The Future of Sustainable Development: a European Perspective
Thinking Creatively in Turbulent Times, World Future Studies: Maryland
We are living in times of turbulence and complex changes without precedent in history. It is becoming increasingly evident that humans are an intrinsic component of nature in that their actions affect both the biotic and abiotic environments, and are in turn affected by everything that shapes those environments. In evolutionary terms, population growth, societal restructuring, exhaustion of natural resources and technological advancements have usually been so slow as to be indiscernible during an individual lifetime. However, in the past two centuries the global economy has shown exponential growth, transforming the character of the planet and especially of human life (Mebratu, 1998). If this rate of transformation is sustained without strategic planning for the future, the consequences for the long-term well being of humanity are frightening. Anticipation of and preparation for the future is essential to achieving sustainable development. However, the potential for linking ‘futures thinking’ to debates about sustainable development is very undeveloped at global level. This paper examines the future of sustainable development in Europe with specific reference to the application of the growing field of futures thinking as a vehicle to achieve it.