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Does envisioning the future matter?

Visions of the future

Decide today for tomorrow.

We have had a look at media representations of possible futures. The future is not set in stone. The decisions we make today can change how tomorrow looks.

Costanza (2000) is what we call a seminal text. It was written quite some years ago but is still as relevant today as then. In it, the author argues that, ‘The challenge for the current generation of humans is to develop a “shared” vision that is both desirable to the vast majority of humanity and ecologically sustainable.’

He asserts that creating a shared vision is the most effective way to create change. If you can’t envision the future and make sense of it now then you can’t take decisive action to achieve that future.

Costanza identifies four alternative futures, based on two basic worldviews of optimism or scepticism about technology. Whether the real state of the world turns out as the optimists or sceptics predict is used to create the four future visions.

Costanza relates these world views and future visions to governance and actions and considers how we can make choices in the face of irreducible uncertainty.

Your task

In the previous step, you picked a vision for the future. Now that you have read Costanza’s article, consider has that vision changed or not? Which of Costanza’s alternative visions resonate with you most? Share your response and include your reasons why.


Costanza, R 2000, ‘Visions of Alternative (Unpredictable) Futures and Their Use in Policy Analysis’, Ecology and Society, Vol 4, No. 1, Article 5, Copyright 2000 The Resilience Alliance.

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Introduction to Sustainability and Development

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