America’s Two Futures – 2040


Before you begin:

These are assignments that I have turned in for my TECH 4310 Future of Energy and Environment class, these are my own thoughts and you may not take them without citing them. I will not post them all, but a majority of them.

Instructions:

Time to get a little creative in our future fiction writing!! We have explored many drivers of change influencing the future of energy.  In this question we want to imagine two futures for the United States written from the perspective of the future set in 2040.

One story is the baseline future– the other is an alternative future. Both are set in America 2040.

Describe both of these two futures. What are the trends and policies that now (in 2040) influence demand/energy use, production and management (‘smart’ software) of energy resources?  (In 2040) How do we get electricity? What does the transportation fleet look like, et al.  (In 2040) Which companies are most important? Are there individuals who have emerged as champions within the industry? Which regions of the country are thriving or struggling?  

Tell me a story about the future of America IN 2040 but written in a way that centers on the trends and disruptions that got us there.  So you can describe what happened in 2025 that led to x-change in 2040.    

How? First, revisit Week Two (Futures Studies) when we looked at baseline drivers (continuities; extrapolations of current conditions and trends) and alternatives (discontinuities that lead to new futures). The baseline is extrapolation based. The alternative is disruption based.

Have fun but don’t be too silly.  I really want you to start by getting into a time machine and going to 2040.  Describe life then from the perspective of life 25 years from today.  Again, connect it in a way that is realistic to the drivers of change we’ve explored in the course.  You can cover politics, technology, environment, cities, government, business, conflict, et al.  You can make up events (e.g. natural disasters, elections, company mergers, et al) – use fake or real people.

Bring the stories to life and keep it rooted in the dynamics of change we covered this semester.

One final note! These scenarios should not be your wishful thinking on the future.  You should be able to write about a future that you disagree with – if it meets the criteria of the baseline and alternative future. In other words – you might personally believe that climate change should be addressed but can still write a scenario that says that we did not get our act together and CO2 emissions-temperature continue in lock step higher. 

Baseline Future  2040 – the most likely future (several paragraphs)

It all began in the year of 2015, a year where issues including income inequality, jobs and the economy, rising geopolitical tensions, water scarcity, lack of compromise amongst national leaders, and the ever present increasing population were prominent. We could have easily dealt with many of these issues had they occurred on their own, or even a few together, but all these problems in the world showed no easy solution when combined with the terroristic attacks, bigotry, xenophobia and climate issues prevalent throughout the 2016 election cycle. In a close GOP race, Ted Cruz was nominated after months of political infighting. In a less crowded Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the choice was either an establishment Democrat or a long time Independent who ran on the Democratic ticket. A surprising upset occurred: the independent, Brooklyn native, and self-proclaimed democratic socialist won.

With the 2016 Presidential election between Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Ted Cruz, it became an ideological battle that society had to decide: would the US go in a conservative and cautious direction or a more progressive and liberal direction? The public spoke on the 8th of November, 2016: the United States would go the way of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and choose the Democratic candidate.

Under President Bernie Sanders, Congress finally began working together and compromising began to occur. They enacted education reform, actual socialized healthcare, stronger gun laws, and, after months of floor debates and filibusters along with dedicated bernieoppositional forces, the Paris Accord was finally signed by the Senate. With the United States signing on, the Paris Accord caused a shift in carbon emissions: energy policy began to shift the focus away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable, and efficient energy. With the United States leading the charge, the world saw a steady reduction in carbon emissions, and an exponential growth in the areas of renewable energy, nanotechnology, desalination, space travel, and the development of high efficiency grid systems that gave control to consumers. The Paris Accord was a truly historic moment; as the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said at the time, “it [was] the first time we have a truly universal agreement on climate change, one of the most crucial problems on earth.” (Davenport, “Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris”).

