2045: Welcome to a fair future
What would the world look like with fair resource politics?
In the next thirty years, if we’ve given up oil,
if cars have become fewer,
if rural populations have seen their rights respected,
if we’re eating healthier, yes... yes... yes...
If it’s true that to build the future you need to dream it first,
let’s start by dreaming.
Fundación Heinrich Böll
Natural resource politics looks at who controls nature and how it is used. The answers are complex and full of contradictions. Institutional structures, power, knowledge, scale and time are important underlying factors. Equally important are human agency, the capacity to choose and act, and the interaction between political strategies of competing groups and actors.
Three principlesThree important fundamental principles taken together can help create resource equity:
Ecological equity: How much pressure our planet can tolerate without harming humanity’s wellbeing has its risks and tipping points. These need to be respected at all levels, from the local to the global, considering their intercon¬nectedness; to safeguard the wealth and the resilience capacities of ecosystems for present and future generations.
Social equity: People need nature, biodiversity and nature’s reproductive capacity to survive. A very different distribution of resource access, control and use is needed (between countries and people, ages, genders, generations etc.) to protect human rights and fulfil the basic needs and wellbeing of every human.
The equitable way to use water, forests, knowledge, seeds and information, to name just a few examples, means ensuring that one person’s use of those resources does not restrict anybody else’s potential to use them, or even deplete the resources themselves. That implies fair use of everything that does not belong to only one person. It’s about respect for the principle “one person – one share,” especially with regard to the global commons. To achieve this requires trust and strong social relationships within communities and between individuals.
Democracy: Everybody who is or will be potentially affected by a certain decision needs to be part of the decision-making process. Gender, age, race, class, origin, sexual orientation, bodily and mental (dis)ability must not determine whether or not we have the power to decide. However, it is not merely a set of useful tools and procedures for participation that forms the basis of democracy. Real democracy sets a much higher bar and includes a full realization of individual and peoples’ rights (including their material base, equity and justice).
These three principles are closely interlinked and interact with each other. To really respect all three principles of Resource Equity is quite challenging in practice. Full participation at the local level does not necessarily lead to decisions that respect global planetary boundaries. And participation alone—if performed within highly unequal power relations—is never enough. What is being proposed here instead is to take these three principles into account when searching for solutions and to set out an enabling policy frame at every level of decision-making.
There is an infinite number of possible visions for a better future. Actually spelling them out is extremely challenging. Once put on paper, they will always be vulnerable because they can never be complete. But sometimes it can help to dream a little. Just imagine if the principles described above were actually being taken seriously—what kind of world would we live in? What would one possible vision of the future look like?
2045: A lot will have changed if The world will be close to fully phasing out fossil fuels (including those for synthetic fertilizers) with the positive effects already experienced without major social disruptions.
another world has been possible
No new coal or nuclear power plants will have been built in the last 25 years and the massive deployment of decentralized and off-grid renewable energy systems—as well as clean water and sanitation—will have greatly improved the livelihoods of poor rural and urban communities around the world.
The vast number of successful bi- and multilateral fair and sustainable raw material partnerships will have prepared the ground for the UN Resource Convention that is now successfully in its 10th year of implementation.
All major regional and global territorial and resource conflicts will have been solved peacefully. Small and medium organic farmers around the world secure the human right to food.
Bee populations will have doubled since pesticides are hardly used anymore. Land reforms that respect communal land use will have secured land rights for small farmers. Women and men have equal access to productive resources and share productive and reproductive work equitably across gender and age.
National agricultural extension services provide farmers with knowledge that combines traditional production practices and a variety of non-patented seeds with the latest scientific knowledge of compost management to safeguard soil quality.
Due to modern dietary education, the consumption patterns of the global middle class will have changed dramatically. People eat meat only once or twice a week, while nearly half of the population of North America and Europe has turned to vegetarianism—and is a lot healthier today. Because the animal populations consumed by humans are linked to the surface area they can be fed by, this reduction will have fostered regional and local economic cycles in all parts of the world and reduced pressure on land. There is no global market for animal feed anymore.
In addition, modern transport, education and cultural infrastructure will have greatly increased the quality of life in many rural areas. Modern cities today provide free public transport for everybody, reducing the absolute number of privately owned cars in cities by 90 % compared to 30 years ago.
The global consensus to create a closed-loop, zero-waste economy will have greatly raised mineral and metal recovery rates, creating a great number of new jobs in urban mining and recycling in the world’s mega cities. Fresh water—not too long ago considered one of our scarcest resources and potential source of conflict and war—is nowadays a major source of cooperation amongst watershed communities, including across national borders. It is hard to imagine that our widespread public-commons water companies were once considered strange beasts.
Already in the second decade of this century we saw a new trend: global deforestation rates slowed steadily until 2025 when they reached zero. Today our planet’s natural forest cover is increasing again and, even more importantly, forest peoples’ rights are secured.
Mono-cropping is hard to find today. More than 10 % of all ecosystems are protected—thus exceeding the ambitious targets of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity signed in 1992—and the race for even higher targets is on. The new diversity can even be witnessed in cities across the globe: urban gardening is a mass movement, (trans)forming industrial landscapes, societies and cultures.
The internet will have connected everything to everyone. A new technology infrastructure has overcome the divide between consumer and producer. Prosumerism prevails and has limited the power of markets. Peer networks (communication amongst equals) are the backbone of an ever-growing nonprofit sector. Capitalism as we know it is challenged to its core. Caregiving is recognized for what it is: the precondition of the human capacity to work.