Headline: Futures

The future is ever present. We encounter the future in scientific calculations and the justifications that legitimise policies and interventions; it is the subject of insurance policies and financial products. Futures – and the myriad reflections of the future in the present – open and shape discursive spaces and thus impose order on our world.

This research project considers the specific characteristics of these futures and the methods by which they are created. What futures are imagined; how are they conceptualised; and what are their social ordering effects? The project also explores how futures can be constructed to support transformations towards sustainability: How must futures be configured to successfully foster greater awareness of long-term impacts in present-day policymaking and societal practices?

Reviewing the field of climate engineering, researchers at the IASS examine how futures are created and enacted. What are the dominant imaginaries; how are uncertainties understood and represented; and what are the consequences at the science-policy interface? The researchers also address broader issues of futurisation across the fields of politics, economics and education, and explores opportunities to enhance the representation of future generations. Other research activities consider the prospects for sustainable, long-term financial instruments and the development of educational projects to foster conscious reflection on the future.

News

Special Feature

One Planet, Many Futures

The future has always been an important frame of reference for sustainable development. Indeed, the concept of sustainability emerged from the realisation that we need to use our planet’s resources sparingly in the interests of future generations. Many different people are working on ideas and solutions for the future and taking steps towards their implementation. But who are they? What steps are they taking? And what kind of futures do they want to bring about? These are the questions addressed by a special feature of the journal Sustainability Science.

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Climate negotiations

Most Affected, Least Heard

It seems reasonable to expect that the people who suffer most from the impacts of climate change are represented in the international climate negotiations. Patrick Toussaint, a researcher at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), has analysed the status quo from the perspective of international law. He concludes that those who currently bear the brunt of climate change – or will do so in the foreseeable future – have little or no influence on the negotiations.

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Interview

Governance for Future Generations

In recent months young people across the world have been going on strike on Fridays to protest about their governments’ failure to adequately address the climate crisis. In their view, lack of political action to protect the climate is putting their future in jeopardy. But Wales is leading by example here with a law passed in 2015 that echoes the demands of the Fridays for Future protesters: the Well-being for Future Generations Act. It requires public authorities in Wales to consider the long-term effects of their decisions and make sustainable development a touchstone for policymaking.

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Blog Posts

Three opinions on the elections

Election Sunday left me at once elated, uncertain, and angry. Voter turnout has improved, the Greens were the clear winners in many places, and the climate crisis is taking centre-stage at last. At first glance the AfD appears to have lost some of its momentum. But this is only true if one ignores their successes in the former East German states – sadly, that is impossible to do.

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Natural resource exploitation in Germany and South America: Activists share their experiences of resistance and transformation

Today, emerging visions of a better society are forged in practical experience and experimentation. The contexts, approaches, and methods employed by activists differ radically from one experiment to the next. As researchers with the IASS project Politicizing the Future, we were keen to facilitate exchange on the subject of societal visions among activists from very different contexts and to see what could be learnt from their experiences for the development of more sustainable societies.

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