Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

Photoshopping The Future: Take A Look At The World That Awaits Us In 2050

British environmentalist Jonathan Porritt offers a photo-realistic vision of life on Earth in the year 2050. (Spoiler alert: the future does not exactly go smoothly.)

  • <p>Manufacturing Reborn | <strong>Sahara Forest Project, Qatar</strong></p>
  • <p>Shipping Cleans Up | <strong>Conventional bulk carrier, with sky sail, solar panels and Air Cavity System.</strong></p>
  • <p>Urban Makeovers | <strong>New Petronas Tower, completed in 2042, Kuala Lumpur</strong></p>
  • <p>Incredible Edible Cities | <strong>Detroit, USA, named ‘Green City of the Decade’ in the 2020’s</strong></p>
  • <p>China Shows the Way | <strong>China’s ‘Great Green Wall’</strong></p>
  • <p>Still Flying High! | <strong>BoeingAir’s C2050 (Concept 2050)</strong>, launched in 2028</p>
  • <p>Climate Challenges | <strong>Wave power, west coast of Scotland, 2042</strong></p>
  • <p>The End of the Age of Oil | <strong>Gothenberg, Sweden, 2036</strong></p>
  • <p>Urban Makeovers | <strong>Songdo International Business District</strong></p>
  • <p><strong>Alex McKay’s Story from 2050</strong> | By Jonathan Porritt</p>
  • 01 /10

    Manufacturing Reborn | Sahara Forest Project, Qatar

  • 02 /10

    Shipping Cleans Up | Conventional bulk carrier, with sky sail, solar panels and Air Cavity System.

  • 03 /10

    Urban Makeovers | New Petronas Tower, completed in 2042, Kuala Lumpur

  • 04 /10

    Incredible Edible Cities | Detroit, USA, named ‘Green City of the Decade’ in the 2020’s

  • 05 /10

    China Shows the Way | China’s ‘Great Green Wall’

  • 06 /10

    Still Flying High! | BoeingAir’s C2050 (Concept 2050), launched in 2028

  • 07 /10

    Climate Challenges | Wave power, west coast of Scotland, 2042

  • 08 /10

    The End of the Age of Oil | Gothenberg, Sweden, 2036

  • 09 /10

    Urban Makeovers | Songdo International Business District

  • 10 /10 | THE WORLD WE MADE

    Alex McKay’s Story from 2050 | By Jonathan Porritt

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.

Slideshow Credits: 01 / © Sahara Forest Project Foundation; 02 / SolarSailor, Australia (solar sails); 03 / Phaidon Publishing; 04 / Phaidon Publishing; 05 / Science Photo Library/Carl Purcell; 06 / MIT | Aurora Flight Sciences; 07 / LIMPET Power Plant | Voith Hydro Wavegen Limited; 08 / Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture; 09 / Songdo International Business District; 10 / Phaidon Publishing;