The year 2100
Each second the number of children alive today that still will be alive in 2100 increase with about 1.4, the speed of the counter on this page. This speed will accelerate as the time left to 2100 becomes closer to normal life expectancy around the world (see what happens around 2015 and 2015 in the graph to the right).
The year 2100 is often treated like science fiction and most policy decisions, business plans, even research projects are much more shortsighted. But 2100 is not so far away. Many of the investments in infrastructure will still be around and much of the pollution will still affect those alive then. Much of the things today are made not too last, but much of the infrastructure, many quality products and much of the cultural outputs will be around.
The focus of this initiative is not on things but human beings, and the fact that already today there are more than 350 million children alive (366 when this is written in early June 2014, 435 when I updated some texts in November 2015) that will still be alive in 2100. This group of 22nd century citizens will grow to half a billion in 2017, and a billion by the year 2023. In many ways this is probably the largest and most ignored minority today.
This initiative is meant only as an explorer project without any particular goals beyond exploring the interest in a 22nd century perspective and collection of best practice. The assumption that the initiative is based on is that the “minority” that still will be alive in 2100 needs a voice, and that a discussion is needed about the extreme short-term focus in society that we currently have. If you want to give the 22nd century citizens a voice or explore other ways to engage in longer-term issues, this page is for you.
The need for increased long-term thinking has never been greater, as a number of trends are converging. The technological development that has helped move humanity out of poverty in a way that few could even dream about has provided us with very powerful tools. The internal combustion engine using fossil fuel, the capacity to change DNA, to create bacteria and viruses, to collide atoms, to transport goods around the globe faster than the speed of sound, so move capital at the speed of light, etc. have all helped humanity in many ways, but some of them are already today creating problems that will still be here in 2100 and others run the risk of creating damage on a scale that historically has been reserved for Gods.
The massive expansion of human society has resulted in an overall impact where we have pushed many of the ecological systems beyond their carrying capacity. Around the world we now see systems collapsing at an unprecedented rate and humans are responsible for the first “intelligent” mass extinction in the history of our planet. So while we should be proud of some achievements, there are things that are not so good with our current way of living.
One of the problems with our current society is that there is little (or no) distinction between decisions that will have irreversible multi-century impact and those that are short term and reversible.
Often when our long-term impacts are discussed it is in negative terms: the negative impact that our pollution and infrastructure with roads, railways, buildings, ports, etc. will have. But there are many things that are positive, not just sustainable infrastructure, but research, music, poetry and literature. This page wants to highlight both initiatives that reduce the negative long-term impacts, but also those that increase the long-term positive impacts.
What the important things are that should be discussed and what the major threats are is not what this initiative will provide an answer to. It will only gather examples of how different stakeholders have managed to move beyond short-term thinking, without ignoring what needs to be done today (i.e. power companies that are investing in fossil fuels while writing reports about a sustainable future is not something that this initiative will highlight as a good example.)
The counter that provide the number of children that are alive today that still will be alive 2100 is based on the data available in the medium scenario from the UN World Population Prospects, the 2010 Revision (Updated: 28 June 2011). Available here: http://esa.un.org/wpp/Excel-Data/population.htm
Obviously these numbers are very rough estimations and if science moves ahead at the current speed we could see a lot more people living a lot longer, increasing the numbers. On the other hand, if nothing is done to curb the unsustainable trends a collapse could reduce the number significantly; there is even a risk that humanity will not make it to 2100 if we do not address some of the major challenges today, including nuclear war, climate change and synthetic biology.
By 2050 the 22nd century voices will reach almost five billion and become a majority (i.e. more people will die after 2100 than before). Hopefully we will have given them a voice long before that.