SYMP 5-5
Bright spots: Exploring pathways to a better anthropocene

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 10:10 AM
308, Baltimore Convention Center
Elena M. Bennett, Department of Natural Resource Sciences and McGill School of Environment, McGill University, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC, Canada
Reinette Biggs, Centre for Studies in Complexity, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Garry Peterson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, Sweden
Albert Norstrom, Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Sweden

There is growing consensus that global development is on an unsustainable trajectory. The abundance of scientific and popular visions of future collapse and hardship underscore this point. However, the global change community has produced very few positive visions of more desirable, just, and sustainable future global possibilities for society and nature, or how these might be achieved. In the rare non-negative visions of the future, the potential of such futures and the pathways towards achieving them are not clearly articulated. Various utopian visions exist in the literature, but these lack the quantitative rigor of the global and regional scenarios literature. Together, this abundance of negative visions of the future and a lack of clearly articulated positive visions may inhibit our ability to move towards a positive future for the Earth and humanity.

We are soliciting, exploring, and developing a suite of alternative, plausible visions of “Good Anthropocenes” – positive visions of futures that are socially and ecologically desirable, just, and sustainable.  Such a future will likely be radically different from the world in which we are currently living. This sort of imagining can be extremely difficult because it goes far beyond small improvements to the way we currently do things.  Thus, we aim to scope out some of these radical changes that go beyond more incremental improvements (e.g., reducing pollution or increasing the environmental efficiency of agricultural production) that are the focus of much of today’s sustainability dialogue.


The seeds of this future (which we call “Bright Spots”) likely already occur in many places around the world. Identifying where these elements of a Good Anthropocene currently exist on the planet, what makes them bright spots of a better Anthropocene, and understanding how and why they occur, can help us envision how we might grow them to create new, positive futures for the Earth and humanity. In this talk, I will present several of the bright spots we have collected thus far, discuss their salient characteristics, and point to how understanding them can help us bring about a brighter future.