Jonathan Porritt can talk until he’s blue in the face about concentrated solar power plants, advanced anaerobic digestion, and aquacycle technology. The British environmentalist has addressed all of that and more as founding director of Forum for the Future. But in his new book The World We Made (October, Phaidon Press), Porritt goes way beyond mere verbiage to offer a photo-realistic vision of life on Earth in the year 2050.
“The underlying philosophy for this book is simple,” Porritt tells Co.Create. “I’ve been trying to do sustainable advocacy for four decades. Even when I’m lucky enough to make a hit with something intellectually, lots of people tell me, ‘That’s really interesting Jonathan but I still can’t see what a sustainable world looks like.’ I realized I can’t do words any longer because words alone won’t cut it. I’ve got to do words plus visuals.”
The World We Made looks back, 37 years from now, on a fitful cavalcade of catastrophes and breakthroughs as seen through the eyes of fictitious professor Alex McHale. He describes how famine, cyber-terrorism, and riots gradually convinced politicians, entrepreneurs, and technologists to innovate their way toward a self-sustaining planet.
While the graphics illustrating Porritt’s speculative history share a utopian aesthetic, each visualization finds firm footing in technologies that already exist. “We didn’t want to tell a science-fiction story,” says Porritt. “It has to look real to people but it also has to look powerful and compelling. The key word for me is aspirational, as in, ‘Yeah, ‘That looks good. I’d like to live there.'”
Porritt makes no apologies for his optimistic projections about where the world is headed. He said, “There’s no mis-match between my own ambitions for myself, my family, and my community and what’s being presented in this book. It’s taken me 40 years to learn about the psychology of change, and without aspiration, political systems don’t work, individual ambition doesn’t kick in.”
Check out The World We Made in the slides above for postcards from the future featuring wave-powered generators, solar sailboats, and lushly forested deserts.