Energy and Living Well
Life in the year 2100 is all about energy. No, that’s no longer true. It’s about living well.
We had to completely reinvent civilization in the face of fossil-fuel shortages and increasing climate change. Permaculture become the basis of our new sustainable civilization.
Housing looks familiar, if a little fatter with all the insulation that was added. The retrofit passivhaus concept went global as energy prices rose. These days, excess energy is very expensive, but for most people it just doesn’t matter. Most communities are locally self-sufficient. Everyone grows food using permaculture principles. Agricultural monoculture became deeply unfashionable during the great GM disease outbreaks of the 2030s.
During the chaos, we were smart enough to keep the Internet going. Giving up broadcast television meant wireless broadband really took off. That, combined with holographic conferencing, meant that people finally could really live anywhere they liked while working somewhere else.
With no need to travel for meetings, commuting vanished like a bad dream. Of course, the need for real human contact didn’t. Most towns, villages, and districts have communal working areas, paid for out of local taxes in local currencies, which let you work together with your friends and neighbors. These mix/meet spaces are incredibly creative.
So business continues. Once the 99% movement really got going, the 1% left. These days, open-source cooperatives have mostly replaced capitalism, at least on-planet. In practice, most people run three or four very different jobs, both to increase personal resilience and because it’s fun!
For example, manufacturing was relocalized. The advent of mass 3-D printing and cheap CNC (computer numerical control) meant that the difficulty of building something went away. At the same time, the increasing costs of transport forced the use of local materials. There are local solar-powered remanufacturing plants next to what used to be called waste dumps.
Now, the idea of big warehouses of finished goods – none of which quite does what you want – seems quaint. This is the case for all but the highest technology products, which are still mass assembled and transported by sailing ship and cargo zeppelin. People are relaxed enough that, if something takes 10 weeks to arrive, they don’t freak out.
Global populations are now divided 50/50 city and country dwellers. Regional government was the only scale that actually worked for fighting climate change; national governments became sources of embarrassment first, and then irrelevant. We still have conflicts, but mostly when some local politician promises a planet-harming shortsighted populist fix. The UN security force soon takes care of these. By the way, the UN is still called that, even though it’s really the United “cities and regions.”
We never did get fusion power working, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Regional weather control by the power cooperatives ensures that the days are sunny for power and pleasure, with wind and rain overnight for power and plants. Life is good.
This essay was first published in the Futurist magazine by the World Future Society, September-October edition 2012. See the other “Life in the Year 2100” scenarios at https://issuu.com/worldfuturesociety/docs/the_futurist_2012_sep-oct