Smart Cities Tour 2020: Futuring & Climate Emergency

We have just returned from Taiwan, where we witnessed the birth of new smart cities and visited many top tier sustainable businesses.

Taoyuan City hosted the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2020 announcement. They are;

  • Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  • Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • Hudson, Ohio, USA
  • Markham, Ontario, Canada
  • Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Westerville, Ohio, USA

Taoyuan is producing an intelligent operating centre (IOC) and big data analysis platform for Smart Cities and we will be collaborating on its developments.

We visited the Taoyuan Hutoushan Innovation Centre home of #AutonomousVehicles, Gogoro #SharedMobility rockstars, YesHealthifarm Asia’s largest #VerticalFarming and Oright a #ZeroCarbon company who’s products are made using solar energy, windpower, recycled water and all-organic ingredients with biodegradable packaging that have seeds in them to grow trees. Their green building and stores have the highest level of sustainability. We also toured the Startup Stadium and FutureWard #coworking spaces.

Every country and some cities have these sustainable success stories. They all pressure their markets, products and services to radically improve. We have a decade to change societies systems before irreversible change. No government on earth will get there. We collectively have to get there. When we think about the next wildfire season are we freaking out, or are we futuring?

“Futuring” is sometimes called futures studies, futurology, scenario design or foresight thinking. It has been used in the business world for decades.

Futuring means thinking systematically about the future, drawing on scientific data, analysing trends, imagining scenarios (both plausible and unlikely) and thinking creatively. A crucial part of the process is thinking hard about the kind of future we might want to avoid and the steps needed to work toward a certain desired future.

Image result for futuring

But futurists like myself aren’t magical people who sweep in and solve problems for you. They facilitate discussions and collaboration but the answers ultimately come from communities themselves. Artists and writers have been creatively imagining the future for millennia. Futuring is a crucial part of design and culture-building.

My research looks at how futuring can help communities work toward a just and fair transition to a drastically warmer world and greater weather extremes.

Collaborative futuring invites audiences to respond to probable, possible, plausible and preposterous future scenarios as the climate crisis sets in. This process can reveal assumptions, biases and possible courses of action.

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BC Wildfires

Get creative

Futuring is not predicting futures.

It’s a way of mixing informed projections with imaginative critical design to invite us to think differently about our current predicaments. That can help us step back from the moment of panic and instead proactively design steps to change things for the better – not 20 years from now, but from today.

If you peeked into a futuring workshop with adults, you might see a lot of lively conversations and a bunch of post-it notes. For kids, you might see them making collages, or creating cardboard prototypes of emerging technology. But all this information needs to flow into civic engagement tools like PlaceSpeak where we can compare against open data and global solutions.

PlaceSpeak new design coming this month

You might have done some futuring today, talking with friends and family about changes you might make as it becomes obvious our weather will grow only hotter.

We’ve seen futuring occur during one of our Climate Strikes in 2019, where hundreds of youth were invited to imagine being on the other side of a difficult problem, and then work out the steps needed to get there.

When we are imagining this time next year, are we limiting our (mostly local-dwelling) thinking to how we avoid the conditions we faced in previous summers?

For example, are we thinking about staying away from wildfire-prone areas, or buying air purifiers and face masks? For those who can afford it, are we thinking about booking extended overseas holidays?

Or are we challenging each other to think beyond such avoidance strategies: to imagine a post-social media and a post-fossil fuel future? Can we imagine ways to respond to extreme weather beyond individual prepping?

Including a diverse range of voices, especially Indigenous community members, is crucial to a just transition to a warmer world. We can’t allow a changed climate to mean comfortable adaptation for a wealthy elite while everyone else suffers.

But more work needs to be done and bigger questions asked. What steps are needed to meet demands for public ownership of a renewable energy system: more support for those battling and displaced by wildfires? How do we work toward First Nations justice, including funding for Indigenous-led land management, jobs on Country, and land and water rights?

It is not enough to pin an image of our future to a wall and pray we get there.

Short term fixes in the form of drought or emergency relief won’t address the fact that extreme weather events are not going away.

Responsible, useful futuring mixes equal parts of imagination and informed projections. It’s not wild speculation. Futuring practitioners draw on scientific and social data, and weave it with the stories, concerns and desires of those present to find new ways into a problem.

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