Visualizing the Future – 2040

Posted June 6, 2011 in Blog, Curriculum, Resource. Tagged:

It’s 2040 in the United States, and the changes over the past 30 years have been dramatic.

Things began to unravel in 2008, when the US economy took a first hard hit, followed by the economies of much of the developed world.  After a bumpy ride through the next decade, it became clear that peak oil—the end of cheap and easily available fossil fuels—began in 2008, and the economy as we knew it would never be the same.

We invite you now to picture yourself in this future time, in your own neighborhood . Use your imagination to call up a vision of the future that seems real to you or the next generation.

You get up in the morning and set about your day.  What are your meals going to look like?  Most of your neighbors now have kitchen-gardens, planting all available space around their homes with food crops.  Community garden space has also expanded, as have small farms in both cities and rural areas.  What are your local foods, and where are they coming from?

In 2015 gas prices rose to $10/gallon.  Politicians and academics alike were shocked to find how quickly Americans reduced their fuel consumption and adapted to new energy routines.  People developed new transportation systems without dependence on fossil fuels. Now visualize your life.  How are you getting around?

Much of our existing homes and buildings of the 20th century required massive retrofitting, insulation and adaptation.  They were built in the era of cheap energy.  Our homes are very different now.  Remember when people paid hundred of dollars a month to heat or cool their houses, depending on where they lived?  Shocking to think of that.  Now visualize where you are living.  How does your living space look different?  How does your community look different?

Back 30 years ago, we had huge medical complexes with hospitals and emergency wards and amazing and expensive wonder drugs and medical procedures.  What was strange was, we were living longer but our health was poorer.  We began to understand how our industrial food system, transportation, pollution, and intense stress were making us sick.   We still have many of these technological advances, but we’re healthier and happier now.  Much of what ensures our wellness happens outside those big medical centers — in our communities and daily practices.  Imagine your health routines.  How do you stay healthy?  Imagine you are getting sick and what the new health system looks like.  Who is caring for you?  How does it feel?  What about care for the elderly and infirmed?  How does the system look now?

We were very busy thirty years ago, rushing around between home and work, spending long hours commuting.  A lot of our toil didn’t necessarily contribute to our happiness and daily needs.  We spent a lot of time earning money so we could pay money for our basic needs.   Now we spend more time taking care of these essentials ourselves; more time growing, processing and preparing food, taking care of elders and children.  We’ve got some nifty technologies that still save us time, but we also toil a lot less.  Visualize your life in 2040 with a very different daily rhythm and timing.  How do you spend your days?

They say we’ll never go back to the standard of living of the late 20th century, but the oldest members of our communities often assert that we’d never want to.  Visualize your family and community.  Who are you spending time with in 2040?  Where are your family and friends?  What are the activities in your community?