The unsettling times:
It has been a long and exhausting week since a state of emergency has been declared in North East Efrontia. Fola, a 24-year-old, scrolls through timelines on her social media platforms, switching between broadcasting stations, only to encounter now normalized headlines; “food wars”, “inflation”, “hunger”, and “agroterrorism”. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and its crippling economic impacts in subsequent years, the world has witnessed an escalation in ethnocentrism, exploitative land use, and neoliberal capitalism. Hopeless and anxious at the same time, Fola felt like she needed a breath of fresh air. She decided to go for a walk outside the four walls of her 2-room apartment to a renown park which has now been replaced by brown sedges, fallen bricks, and rusty roofs. As she walked along the narrow paths in search for any remaining green as a glimmer of hope, she was lost in her wishful thinking: “If only we could move past this post-truth world and begin resolving this mess in a peaceful way!”. Fola sighs in disbelief: “If only wishes were horses…”
As she thought out loud, she stumbled on a big root, all that was left from a flourishing tree Fola adored when she was a child, but was now a victim of deforestation. Struggling to stand, she looked up, but the stump of the tree was nowhere to be found. All she could see now was a well-branched tree with a green canopy. Fola was confused. Amidst her wonder and confusion, she remembered a rush of refreshing breeze that she enjoyed a few minutes earlier, “where could that have come from?” – she thought. Shoving aside the thought of the breeze, she looked at the health app on her smart watch which monitors her anxiety level to see if something was up with her. There and then she saw the date: 16 October 2075. “What?!”
Meeting the descendant:
“I see you stumbled on my ancestor” – the tree was actually talking to her. “Fear not, dear Fola, you just got teleported to the future your thoughts so desperately desired. Welcome!”. “That is not happening”, said Fola trying to pinch herself.
“How about you just disconnect for a moment from your 2023 chaotic reality and let me show you around this future Efrontia?”. The journey of Efrontia today began in 2025 when the exercises of peaceful futures scenarios were conducted all over the world” – the tree began talking.
As the tree talked, Fola took a 360 degree walk around it, looking at different things happening. The first thing the tree pointed out was the collective urban garden, where people get to pick as much food as they need, and the urban poor were well nourished from the abundance of this garden. As she turned around, she saw “the farmers’ group” composed of vibrant youths and middle aged people deliberating on opening up their value-chain activities to neighbouring countries to foster food programme integration. They are piloting their project with the newly developed strains of nutrient-fixing crops that helped degraded lowlands regenerate rapidly and solved the global hunger crisis. On her next turn, she observed how the gamified simulations of worst-case scenarios gave the citizens the agency of deciding what an alternative future would be and how to get there. One of the innovations that came from the scenarios that she witnessed was how a startup leveraged an iterative approach in designing an algorithm for community crisis and dispute resolution in neighboring villages and how the model was welcomed in the cities. Solutions were no longer just top-down but also bottom-up. As Fola made her final turn, she saw a group of people talking, and the tree explained that those are the now-known public-private-community partnerships. As Fola finishes her turn around the tree, the tree concludes: “As you have seen, Efrontia now lives according to its core values of empathy, collectivism, and networked altruism. This is why foresight has really become our way of life.”
The way home:
Fola’s smart watch blinks, and keeps switching between 2075 and 2023. It is time to go back. Fola feels unsettled, she doesn’t want to go back to that state of constant crisis. The tree comforts her saying she must, because she now has a very special mission – to plant the seed of that very tree. Fola picks the seed of the lowest hanging fruit and her watch stabilizes in 2023.