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The Futurenauts Podcast – Sailing close to the winds of change – By Mark Stevenson and Ed Gillespie

Introducing The Futurenauts! A new podcast!

Join top selling author and futurist, Mark Stevenson and leading sustainability expert, Ed Gillespie as they ask better questions to help us all imagine and build a better future. It’s not about keeping calm and carrying on, no, it’s about getting excited and doing things.

If you enjoyed the show, please:

  • Follow the Futurenauts on Twitter; and
  • leave us a review on iTunes and help us spread pragmatic optimism for the future!

Show Notes

Significant Quotes

  • Albert Einstein – “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” [00:48]
  • Martin Luther King – “I’ve been to the mountain top” [05:20]
  • Ayn Rand – “We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality” [06:49]
  • Philip K Dick – “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” [07:10] and [12:01]
  • Franklin D Roosevelt – “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” [07:43]
  • William Gibson – “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed” [13:05]
  • Patrick McCray – “The future is politically contested terrain” [13:47]

Links Mentioned

We Do Things Differently – Stories from the Frontline of the Future –

Nick Reeves Award 2016 article in CIWEM’s The Environment magazine

Please download your copy here (and head straight to page 22-23!)


The 2016 Nick Reeves Award was presented to ecoartscotland and The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the field of environmental arts, including the LAGI Glasgow Design Competition.

This article by Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian explores how “The great energy transition will make our cities more beautiful and more just”.

Art and the end of the world (as we know it) – A five day course at Schumacher College

Course leaders: The Dark Mountain Project – Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine

Date: 20th — 24th March 2017
Location: Schumacher College, Devon, England

Booking details


‘The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.’ 

– Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto

We live in a time of great unravelling.

The climate is changing, a mass extinction is under way, and our economies, cultures and technologies are changing everything. The future no longer seems to serve as a vessel for our hopes, but a shadow that we try not to think about. Much that we grew up taking for granted will not make it into the world that waits for us there.

So what does it mean to live in such a time? What can we do with this kind of knowledge? And what does art have to do with any of it?

In 2009, Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine published the Dark Mountain manifesto: a call for honesty about the depth of the trouble the world is in – and for recognition of the deep cultural roots of that trouble. From a short self-published pamphlet, the Dark Mountain Project grew into a global network of writers, artists, musicians, performers and creative thinkers, many of whose work has appeared in the pages of the Dark Mountain books or on the stages of the Uncivilisation festival, Base Camp, Carrying the Fire, The Telling and other events.

At the heart of the Dark Mountain Project is the claim that the global crisis we are facing is not a crisis of politics, economics or technology, but a crisis of stories. The stories which our culture likes to tell itself about humanity’s place on Earth and its relationship to the rest of nature are like bad maps, leading us towards unmarked hazards. We have narrated ourselves to the edge of a cliff.

If this is true, what can we do about it? And what, in particular, can writers, artists and other creative workers offer in response? If we have been telling the wrong stories, how would we recognise the right ones – and how could we begin to give them a voice?

This course is open to anyone who wants to engage with these questions and is willing to bring their own creativity into play. Through a mixture of workshops, teaching sessions, creative exercises and space to explore the big issues, it aims to give writers, musicians, performers and artists of all kinds a stronger sense of their place in a time of upheaval, change and unexpected possibilities.

Bring a notebook, a clear head, a sense of excitement and a willingness to be honest. Please leave false hopes and all-encompassing solutions at home.

Booking details

How many light bulbs does it take to change an energy system?

Regen’s Arts and Energy programme supports the transition to a decentralised energy system through encouraging, inspiring and broadening the debate about our energy generation through the arts.

In 2017 we would like to see an increase in lightbulb moments across the UK as more people become aware of the necessity for drastic change to our energy system to respond to the threat of climate change.

Did you know? There is actually a whole website dedicated to lightbulb jokes?

For your entertainment this Christmas I’ve selected a few for you!

Q: How many art directors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Does it have to be a lightbulb?

