Chief Scientist, FAO
Imagine a world that is diverse, sustainable and equitable. A world where our current disconnect from nature is a distant memory. A world where listening to nature’s voice is not only normalised but championed.
The growing scale and compounded impact of human behaviour has put life in all its forms everywhere at risk in irreversible ways. Of the many challenges in the world today, biodiversity loss, conflict and dwindling natural resources are increasingly ones that threaten the livelihoods, health, and wellbeing of all species as well as agrifood systems.
Possible, probable and preferable futures
The computer scientist, Alan Kay famously said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it!” Futures studies, what we call foresight, is the systematic study of possible, probable and preferable futures. It is also a challenging practice. This is because when the mind searches for the future, it very often sees the past. Our past and current efforts in facing challenges have tended to rely on a standard toolbox that enacts regulations, provides financial incentives or disincentives and raises awareness about the dire consequences of our bad behaviour.
Impact of foresight
Foresight presents a new paradigm. Following a rigorous use of methods and tools, a new set of insights are revealed that can help us design solutions that solve the issues of tomorrow as well as those of today. How it works is we let our minds run loose imagining the impossible, then work backwards adding milestones that build on each other. This turns an ‘impossibility’ into a reality and would work for everyday people from farmers to fishers, to businesses, to government officials, everywhere in the world.
Futures studies, what we call foresight, is the systematic study of possible, probable and preferable futures
Creating a better life, leaving no-one behind
Foresight is not new. Governments, private sector and non-profit organisations have been using foresight approaches for many decades. What is new is to apply these tools on a global scale, transforming all life on the planet for the better, leaving no one behind. This is the vision encapsulated in FAO’s Strategic Framework.
For the next decade, FAO is focused on the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life. We only have eight years left until 2030 and we are woefully off track from reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
With foresight, FAO and its partners are taking on this daunting task together to design a paradigm shift to create a better future for our children and our children’s children. We cannot do this alone. Will you join us?