SM 0513 — At the door of the XXI century — 1976

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World Future Studies Federation WFSF Newsletter, February 1976, p. 1-2

Giorgio Nebbia, Università di Bari nebbia@quipo.it

In the past decades the millenarian year 2000 has been used as a reference target when looking at the future; such a psychological barrier has lessened our moral commitment while this magic year is approaching. Although myself and many of my age may not reach that day, 31 December 1999, the children born this year 1976 will spend most of their lives in the XXI century; the decision to build new dams or new nuclear power plants, that excite so many managers and politicians these days, will influence the lives of the people in the next century in a decisive, unique and dramatic way. Our depletion of oil resources, our attack on the plant cover of the planet, our price system for Third World commodities, will cause political, economic and social tensions that will permeate a large part of the forthcoming century. 

The mature, western, Judeo-Christian, white society seems to have lost the capacity to prevent, to hope, to foresee; the multiplication of societies, centers, courses, departments of future studies seems a futile reply to our inability to look at the future in broad and global terms, with an open imagination. 

Looking at the XXI century, I imagine the increasing rate of new people and countries, with fresh and provocative insights on development, peace, and justice; I wonder about African and Asian people proposing new urban and agricultural models, using untouched resources for new industries and new commodities. I imagine new sources of energy, new productive relations. a crisis of the profit-based, capitalistic exploitation of men and nature; new towns and a new husbandry of land, forests, and renewable resources; new ways to build houses and roads and to move people and materials across countries, oceans, and continents. 

I imagine new needs and aspirations, probably less materialistic and egotistic, an increasing demand for services, health, education, for water, shelter, and food, and for a human, integral development. In this scenario, many of the problems related to the “population explosion” and to scarcity of resources will lose momentum, when families will choose responsibly their size on the basis of individuaI and collective motivations. 

In order to invent the revolution of the XXI century, a responsible change is needed also in the studies of the future, so far too much affected by technocracy and sociologization, too un-provocative on moral grounds. I propose for scientists engaged in the study of the future the symbol of the cock on the roof: inside the house people sleep, but the cock watches far the very first lights of the sunrise and awakes people, disturbing them also, since they prefer to go on sleeping, to avoid any change. 

The study of the future is a subversive science, because it radically questions our technological and moral choices, urging the discovery of new avenues far a technology of hope, for a new society, for different individual and collective relations; because it asks to each of us a commitment to change the world and to change the changed world.