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Conservation 2051 Begins!

If you’re reading this, you are starting fresh with us, in what we hope will evolve into a long and fruitful process of inquiry, investigation, discussion and imagination about nothing less than the most fascinating subject on the planet: the planet itself.

What is C2051, anyway?

C2051 began with a series of seemingly unanswerable questions about the planet’s future, questions such as:

  • Which environmental issues will emerge as the ‘biggies’ of 2051?
  • How can we realistically envision the planet’s environmental future so we can get a head start on addressing likely problems?
  • How can thought leaders* from a variety of sectors work toward averting the worst possible outcomes, and be better prepared for what does unfold?
  • How can we break out of the various environmental and conservation “silos,” and join forces to meet common goals?
  • How do we craft an environmental vocabulary that will hit the mainstream and inspire behavior change without losing meaning through overuse?

*For a good definition of what constitutes a “thought leader,” read this description out of the ISEAL Alliance.

C2051 is certainly not alone in asking these big questions. In fact, while investigating some of them we were surprised to find just how many projects out there are asking similar questions. But the collaborative aspect of C2051– our effort to include a variety of subjects and sectors related to conservation, the environment, sustainability and energy – separates this project from others. Many of the specialized research initiatives we came across are attempting to preempt future issues in one area alone (urban development, environmental law, agriculture, biodiversity conservation, climate change, etc.) Alternately, C2051 wants to hear what everyone’s talking about, identify trends, and piece the ideas of different sectors together to form a full picture. We want to create a platform where people from different disciplines can move forward faster through collaboration rather than work in compartmentalized communities, unaware of other groups that may share their values, intentions and goals.

An admittedly overused parable nonetheless illustrates the C2051 concept: A group of blind men live together in a village, and one day a fellow villager tells them an elephant is being exhibited in the town. None of the blind men know what an elephant is, so they decide to go and “see” it for themselves.  The first man touches its tail and decides the animal is like a rope; another, grabbing hold of the leg, argues the animal is more like a tree stump; the third, after feeling the elephant’s trunk, insists it’s built like a pipe. None is incorrect in his individual perception, but it is not until all the descriptions are shared and compiled that an image of the entire elephant emerges. And this is what we are trying to achieve with C2051 –a “zoomed out,” cohesive, big picture assembled from a series of detailed snapshots, each equally necessary and valid in its point of view.

The C2051 team is approaching this project from the standpoint of generalists. Specialist work is crucial, of course, but we intend to act as a clearinghouse of sorts for an eclectic group of people thinking about the planet’s future.

So how will we do it?

In the spirit of the project – embracing the complexity, difficulty, and creativity inherent in prognostication — we’re keeping our method flexible. Our kickoff plan is what you will see most immediately on this blog: a series of interviews with leaders from a variety of fields, from conservation to business, science, art, design, academia, and more. The interviews, based off a consistent set of questions, will help us discover trends on the expectations of the state of the planet in 2051. And, if after a series of interviews we don’t find significant common trends, that information will itself be useful in shaping the next direction for our project.

We are aware of the danger of C2051 becoming an intellectual exercise, and ending up as just another report on a shelf. Our hope and expectation, with the input of project participants’ curiosity and insights, is that C2051 will evolve from interesting question to robust conversation to, ultimately, a concrete, actionable plan that could help the environmental movement recast its thinking in more interdisciplinary and longer-term ways. We invite you to see us through this process and contribute your ideas. The path to a better future begins!

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