The Why and How of the Long View

Jenny Seifert
Jenny SeifertEnvironmental Communication Professional
Possible futures for the Yahara Watershed
The Why and How of the
Long View
“People are embedded parts of the biosphere and shape it,
from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At
the same time people are fundamentally dependent on
the capacity of the biosphere to sustain human
development.” -- Carl Folke, Stockholm Resilience Center
Taking the long view is important
because…
But sustaining nature and human
development is a complex problem:
• Uncertainty is high.
• Time frames of environmental change
span many generations.
• People will reach different
conclusions.
• Multiple solutions are “good enough.”
To approach complex problems, we must
• Assume uncertainty is large, changeable, and
co-created by people and nature.
• Emphasize the diversity and individuality of
perspectives.
• Stress learning by individuals and groups.
• Expect the unexpected.
TIME
Also, throughout time, we face branch points,
when our choices affect future outcomes.
Today
This leaves us with alternative pathways to
alternative futures.
To 2070
To 2070
Today
Scenarios help us think through the alternatives
in an organized way.
The future is already here;
it’s just unevenly distributed.
- William Gibson
What are scenarios?
• They are provocative, plausible stories about the future
with contrasting social and environmental conditions.
• They explore questions of “What if?”
• They facilitate long-term thinking.
• They can help us learn ways to prepare for and cope with
change.
20702010
Thinking through scenarios could help us build resilience.
Resilience - the capacity to deal with change and
continue to develop; the ability to do something different
when what you’re doing isn’t working
How do we take the long view?
We start with stories that connect us
with future generations.
In the world there are lots of perspectives.
We each know a lot about our piece of the picture…
…but each piece is just one part of the whole.
The average view over many people does not mean much;
It’s too blurry and imprecise.
Salvador Dali, “Still Life Moving Fast”
A sharply focused view that embraces all perspectives is
better, even if it is hard to understand.
To create the Yahara 2070 scenarios, we sampled
perspectives from the Yahara Watershed
through interviews and workshops,
clustered them into themes,
Illustrations by John Miller
and condensed them into
a few sharply focused
stories.
The stories provide a framework to organize
alternative futures and confront uncertainty.
Tentative
Name:
Nested
Watersheds
Abandonment &
Renewal
Accelerated
Innovation
Connected
Communities
Dynamics: Adaptation Transformation Adaptation Transformation
Key Factor
in Change:
Government Inaction Technology Values
Nutshell:
Government
intervention
maintains nature’s
benefits
Disaster decreases
population, leads to
reorganization
Massive growth in
technology
businesses,
including green
tech
Global shift in
values toward
sustainability
Name:
Our models could then calculate key natural processes as
they would occur for each scenario, providing implications
for what could happen to the watershed’s ecosystems.
We also translated the stories into numbers that a
computer model can understand, thus connecting
the stories and the “atoms.”
Together, the stories and the atoms give us detailed pictures
of what the state of human well-being could be like by 2070.
Accelerated Innovation Nested Watersheds
Connected Communities
Abandonment & Renewal
The four scenarios together raise cross-cutting questions.
What are the worst threats and how can we avoid them?
What are the best ideas and how can they be combined?
What is a desirable path to the future, and how do we get there?
Abandonment & Renewal
Nested
Watersheds
Connected Communities Accelerated
Innovation
By discussing the alternatives, we can work to
identify our “5th scenario,” a future we want.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t start with collecting wood,
cutting the plank and assigning work, but awake in people the
longing for the wide and open sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Citadelle)
Determining our vision of a desirable and possible future
can inspire and motivate us to achieve it.
What’s your 5th
scenario for the
future of the Yahara
Watershed?
Explore and imagine
at Yahara2070.org
Follow us:
@YaharaWSC
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The Why and How of the Long View

  • 1. Possible futures for the Yahara Watershed The Why and How of the Long View
  • 2. “People are embedded parts of the biosphere and shape it, from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At the same time people are fundamentally dependent on the capacity of the biosphere to sustain human development.” -- Carl Folke, Stockholm Resilience Center Taking the long view is important because…
  • 3. But sustaining nature and human development is a complex problem: • Uncertainty is high. • Time frames of environmental change span many generations. • People will reach different conclusions. • Multiple solutions are “good enough.”
  • 4. To approach complex problems, we must • Assume uncertainty is large, changeable, and co-created by people and nature. • Emphasize the diversity and individuality of perspectives. • Stress learning by individuals and groups. • Expect the unexpected.
  • 5. TIME Also, throughout time, we face branch points, when our choices affect future outcomes.
  • 6. Today This leaves us with alternative pathways to alternative futures. To 2070
  • 7. To 2070 Today Scenarios help us think through the alternatives in an organized way. The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed. - William Gibson
  • 8. What are scenarios? • They are provocative, plausible stories about the future with contrasting social and environmental conditions. • They explore questions of “What if?” • They facilitate long-term thinking. • They can help us learn ways to prepare for and cope with change. 20702010
  • 9. Thinking through scenarios could help us build resilience. Resilience - the capacity to deal with change and continue to develop; the ability to do something different when what you’re doing isn’t working
  • 10. How do we take the long view?
  • 11. We start with stories that connect us with future generations.
  • 12. In the world there are lots of perspectives.
  • 13. We each know a lot about our piece of the picture… …but each piece is just one part of the whole.
  • 14. The average view over many people does not mean much; It’s too blurry and imprecise.
  • 15. Salvador Dali, “Still Life Moving Fast” A sharply focused view that embraces all perspectives is better, even if it is hard to understand.
  • 16. To create the Yahara 2070 scenarios, we sampled perspectives from the Yahara Watershed through interviews and workshops, clustered them into themes, Illustrations by John Miller and condensed them into a few sharply focused stories.
  • 17. The stories provide a framework to organize alternative futures and confront uncertainty. Tentative Name: Nested Watersheds Abandonment & Renewal Accelerated Innovation Connected Communities Dynamics: Adaptation Transformation Adaptation Transformation Key Factor in Change: Government Inaction Technology Values Nutshell: Government intervention maintains nature’s benefits Disaster decreases population, leads to reorganization Massive growth in technology businesses, including green tech Global shift in values toward sustainability Name:
  • 18. Our models could then calculate key natural processes as they would occur for each scenario, providing implications for what could happen to the watershed’s ecosystems. We also translated the stories into numbers that a computer model can understand, thus connecting the stories and the “atoms.”
  • 19. Together, the stories and the atoms give us detailed pictures of what the state of human well-being could be like by 2070. Accelerated Innovation Nested Watersheds Connected Communities Abandonment & Renewal
  • 20. The four scenarios together raise cross-cutting questions. What are the worst threats and how can we avoid them? What are the best ideas and how can they be combined? What is a desirable path to the future, and how do we get there? Abandonment & Renewal Nested Watersheds Connected Communities Accelerated Innovation
  • 21. By discussing the alternatives, we can work to identify our “5th scenario,” a future we want.
  • 22. “If you want to build a ship, don’t start with collecting wood, cutting the plank and assigning work, but awake in people the longing for the wide and open sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Citadelle) Determining our vision of a desirable and possible future can inspire and motivate us to achieve it.
  • 23. What’s your 5th scenario for the future of the Yahara Watershed? Explore and imagine at Yahara2070.org Follow us: @YaharaWSC