Author: Art Hunter, Ottawa.
Quadrant 3 was tasked with evaluating the state of the planet and its inhabitants in the year 2050 with the assumption that the planet was under great stress while the human population was highly engaged in recovery activities. To get to this condition it was assumed that from 2016 there was little political appetite to do anything substantive to address sustainability and security until the year 2035. Leading up to this was enormous property damage, population correction, and unprecedented geopolitical stresses that were sufficient to drive the world community to appreciate the real danger of “business as usual” and compromises were made to become engaged in coordinating prevention of human and other species extinction events. Thus in the period from 2035 to 2050 the international community became highly engaged in preventing further deterioration and recovery of the planet towards sustainability was underway. It was recognized that science and technology would be a major forcing function supporting the political engagement and closing the near disastrous gaps in security and sustainability.
Story Title: “Muddling Up”
Members: Peter Meincke, Margo Manning, Michael Marien, Adele Buckley, Art Hunter (spokesperson)
Sector Considerations leading to 2050
- Eventually, in 2035, engagement activities became integrated with the bottom up community forces strongly linked to the top down international political, financial and coordinating activities. Since 2016 a vast number of local, regional, national and international grass roots organizations began taking action in areas of their speciality. In 2016 these include non-profit NGOs promoting security/peace and especially sustainability. Further think tanks, government agencies, academic institutes, foundations, cities, religious groups, businesses, and for-profit consultants were highly active. Coordination amongst these groups was excellent but there were poor ties to the political level until 2035 when the bottom up organizations formed strong linkages to the top down coordinating organizations.
- Refugee migration was an enormous issue that rapidly overwhelmed all existing social systems with human misery, death, disease, starvation, potable water and shelter issues dominating.
- Previous disasters taught us what to do and what not to do. However no matter how systematic and determined the action taken, it was still inadequate as the dynamics of change and unintended consequences were so intense.
- The world’s technological intellectual capacity moved in unprecedented ways to cooperate in research, development and transition to production without the prior hindrances of trading restrictions, patent infringements, proprietary secrecy, defence containment, international standards and other barriers which the political system was clearing away.
- From 2016 through 2050, technologies were advancing in every science and engineering discipline with many interdisciplinary social and technology teams focused on speed, ethics, social priority, legal, functionality, production priority, and deployment. Political and financial support to conduct meaningful widespread deployment did not materialize until 2035.
- Distributed alternate energy innovation was given a top priority to stop the burning of fossil fuels and permit massive developments without the prior reliance on electrical grids which had been badly damaged in fierce storms, fire, sea level rise and abandonment (old fossil fuel plants).
- Transportation by rail, air, ship and automobile/trucks was rapidly converting to other energy sources including Low Energy Nuclear Reactors. This was 80% deployed by 2050. Rail transportation surged forward as the preferred means to move people and material to/from vital locations.
- The carbon dioxide particle count was up to 440 ppm in 2050 with methane posing a bigger threat resulting in a CO2 ppm equivalent of 500 ppm. The rate of increase GHG since 2035 had been slowed but not stopped. Methane emissions from permafrost melting and ocean-floor methyl hydrates continued.
- Biodiversity was failing with species extinctions happening with appalling regularity. The loss of species is permanent in most cases. However, strong restoration efforts since 2035, although in the early stages, is beginning to yield some results.
- The seed banks from pre-2016 were starting to prove their incredible value in holding some sectors of agricultural biodiversity. However, there was a serious decline in pollinators (butterflies, bees, etc.) and by 2035 serious corrective actions were undergoing widespread deployment.
- Land use for meat production was in decline, pressured by growing need to accommodate population growth in both space and food supply
- Vertical farming had already been well advanced by 2035 which reduced the plant-to-plate distance saving atmospheric disposal of GHG from conventional farming and product transportation.
- DNA Engineering to improve food security was given priority attention but was still immature technology by 2035.
- Potable water was given priority in technology development and deployment. Both “black” and “grey” waste water processing technologies were producing commercial quality fertilizers.
- Artificial photosynthesis was rapidly scaled to commercial quantities to generate burnable fuel bio gas (CO and H2) by drawing CO2 and water directly from the atmosphere anywhere on the planet.
- Information technologies moved information and enlightenment to decision makers at the top and bottom of the deployment programs. Knowledge brokerage moved forward to provide access to existing and timely access to new discoveries and recent data analysis to support informed decision making.
