the future and worked on communication and resilience skills. Future Conversations uses the principles of Natural Happiness, as outlined by Alan Heeks: using the lessons of other-than-human nature to help build our own resilience. Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects process was used to face the climate crisis and imagine and move toward a positive future, and examined ways of responding, and how the group might go forth with ideas and plans.
By the last session the group had already begun moving into action, but ensuring all along that individual resilience levels stayed high.
Get in touch if you are interested in Future Conversations with your community.
Surefoot Director, Pam Candea’s experience as facilitator at Belville Community Garden Trust gives insight into the guided Future Conversations sessions and what this workshop can bring to people and organisations.
The group at Belville ranged in age from people in their early 20’s through to people in their 60’s. It was mainly women but the group, 6-10 people each session, usually had 2-3 men as well. The group met 8 times over 3 months.
A Wednesday afternoon in March was the first session, where Pam met with Geri Sinclair, Volunteer Coordinator at Belville, and volunteer Trisha Orr who took part in the facilitating, before the other participations arrived. The take off for the session was the dining area of Belville’s large catering kitchen where the project’s chef creates tasty and nutritious meals using food from Fareshare.
The group spent time outdoors in almost every subsequent session, taking advantage of the space at Belville to:
Next Steps with Future Conversations
The group have expressed a desire to keep going and are looking at continuing to meet Wednesday afternoons to keep their soup veg plot going and to explore new concepts and to take on new actions.
Geri and Trisha hope to run some permaculture sessions and to bring other practices to the group as well. One thing added to each session was poem reading from Looby McNamara, a permaculture teacher who writes about cultural emergence.
Here is an excerpt from her poem Gratitude as an Attitude,
We arrive in the presence of now,
The gift of the present.
When we choose to view with an appreciative gaze
Our mind chatter stills
We are here and now and we are timeless.
We are uniquely ourselves
And undeniably connected
Your next step with Future Conversations
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which have been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.
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The Surefoot Effect equips people, communities and organisations with skills for sustainability and resilience.