Q: How many city planners does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Six – four to write an extensive study recommending a three-way 100/200/250 watt light bulb, one to write an article in the newspaper praising the study, and one to put in a 10 watt blub instead.

Q: How many consultants does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I’ll have an estimate for you a week from Monday.

Q: How many copyeditors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: The last time this question was asked, it involved art directors. Is the difference intentional? Should one or the other instance be changed? It seems inconsistent.

Q: How many optimists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None, they’re convinced that the power will come back on soon.

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two. One to hold the giraffe and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools.

Q: How many Tory MP’s does it take to change a light bulb?
A: I’m sorry I can’t tell you that, the light bulb changing service has been privatised and the information you require is commercially sensitive.

Q: How many Zen masters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. Zen masters carry their own light.

And for any of you who are interested in making a calculation of the actual number of people it takes to  switch on the lights – check out this little animation from Energy 101


An energy primer to increase energy literacy! from Energy Reality

This website has an overview of basic energy concepts: net energy, energy density, embodied energy, energy slaves, and peak oil.

You can go on a tour of the energy terrain reviewing the major energy resources and their transportation methods, including conventional and unconventional oil, offshore oil, natural gas, shale gas, coal and nuclear, as well as renewables such as hydropower, geothermal, biofuels, biomass, wind and solar energy.

And you can make an examination of globalized transport for moving fuel (pipelines and powerlines), and of emerging energy technologies (including hydrogen) and micropower (small-scale distributed energy generation).


Reclaim the future: engaging with arts and creative practice – Extract from CAT’s ‘Zero Carbon Britain’

Centre for Alternative Technology‘s report Zero Carbon Britain has been inspiring people since 2013 and as 2017 arrives, I am reminded again of what a useful document it’s been.

This is an extract on the arts and zero carbon transition:

“Communicating the Zero Carbon Britain scenario means helping people visualise what it could be like to live in the year 2030 if we rose to the challenges of the 21st century. To offer a context to this, we looked at how our society currently portrays the future, and how this has changed over time. We quickly became aware that there are actually very few positive visions of a 21st century future. Dystopia and ecological collapse almost always abound when contemporary culture looks even ten or twenty years ahead. Be it a novel, a film, a TV series or a computer game, the setting is dark. From Children of Men, The Road, and 28 Days Later to The Survivors – the list seems endless. Yet back in the fifties, sixties and seventies, the way we projected the future felt very different. The likes of Dan Dare, Thunderbirds and Star Trek were going to take us away to exciting places with transporters, hover bikes and jet packs.

As the seventies rolled into the eighties and nineties the wonders of science and technology were seen to be smashing into the limits of the planet’s ecosystems. Alarm signals from the Green movement, along with Bhopal, Chernobyl and a wide range of other major catastrophes, led us into a different way of seeing our future. In film, a tipping point was perhaps Blade Runner, where the future became much darker.

Of course, setting any human drama in a tragic famine situation would not make palatable viewing, so a number of clever tricks are deployed. Either 98% of the population dies from ‘the virus’ before the film begins and the story is based around those relearning to plough with oxen in a deserted Somerset mansion – or – 98% of the population are converted to ‘zombies’ so that if you have to shoot a few dozen of them as you escape the city with the medicine for the sick child, no one thinks any the worse of you.

Despite the fact that a great many of us would like to explore the drama of human interaction set against a backdrop in which we are rising to our 21st century challenges – the artists, novelists, filmmakers and playwrights usually choose to paint it black.

But if society is unable to imagine a positive future, then we won’t create it.

There is, therefore, a need to forge direct links between those working in the arts and sustainability to create a community of practice amongst people who understand the need to catalyse big shifts in how we think.

In tackling issues of race, gender and class, arts and creative practice have shown they can reveal our blind spots and help us see our prejudices; they can break through denial and catalyse a transformation of attitudes and behaviours.

The arts offer a much needed mirror that can help individuals and societies reflect on where we really are, and help us to explore the alternatives. Although science based reports such as this can show a way forward, when the arts and science work together we can begin to visualise what it might actually be like to live and love in a world where we are rising to the demands of the 21st century, and so reclaiming the future.”

