Environmental damage, groaning social systems, housing shortages — our structures are reaching their limits economically, ecologically and socially. Are there alternatives? What could a new and improved utopia look like?
In the past, the year 2020 was a symbol for the distant future for many people. Some imagined it brighter, others darker. But now, we’re here. The future is now.
Are we prepared for this future? The daily news doesn’t indicate we are. Climate change, catastrophic environmental damage, groaning social systems, unemployment, poverty, conflict, housing shortages — the list goes on and on.
And the problems are global: whether in Jakarta, Lagos, Cairo, Los Angeles, Paris, the major challenges are strikingly similar.
Yesterday’s solutions won’t help tomorrow’s challenges
The world seems to be reaching its limits economically, ecologically and socially. Or rather, it has long since past them.
What can we do about it? We repair the system. Correcting and optimizing — that’s what we’ve always done. For example, we’re now trying to replace the combustion engine with an electric motor. A very complex and expensive project that ultimately serves to get individuals from A to B in the morning and from B to A in the evening.
But wouldn’t it make more sense to ask why we commute every day? Why millions of people flock to the offices in the city centre every day, which are then empty after office hours. In a prime downtown location, where those on an average income have long since been unable to live.
Even if we use public transport, the challenge remains, because all forms of transport reach their limits at peak times. Does it have to be like this?
From A to B in the morning and from B to A in the evening. Aren’t there smarter solutions?
Wait a minute!
Another example: by the middle of the century at the latest, the United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. The problems arising from urbanization affect everyone, regardless of where they live.
At the same time, the number of multi-person households has been declining rapidly for years, especially in large cities. Every second home is now a one-person household because we live longer and longer and are less and less tied to one another. How do we deal with this? What are the alternatives?
Yet another: we complain about mass livestock farming and the associated harms, like antibiotic resistance, soils and water polluted by nitrogen and deforestation. Nevertheless, we keep using conventional agriculture. Aren’t there more sustainable alternatives that can support both farmers and customers?
Creative solutions needed- by 2050 at the latest, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities
What should we do?
So far, we have mainly treated the symptoms without addressing the causes. We are repairing the problems of the last century with the solutions of the last century. But the problems are becoming increasingly complex.
The time has come to rethink the structures of the last century and perhaps find entirely new, better solutions.
Deutsche Welle’s science editorial team has set itself exactly that goal for 2020: To bring together promising approaches and proposed solutions from a wide variety of fields and to outline a constructive, realistic utopia. What could work, transport, nutrition, communication, medicine, cities and society look like in the future?
We can do better!
Although there are already some promising approaches to change, we have not yet solved the massive economic, ecological and social problems, and every realist has to admit that.
We want to build a “smart world” and we consider ourselves to be extraordinarily intelligent. But we don’t ask ourselves the real questions. We are trapped in the thinking of the late 20th century and find a thousand reasons why things are as they are and cannot be different.
“There is no other way!” we cry.
Can only vegan cyclists save the planet?
Life worth living
But that’s not the point. It’s not just about prohibitions or a romantic “return to nature”.
We don’t all have to stay at home, or live off the grid and or just ride our bicycles. That’s unrealistic because for most it’s not desirable. And what we don’t want, we don’t do voluntarily. Coercion may seem effective, but there are certainly more attractive solutions that make living and working together more worthwhile.
2020 — the future is now! We need new and realistic utopias. We want urban developers and futurologists, agricultural experts and politicians, visionaries and lateral thinkers to have their say on what better structures and solutions could look like.
Seeking alternatives is laborious and challenging, but it will be worth it.