In February 2013, the book “Negotiating our Future: Living Scenarios for Australia to 2050” was officially launched by Her Excellency Governor-General Quentin Bryce at the Australian Academy of Science. This was the culmination of more than two years work by more than 30 researchers and participants seeking to answer the question “How might we consider pathways to an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable Australia?”
Kristin Alford was lead author and rapporteur for Chapter 3 of this volume and a co-author on Chapter 4 of Volume 2, focusing on social perspectives to on sustainability and equity. A summary of the inquiry was written up for a series on the book launch in The Conversation:
To achieve desirable change we need to better understand social perspectives, and use these to understand how to keep our society within a safe space for achieving both environmental sustainability and social equity.
The concept of a “safe operating space” has been applied to biophysical systems. It is a set of planetary boundaries that if breached by human activity risk environmental change that is both irreversible and sudden. But it hasn’t been applied to social dimensions. We don’t understand where the limits for social breakdown might be.
The social system is adaptable and resilient, and people’s perceptions about what is normal and acceptable also change.
The other perspectives investigated included Resilience, Scenarios and Modelling.
While the book represents the output of Phase 1 of the project, Phase 2 is now in planning. This part of the project is looking at how to develop a set of Living Scenarios for all Australians so as to show how science can inform the future, and how we might use scenarios to challenge assumptions and look for possibilities in future decision-making.