Ben’s Strategy Blog: Culture/Shift: Working with the Arts for Mitigation & Adaptation

Ben Twist is Creative Carbon Scotland‘s Director and he has a brilliant blog. This article is copied from from Ben’s strategy blog which is well worth following!

17th October 2016

CCS Director Ben Twist invites people working on climate change and sustainability to think about how the arts can help them deliver their aims.

Over the summer Creative Carbon Scotland focused more than we have in the past on talking to people and organisations working on climate change and sustainability about the role of the arts in their field (as opposed talking to people in the arts about climate change).

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking (and I’ve covered some of this in one of my other blogs) about the particular role of the arts in working on carbon reduction and adaptation to a new society. My part of this has been to do a number of talks to various groups, from an event at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation during the Edinburgh Festivals to a TEDx talk at Heriot Watt University.

I’ve refined my talk over the summer and the structure now goes something like this:

  1. We’re facing a major social change: either we achieve the carbon reduction targets implicit within the Paris Agreement – in which case our relationship with energy and fossil fuels will have to change radically – or we don’t achieve them – in which case issues such as migration, changing food supplies, resource related conflicts and so on will bring about major social change (as they are already).
  2. The Mexico City Declaration by UNESCO provides a useful definition of culture in a broad sense as effectively the way we live in the world.
  3. Using that definition, climate change is as much a cultural issue as a scientific or technical one: it is a function of our culture, our way of living in the world, which is a culture of consumption. We dig up resources, use them and throw them away, and this latter stage is a major cause of climate change. In order to avert more climate change, we need to shift to a culture of stewardship.
  4. This would have useful implications not only for environmental sustainability and climate change but also social sustainability (climate justice but also equalities more broadly) and economic sustainability (perhaps abandoning the search for endless economic growth and following up some of the principles of Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth, for example).
  5. So how do we achieve this cultural shift?
  6. Culture in a narrower sense – what we generally call the arts, but this includes design, film and media, museums and heritage etc – is the expression of culture in the wider sense used above. Art has often been said to ‘hold a mirror up to society’. But it is also therefore a way of understanding, interrogating and changing the wider culture.
  7. The German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote, ‘Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it’!
  8. Working with the arts is therefore a useful way to work on achieving the cultural shift.
  9. There is often an assumption that the role of the arts in areas such as these is to communicate complex ideas more effectively and particularly to engage the wider public emotionally rather than factually. This is indeed a useful role of the arts, but they can do much more. I have a slide which provides a (non-exhaustive) list of ways in which the arts work.

Some examples


I think there are interesting ways in which artists can contribute to addressing climate change through making artistic work – CCS is involved for instance in a project led by the RSPB on developing awareness of the importance of the peat bogs in the Flow country as carbon sinks.

And there are also ways in which artists can use their skills, knowledge and ways of thinking in non-artistic projects and settings. After one talk, someone who has been attending the meetings of the Local Advisory Committee of the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference in 2017 came up to me. ‘I realise that’s what you’ve been doing at the meetings,’ she said. ‘You’ve used your role as an artist to make us think about and discuss things we wouldn’t have discussed otherwise.’

This was encouraging, as that’s what I do, although I hadn’t really thought of it as such in that particular situation. And in a way, that’s the point: I was being a member of a group and using the skills I have as a (former) theatre director, just as others in the group use their skills as academics, project managers etc.

This is all part of a strand of our work at CCS called Culture/SHIFT: the artistic and conceptual work that we do alongside, and inextricably linked to, our more practical and technical work supporting cultural organisations to reduce their carbon emissions. There’s more information about this here.

We’re always interested in more people working on climate change and sustainability attending our Green Teases and other events – following our most recent Arts & Sustainability Residency we’re thinking about reserving places for non-artists next year.

Our message must be getting through: we’ve been asked to run a session on this subject at the SSN Conference on 1 November. We’ll run through some of the ways in which we think the arts can support climate change and sustainability work and help participants to think about how this could be useful in their work. Sign up now!

Image: Ed Hawkins:Spiralling global temperatures from 1850-2016