Part five of an ongoing series exploring Revelstoke’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan.
What might the future hold?
In many ways life has changed from the past. Until recently, we were pretty safe predicting the future based on past trends. Today, global financial uncertainties, changing weather patterns, and global market places, for example, make it impossible to predict what the future holds with any certainty. So how do we make decisions as individuals, families, businesses and communities in these new circumstances?
This new reality has to be faced as we work together to create our Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) for Revelstoke. We have used scenarios – a tool that is widely used by big business and government – to describe a range of plausible futures as a guide to identifying priorities and strategies for our community.
Forces of change
There are many long term forces of change that most experts agree we will have to contend with over time – the following is a short list; you can read the full list in the Scenarios Backgrounder on the project website:
-The global financial system is increasingly fragile and volatile, with high debt levels.
-Disposable incomes are declining as the price of food, fuel and other basics rise.
Social and demographic
-The population is aging and general health conditions are declining (rising obesity, diabetes, heart-related diseases and cancers) which is resulting in increased health care costs, changing housing needs and leisure preferences.
-Work structures are changing with employment becoming less secure while income inequality is rising and the middle class is shrinking.
-Weather events are becoming more severe, average long term temperatures are rising, and precipitation patterns are changing.
-Natural resource commodity prices, including fossil fuel prices are rising and/or are more volatile.
-The information technology revolution continues.
-Local energy supply technologies are expanding (e.g. district energy, solar, wind etc.).
-Security threats continue to increase in part due to rising resource scarcity.
-Governments at all levels face increasing debt loads and increasing costs.
The above changes ring true – we hear about these issues in the news almost every day and these global forces affect our city’s economy, citizens and our local environment.
How do we respond given this uncertain future?
We do not know exactly how the future will unfold, but we know this:
-the future will be different from the past;
-in our community the future can be shaped by our choices and actions; and
-we can make better decision today by exploring what the future may hold.
In this context, big business and leading communities have found that it is useful to consider a number of plausible future scenarios and then identify a range of actions that will work well across several scenarios. A group of community members did just that in a recent workshop as part of the ICSP process. The group was presented with four global scenarios that described realistic responses to the global forces of change that we may one day experience. In the workshop, participants discussed how these forces of change and the scenarios might mean for Revelstoke, and what actions we might take to become more resilient.
Here is a brief overview of the global scenarios they discussed to identify local implications and explore possible actions for Revelstoke – see the ICSP project website for the complete scenarios (see link below).
Scenario 1: Economy is King
People are focused on improving their own lives through material wealth with less concern for the effect this might have on others and the environment. Business and government are focused on economic growth and developing global markets through free enterprise approaches and deregulation. A few global firms/brands dominate. Internationally coordinated policy sets framework conditions for the efficient functioning of markets. People believe that technology will solve the problems.
Scenario 2: Our Home and Native Land
People value individual freedoms but within the context of independent countries that strongly protect their national industries. In Canada, business is focused more on domestic markets and the US with a decrease in international trade. Citizens are proudly patriotic but continue to believe in the value of free markets and private enterprise. Separatist movements in Quebec arise in Alberta, Ontario and BC.
Scenario 3: We are the world
People recognize the interdependence of the global economy and want to participate in international policies and institutions. Business has an international focus but with a strong sense of social responsibility, working in partnership with government, non-profit organizations and consumers. International trade expands but with strong environmental and social controls.
Scenario 4: Proudly self-sufficient
People disconnect themselves from the global economic system, either by choice or because of a breakdown in the system, to focus on living sustainable, self-reliant lifestyles at a local or regional scale. The economy is driven by small business serving local markets with small-scale manufacturing and services. Protecting the environment and natural resources becomes a top concern.
Our framework for a sustainable future
Considering the above long term forces of change and scenarios, the project team and Steering Committee have defined a set of sustainability priorities (e.g. ample, clean water; strong, vibrant, creative identity; diverse local economy, etc.) that describe our desired social, environmental and economic future. We’ve also created a short list of integrating strategies (e.g. strong community capacity; resilient infrastructure; etc.) to focus and coordinate our actions – to get more bang for our buck when it comes to time, energy and financial investments. We haven’t started from scratch creating totally new directions for Revelstoke – we’ve added the perspective of a long term lens to the existing plans the City and community organizations are already working on together.
Cindy Pearce is a lead consultant on the City of Revelstoke’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan team.