Mack Report: Consequences of Space Commerce
The growth of commercial space industries means more launches of functional objects (satellites) and more potential for collisions and crashes and trash, warns AAI Foresight Managing Principal Tim Mack in his latest article for the Foresight Signals blog. But solutions to the problem of orbital space debris do not appear to be forthcoming from the commercial sector.
For example, last year China’s space station had “close encounters” with Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX. “In response to complaints about the management of the more than 1,500 satellites SpaceX now has in orbit, CEO Elon Musk countered, ‘Space is just extremely enormous and satellites are very tiny,’ thus highlighting the fact that few private sector players are active participants in orbital problem solving.”
The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report cites the potential environmental and economic costs of increasing space debris, but “this is an arena demanding more care and attention than it is currently getting,” Mack concludes.
Read “Orbital Issues: Space Junk” by Tim Mack, Foresight Signals blog (posted May 20, 2022).
Resources for Hot Topics
Comment: Seeking resources for this month’s “hot topic”—be it climate change, threats to reproductive rights, inflation, food shortages, or violence (international and domestic)—I faced the dilemma of choosing among the barrage of new crises claiming our immediate attention and risking our foresight skills. The compounding crises we face today may presage the acceleration of change and complexity about which futurists have long warned. Here are a few resources on current issues with long-term and widespread consequences. —CGW
The Violence Project hosts a mass-shooter database and “The Off-Ramp Project” providing information, resources, and training to prevent violence. See also The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by Jillian Peterson and James Densley, co-founders and presidents of The Violence Project (Abrams Press, September 7, 2021).
- National Institute of Justice mass shooting article and resources index
- Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, Rockefeller Institute of Government (SUNY)
- RAND Corporation’s Gun Policy in America initiative
Half of all pregnancies each year, approximately 121 million, are unintended, according to the U.N. The neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy is the subject of the United Nations Population Fund’s recent flagship 2022 State of World Population report, “Seeing the Unseen.” See also “8 myths about unintended pregnancy debunked” by Abigail Haworth, UNFPA (posted May 5, 2022)
- “America’s Abortion Quandry,” Pew Research Center
Selected hot topics at the think tanks
- Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Assessing the Russian Military Campaign in Ukraine
- Chatham House, “How to build a better world post-COVID-19”
- Pew Research Center, “By a wide margin, Americans view inflation as the top problem facing the country today” (May 12, 2022)
- Wilson Center, Strengthening America’s Supply Chains
- CSIS, “Pushed to Extremes: Domestic Terrorism amid Polarization and Protest”
- Brookings Institution, Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative
The State of Global Climate
Four key indicators of the Earth’s climate broke records in 2021, reports the World Meteorological Organization: greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat, and ocean acidification.
“Renewables are the only path to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “If we act together, the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century.”
Critical actions to jump-start the transition to renewables include a tripling of public and private investment and an end to subsidies of fossil fuels, Guterres said.
The WMO report will serve as an official document for the UN Climate Change negotiations (COP27) in Egypt later this year.
Read State of the Global Climate 2021, World Meteorological Organization (May 2022).
News and Moves in the Field
- Event: Taking place over two weeks on four non-consecutive days, the Association of Professional Futurists’ Exploring Next online conference will look at the Futures of Human Experience and coming changes for People (June 14/15), Places (June 16/17), Systems (June 21/22), and Things (June 23/24). [Learn more]
- Opportunity: The Palo Alto, California–based Institute For the Future seeks “an organized professional and aspiring futurist” to serve as program manager for the executive director. Responsibilities include providing research assistance, project management, and day-to-day administrative support. [Learn more]
- Survey: The Millennium Project invites your views “on implementation strategies for five foresight elements of the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ report, Our Common Agenda.” To participate, please first review the report and then go to the online questionnaire. Participants will receive a summary of the results and be listed in the appendix of the report. Deadline: July 1.
- Survey: Fast Future invites your views on Healthcare Futures ‘Fit for People—Fit for Purpose’ on behalf of a charity focusing on health systems from the perspective of beneficiaries. Participants will receive a free ebook of their choice from the Fast Future bookstore.
- Anniversary: Think tank Resources For the Future (RFF) marks its 70th anniversary this year. “RFF was initiated after World War II because there was concern that the United States might be running out of raw materials and natural resources as a result of meeting the needs of the war effort,” says RFF University Fellow Kerry Smith. “So, the first major effort—and indeed, a large reason for starting RFF—was to address that question.” [Learn more]
- Event: September 20–22, 2022, Belgrade, Serbia. The World Conference on Basic Sciences and Sustainable Development, sponsored by UNESCO, the World Academy of Art & Science, the Club of Rome, and other groups, will explore the tools of basic science in addressing the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. [Learn more]
- Global Perspectives on Megatrends: The Future as Seen by Analysts and Researchers from Different World Regions by Berthold M. Kuhn with Dimitrios L. Margellos. ibidem Press (Columbia University Press, Verlag) May 2022. Political scientist Kuhn and colleague Margellos of Freie Universität Berlin interviewed foresight analysts at research institutes around the world, providing perspectives on climate change, urbanization, the green economy, identity politics, inequality, and more.
- How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going by Vaclav Smil. Viking. May 2022. Interdisciplinary researcher Smil explores the four “grand transitions” of civilization—in populations, agriculture, energy, and economics—that have transformed the way we live.
- Tom Lombardo, director of the Center for Future Consciousness, has published new versions of earlier works: The Odyssey of the Future: The Ultimate Adventure, completed in 1997, was created as a textbook for college-level introductory futures. The Future of Science, Technology, and the Cosmos, completed in 2002, presents “a big picture vision of reality and the future,” covering technology, cosmology, evolution, ecological science, and more.
In Memoriam: Hazel Henderson
Futurist, environmentalist, and independent economist Hazel Henderson died May 22 in St. Augustine, Florida. She was 89.
A pioneering proponent of sustainability and the green economy, Hazel worked with a variety of forward-looking organizations, including the World Future Society, The Millennium Project, World Futures Studies Federation, and the Worldwatch Institute. She also served as an adviser for Calvert Social Investment, a fund for which she helped devise the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, a measure of social well-being as an alternative to GDP and other traditional measures.
In 2004, she founded Ethical Markets Media as a platform for producing articles, videos, metrics, and other tools for promoting socially responsible investing and lifestyles and ethical corporate citizenship. [Learn more]
In Memoriam: Michael Gosney
Author, multimedia publisher, and Arcosonti board member Michael Gosney died April 28 in San Francisco. He was 68.
Goz, as he was known by friends, was credited as the publisher of one of the first desktop-published magazines, Verbum, as well as a pioneer of multimedia CD-ROM and interactive book publishing. He founded the Green Century Institute in San Francisco as a salon for debating local environmental solutions.
“Goz deeply believed in cities and the ‘Small is Beautiful’ aesthetic,” wrote Lawrence Axil Comras. “He famously wrote a detailed letter to futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller, and received back hearty support from his hero.”
Read “Remembering Michael Gosney, a Futurist, Eco-Pioneer, and San Franciscan Par Excellence” by Lawrence Axil Comras, San Francisco Standard (May 3, 2022).
“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”
John F. Kennedy, commencement address at American University, June 10, 1963