Authors: Anna Sacio – Szymańskaa; Nicolas Balcom Raleighb
a Lukasiewicz Research Network – Institute for Sustainable Technologies
b Finland Futures Research Centre – Turku School of Economics

Long Termism and Futures Literacy on the agenda of EIT Climate-KIC

“I see reefs that are over 90 percent dead. That’s a real tragedy. I see it and I experience it. Fossil fuel emissions killed 90 percent of this reef. But my dominant strategy is to intellectualize it. As a scientist, my only role is to generate useful information” (Corn 2019).

The above citation comes from a recent piece published in Mother Jones journal and entitled “Weight of the World”. In it, David Corn shares stories of climate scientists who become overwhelmed about the environmental challenges they encounter in their everyday work.[1]

As Corn puts it: “Climate scientists are among those who need to deal with the fact that society is not adequately responding to the science-based warnings. Among the most effective coping strategies for scientists stricken by their work is talking about their pain – which may not be as simple as it sounds. The culture of professional science places a premium on objective and facts and dispassionate discourse – not subjective feelings and emotional conversations. Speaking out about the implications of climate research, the lack of sufficient government action, and the personal impact of all this might be alien to a scientist trained in data-is-all methodology.”

One of the takeaway messages is that technical training in environmental science and policy still gets priority, but it will be other competences (more emotional and psychological) that will help to better convey to the public the message of the urgent need to strengthen climate resilience. As one of the scientists featured in the article puts it, scientists cannot simply say “Read the IPPC report”. Instead they should be telling the public that science proves that it’s not too late to change the ways we act. They should be discussing with the public how data make them feel, showing ways of making low-carbon choices that they themselves implement in their everyday lives, and making it easier for us to follow suit.

The competences needed to both convey the message and implement necessary changes would certainly require the ability of individuals to emotionally connect with the future, to shift towards long-termism and future thinking.

Among many organisations and movements trying to tackle climate change by proposing transformative and sustainable solutions, EIT Climate-KIC innovation community and its 2019 – 2022 strategy: “Transformation, in time” is undoubtedly offering a new powerful approach. It aims to “bring together and catalyze large and diverse communities to innovate for systemic changes that trigger climate action at scale (…) by encouraging shifts in mindsets and behaviours, identifying and scaling workable solutions, necessary capabilities and pathways to implementation” (Transformation, in time 2019).

Operationally, it is being carried out via Deep Demonstrations, which are programs implemented under the “Transformation, in Time” strategy intended to be inspirational examples of what’s possible at regional or local levels to accelerate fundamental transformation to a net-zero emissions, resilient future.

Long Termism is one of such Deep Demonstrations programs or theme areas. In it EIT Climate-KIC together with a group of design partners is exploring the most effective problem owners to work with to forge experiments that help shift attention to longer-term time horizons. Design partners cover various capabilities and skills, in this: Futures Literacy within a project/ innovation experiment entitled: Futures Literacy Across the Deep (FLxDeep) co-ordinated by Finland Futures Research Centre. The FLxDeep initiative overall aims to develop and support Futures Literacy for Climate KIC leadership and staff, as well as the networks of people who will engage in the Deep Demonstrations.

FLxDeep will design and produce customised Futures Literacy Laboratories – FLLs (Miller 2018) that serve the needs of these Deep Demonstrations. The goal is to come up with a version of Futures Literacy Lab that serves the need of the Deep Demonstrations program. An additional goal is to devise tools such innovators can themselves use in daily practices to develop their futures literacy. The end goal isn’t the labs or the tools – rather it is to support people in noticing how the way they imagine the future impacts how they see things in the present and help them diversify the ways they use the future. Having an emotional response to a future is as relevant as building a highly sophisticated model of it – but both ways are a form of what Miller calls Anticipation for Future. A second less common way of using the future is Anticipation for Emergence – a set of skills that helps people more dynamically make sense of and see potential in what emerges from our complex world.

If you wish to join the community and cultivate long-termism, please get in touch if you’re interested to (a) co-develop work in this space or (b) invest in these activities.



[1] The problem got a wider coverage in an interesting book entitled “Environmental Melancholia” published in 2015 by Renee Lertzman.