- “Big Data”, especially trend analysis from the massive amount of historic satellite data and the ever expanding new data arrivals to permit assessment of development and deployment strategies and tactics. This technology was considered vital to project selection, utilization and continuation decision making.
- Net-Zero energy standards for buildings was well understood by 2035 and deployment to retrofit applications was becoming widespread.
- In 2016 it was recognized that the world financial system had evolved such that economic power had resulted in enormous wealth concentration, in that 68 people controlled 50% of the world’s wealth. With their workforce and markets in chaos they recognized, in 2035, that continuing attempts at business as usual were not viable. Humanity’s survival was at stake. This group and other billionaire clubs agreed to support the transition back to sustainability.
- Funds from fraudulent practices (tax avoidance schemes), other illegal activities (e.g. international drug trade), excessive spending in the military-industrial sector and other sources like a new tax on stock/currency trading and speculation were reclaimed and redirected to support the social infrastructure refurbishment, the development and deployment of corrective technologies, and maintenance of world order.
- By 2035 the sea level had risen three feet with a loss of almost 20% of arable land, flooding of coastal cities/land was common, spreading of disease, and other unexpected phenomena that caused stock markets to crash to unprecedented levels. Poverty and financial stress was rampant. Survival of individuals, cities, and political systems was grave with mounting uncertainty with each reported new disaster.
- Drought resulted in runaway fires that consumed forests and cities. No place on the planet was safe.
- The United Nations became the primary instrument to coordinate the international forces making plans, settling disputes, and waiving prior restricting agreements in a fair and reasonable way.
- UN and other quasi-government organizations like the OECD were increasingly supplemented by top-down and bottom-up NGOs.
- The UN remained central with its many programs to promote sustainability (35 of them)
- The Guy Dauncey plan for a new G-18 of smaller nations seriously pursuing sustainability and green growth, in contrast to the G-20 big nations, gained credibility with its leadership.
- Cities were taking the political lead, as argued recently by Michael Bloomberg, recent chair of the C40 Group of megacities. But there was also 36 other groups promoting green cities.
- International standards for shelter, services, products and maintenance were rapidly agreeing on fair manufacture and deployment strategies around the globe. Ethical standards were agreed.
- China and the USA took on leadership roles as they were the only effective world powers. India could not play a major role due to internal fragmentation and chaos.
- The national and international legal systems were far too slow to be able to keep up to the rapid changes so they were performing ‘cleanup operations’ to regularize, contain and modify working relationships that were in place. Confrontation was replaced with cooperation.
- Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute in San Francisco and the B-Lab that certifies a new type of business organizations that promotes well-being, became substantive contributors.
- Building and other international standards were given priority.
- Legal representatives were part of every multi-disciplinary team working at developing and deploying innovative solutions (technical, social, financial, political).
- There were multiple ‘local’ military clashes driven by water rights, famine, social strains and old animosities (religious, economic, racial) taking advantage of and adding to the chaos.
- “Nature’s Terrorism” of floods, wildfires, and extreme storms, aggravated by humans, is now widely accepted among security thinkers as equal to human terrorist organizations and individuals. As noted by a leading climate scientist at Columbia University, we have been poking an angry beast with a stick.
- Major geopolitical stresses were reaching advanced stages but nuclear weapons had not been utilized in a number of new and existing (already active in 2016) wars. Major activities were underway to prevent the growth of these conflicts.
- North Korea and terrorist use of nuclear instruments of damage and destruction was a top priority consideration.
- Included in the summaries above.
Back Casting Considerations
It was recognized that assigning a date with any credibility was mainly impossible but the prime importance of back casting was the ideas that were tabled.
- A global population prediction in 2050 of 10 billion was widely accepted as advances were being made in life extension technologies and disease management (cure cancer, heart disease). However the impact of a massive population correction was considered unthinkable.
- Engagement by people at the grass roots in security and sustainability projects is gaining traction in the education system and in the many millions of social groups (book clubs, girl guides, churches and similar)
- Wide acceptance of mobile clean fuel cook stoves, lamps and many electrical devices. LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactor) power generators were common in developed countries.
- Women’s equality became well advanced and thus women participated in the decision making process at all levels. A woman was the head of the United Nations.
- Capital cost and range of Electric Vehicles was equal to or improved compared with fossil fuel vehicles.
- Vertical farming is well deployed and the technology is advancing rapidly.
- Refugee migration has been growing since 2016 and is reaching crisis proportions. This increase will continue up to and past 2050.
- A secure Internet 2 is now mandatory for all critical infrastructures (financial, utilities, business, knowledge databases, international cooperation projects).
