Changing livelihoods in emerging economies and regenerative farming are among global trends shaping the future, says report from NGO Forum for the Future
GN Bureau | February 6, 2018
Forum for the Future, one of the world’s leading sustainability non-profits, has called on leaders to better understand the dynamic trends that are shaping the future, in order to create strategies that effectively navigate today’s complex times and unlock new opportunities for sustainability.
Titled Future of Sustainability 2018 – Living in nonlinear times, the crowd-sourced report sheds light on seven “areas of dynamism” that are exerting a profound impact on societies today, from the emergence of blockchain technology, to changing livelihoods in low income and developing economies, and regenerative approaches to agriculture.
Drawing on the key technological, political, economic and environmental shifts happening in these areas, the report highlights the implications, as well as the rich opportunities on offer for business, civil society and government leaders to radically and rapidly reshape current systems of behaviour and practice, for long-lasting, systemic change.
Anna Warrington, Director of Forum for the Future in India, said: “We live in a world of great political, economic and environmental uncertainty, in which sudden and major changes have become the new normal. India sits at the heart of some of these shifts, with factors such as its ban on fossil fuel cars, pioneering action against plastic pollution and job disruption from automation creating fertile ground for system-level shifts. We need a better understanding of the trends emerging today that will impact India’s future, how they are linked, and also how we are part of ongoing processes of change. Only then can leaders make better decisions that ensure that we survive and thrive in the future.”
For each of the seven areas, the report describes “signals of change” – real-life examples of disruption and/or innovation around the world - and considers their implications for the future. These signals act as tangible proof points of change in motion, and demonstrate how leaders and decision makers need to think more systemically in order to understand where different sectors are headed and the opportunities they can harness to help deliver a more sustainable future.
The report considers the reality behind blockchain, assessing how the decentralised database may be able to support sustainable practices beyond the world of cryptocurrency, and exploring ways it might be combined with other technologies to deliver greater impact in the future. For example, Akshaya Patra, an Indian NGO that runs the world’s largest school lunch programme, has teamed up with Accenture to improve its service through blockchain, creating efficiency gains that enable the NGO to provide one million more meals per year.
People are starting to make new livelihoods in low-income and emerging economies, through shifts in demographics, technologies and business models. As automation spreads to industries such as ICT services, manufacturing and agriculture, these countries face significant job disruption - India’s projections for formal job loss stand at 69% in a recent study - creating a clear need for new development routes and sustainable livelihoods. One solution is the spread of gig platforms such as Uber, which help to semi-formalise the informal market to make it more accessible. UBI is also being investigated in many emerging economies, with pilots in India so far indicating positive benefits such as increased food security and welfare, and higher levels of emancipation and economic activity.
In agriculture, conventional models are putting increasing pressure on natural systems with significant implications for feeding growing populations and for keeping climate change in check. In response, we are seeing signs of regenerative agriculture - innovative, restorative approaches that give back more to the environment than is being taken out. New systems of automation and data collection can support these approaches, with positive results in decreasing soil disturbance, enhancing monitoring and enabling higher yields with lower input. These new developments present huge opportunities for producers, businesses and governments alike to develop a food and farming system that is productive and sustainable in the long term, said a press release.
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