Big Ideas Change the World: Smart optimism

Big Ideas Change the World: Smart optimism
Friends of the Earth
February 2015
Medicines. Men on the moon. Cities that support billions of people. Global communications. Humans are ingenious.


We’re doing some amazing things right now. Across the world we’re rapidly increasing the use of solar panels, beginning to mass-produce electric cars, and cutting deaths from malaria. Far-sighted companies are putting sustainability at their core. Digital technology is improving democracies and delivering efficiency and innovation. Leading cities are collaborating on real solutions.


Yet we’re also ravaging the nature world – our life-support systems. Climate change is causing extreme weather. Species are disappearing at 100-1,000 times the normal rate. Acidification of oceans and degradation of soils threaten food production. Billions of people go hungry, and lack basic services and decent work.


Meanwhile the developed world confronts obesity and over-consumption in fearful, gated communities.


On our current course we’ll do profound damage to human welfare, economies and ecosystems – within the next 20 years.


We urgently need to turn things around. We must enable people everywhere to achieve well-being – those freedoms and capabilities that enable us all to live healthy, fulfilled lives on a planet that can sustain us.


And unless we look after the planet it will be impossible to do that.


This project


Big Ideas Change the World will identify what needs to change to focus some of humanity’s amazing abilities on solving the challenges we face and building a brighter future for everyone.


This is a three-year research project. It will inspire a new campaigning journey for Friends of the Earth.


Change won’t be easy: There’s a gap between scientific understanding of the challenges and public and political responses. But there’s also an explosion of interest – especially among businesses, politicians and academia – in finding a new path.


The right kind of change won’t happen without a shared vision – one backed with a compelling route map, and pressure from civil society, businesses and thinkers.


History tells us change is possible. Without change women wouldn’t have the vote, slavery would still be commonplace, and Britain’s National Health Service wouldn’t exist. There would have been no industrial, green or digital revolutions.


The coming decades will throw up huge challenges and uncertainty.  We’ll cross thresholds in environmental, social and economic systems. Unforeseen events, so-called black swans, will happen. But we also know the world population will grow, and food and resources will come under pressure.


But opportunities are bound to emerge If we seize them we could produce a much more stable, equal and healthy society by 2050. We could provide well-being for everyone and for our planet.


Our approach


Through a series of linked research pieces this project will bring new thinking to the challenges ahead. We’ll learn from the past with a view to the future.


We’ll use the research pieces to identify key interventions, to shape Friends of the Earth’s campaigns, and influence the decisions and campaigns of others.


We’ll carry out the research with academics, businesses, non-governmental organisations, opinion-formers and the public. We expect this collaborative approach to generate new insights and creativity.


At the end of the project we’ll have set out what needs to change, why, and how.


Read more here.