- The Northwest Passage shipping was limited. Shipping in the Northeast passage, in Russia, became common in 2025 and all year long by 2040
- Electric Vehicle recharging infrastructure is very extensive in the developed world but lagging in the 3rd
- Widespread adapting to new salt-water agriculture technologies instead of abandonment of arable land to the flooding of seaside land by storms.
- Clean water technologies are sufficiently advanced to undertake massive deployment. Nevertheless, both potable water and agricultural-use water have severe shortages in most regions. Government regulation and rationing has been necessary, as well as policing action during water riots.
- Meat substitution technologies are widely accepted and protein upgrading (beef, pork and other livestock farming) is dropping fast which made significant reductions in GHGs.
- Disaster response organizations are overwhelmed with assistance requests.
- The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) gains traction over the GNP in fairly accounting for all costs to the environment and vastly improved decisions are being made by economists, accountants, CEOs.
- Reuse, reduce, repurpose, recycle have become accepted international norms. Cradle to cradle standards are accepted internationally. (Reference “Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute” and “McDonough Braungert Design” in Charlottesville VA originated the concept in 1995).
- Massive population correction, massive property losses (flood, sea level rise, fire) have taken place. The world gets serious about Climate change and starts a war footing program to fight back to regain security and sustainability. This is the low point of the planet’s condition.
- Climate wars have achieved a very high level of alarm because stability of international governance is threatened. (e.g. Egypt Sudan over Nile water rights, China military skirmishes with Vietnam over border water rights, Israel with its neighbours)
- Drone technology is being widely used in agriculture yield forecasting and in assisting corrective action during disaster recovery.
- The benefits of a global climate policy are finally understood and agreed by the international community.
- Food technology is sufficiently advanced to support the existing world population.
- 50% of elected officials (all levels of government) are environmental advocates that are fully aware of the impact of non-action.
- All major Cities are actively competing to be recognized as the “greenest City” in the world. In 2016 Vancouver held the title of 3rd greenest in the world. This movement is like the Olympics of innovation in deployment of security and sustainability technologies as well as social programs.
- Threat management of geopolitical stresses reaches a major milestone of cooperation. The UN is the honest broker it was intended to be at its formation.
- Agricultural science has advanced substantially to deployment of food plants that are highly tolerant of drought, flooding, poor soil conditions, saltwater spoilage, high heat and cold conditions.
- Financial recoveries to support disaster response are finally fairly applied around the world.
- City designs undergo major change with reverse migration out of the super-cities to smaller towns and the farms as new job opportunities open with distributed energy systems (like LENR, solar, batteries), 3D printing of manufactured items, block chain technologies applied to manufacturing, Internet of Things, drones, and Big Data. Far better information on environmental predictions improves deployment of crop damage prevention technologies with ever advancing crop yields.
- 3D printing has become a significant technology permitting small shop and even home manufacturing of a massive number of parts and products with ever expanding material science producing 3D printing materials with a wide variety of physical properties (compressive/tensile strength, flexibility, deformation recovery, temperature distortion/stability, electrical conductivity, heat conductivity, corrosive resistance, shock loading, and compatibility with other materials.) Distance between the manufacturing centre and end user eliminates a lot of product transportation, provides local manufacturing and servicing jobs, encourages local innovation, extends the life of large and small appliances including big capital cost products (e.g. automobiles, refrigerators) and removes the need for transportation and warehousing the many millions of piece parts that make up these larger products. This will encourage repair, reuse, repurpose, recycle and extend the lifetime of many products.
Bio: Dr. Art Hunter is a graduate from the Royal Military College (Mechanical 1963), Imperial College (U of London – Aeronautical), and the National Defence College (XXXVIII). He was a member of the Telesat Canada’s spacecraft design team for Anik A, Deputy Manager mechanical systems for the Communications Technology Satellite (Hermes) and Project Manager for the Canadarm project at the National Research Council of Canada. As the Project manager, he did the design, development, test and evaluation of the electronics network CA*Net (now part of the Internet). He has worked with about 100 Canadian companies as an Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) Senior Project Manager and as President of Drex Engineering Consultants for over 30 years. He has a broad knowledge of many technical disciplines including Information Technology (PCs to networks), Mechanical, Electrical, Aeronautical and Civil engineering, mining machines (like Tunnel Boring Machines), cosmology, physics, healthcare non-biological technologies, biology, indoor climate control, and non-fossil fuels energy generation (emphasis on Low Energy Nuclear Reactors and its associated technologies).