In 2025, an unprecedented deal was signed amongst the richest nations of the world to provide any developing nation that agreed to hold fair elections, adopt socially liberal and fiscally conservative reforms, and ensure the health and safety of its citizens, the world’s best technology, resources, scientists, engineers, and other professionals required to develop modern infrastructure. This ensured that developing nations had a source of energy, water, democratically elected officials and it served to discourage nations that chose war over peace with heavy sanctions that caused major economic stagnation; essentially the world refused to trade with that nation. This was incentive enough for governments to ensure that their citizens were living in a safe society, put a stop to terrorism, and promoted religious tolerance.

This convention was held in the great state of Texas, in the city with the largest renewable energy sector in the world: Houston. This agreement, the Great Peace of 2025, allowed countries to invest large amounts of time and resources into research for the betterment of their people. Today, the world is not without its disagreements, but they are mostly fought with words rather than guns, with intellect rather than aggression. It is the 6th of November, 2040 and there are many lingering questions. Technology has allowed us to travel through interstellar space, hoverboardbut more innovation is still needed for long term space flight. At long last, we have actual working hover boards, thanks to the McFly Company, powered by new advancements in nanotechnology. Their researchers are currently working on scaling the technology up for cars and investments are paying off in spades. This invention owes its success to the massively popular Back to the Future series, where the crazy idea of having and using a hover board took off and inspired millions of children to grow up and pursue the dream of hovering above the ground, just like Marty.

This advancement pushed software developers, material physicists, and futurists even harder: what would come next? What crazy idea would be the next big seller, the next invention to change the world? I stand before you today, on the floor of the United Nations, to tell you that the future is bright. Innovation reigns supreme, political issues have become less polarized, peace is now the dominant topic in the media instead of war. How will you vote? What you do, how you respond to political leaders, how you show your beliefs do matter and those are drivers that change the future.

Alternative Future – the alternative future (several paragraphs)

Life in 2040 is quite a bit different than it was back in 2015. Cities are covered by domes, the skies over the United States have become as polluted as China’s, and how the world handles religious conflicts is now the polar opposite of the past. The Paris Accord was signed, but was quickly defeated in the U.S. Senate. Even with the urging of Secretary of State John Kerry, who explained that it was, “Cheaper to recognize the problem and what’s coming and cure problem ahead of time” instead of waiting for it to happen (“‘This Week’ Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry and Ben Carson”). But that is exactly what the conservative political leaders did: they declined to be a part of the Paris Accord, just as they had with the Kyoto Protocol. The United States was not going to comply with a toothless agreement in which there were no mandatory guidelines set forth. There were no consequences for violating the Paris Accord.

As with the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Accord fell flat on its face, mainly due to the 2016 Presidential election: a time when the country had never been more polarized, been so far apart on all issues. When the Democrats nominated a socialist, a win for the GOP was almost certainly guaranteed. With mounting attacks from ISIS, growing fears of domestic terrorism, and a growing sense of nationalism and isolationism the race came down to GOP candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.  

With President Trump having the “billion dollar success guy” trumpnarrative, Americans hoped he would strengthen the United States on the international stage, but the only thing he did was weaken the power that the United States once had. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the time in 2015, said that his actions were “Divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.” (“This Week”).

The United States then entered a new state of isolationism, all immigration was halted, all visa holders had their visas immediately revoked and were escorted out of the country.

Technological advancements were being made rapidly in the field of boooomnuclear fusion (Herrman). With massive funding being thrown towards this clean alternative fuel source, the development of the first nuclear fusion reactor came online in early 2023, coal plants began to go the way of the dinosaurs. Soon, government funded plants were springing up everywhere, near major cities to power millions of people’s homes, businesses, and industrial sectors. With great advancements in the energy sector, the technology quickly spread across the globe despite efforts to keep the process a secret. On the date of the 2030 State of the Union Address, a massive failure occurred in our National Security: the United States was hit with a pure fusion powered nuclear weapon by a still unknown source. The entirety of New England was encased in a cloud of radiation and mass destruction, millions of people died, and our national leadership was eliminated completely in the ultimate decapitation strike. This led to mass riots, looting, and created a sense of fear not seen even during the height of the Cold War.

The nation, and the world, rallied around its religious leaders who gave the people a sense of hope, however small it was, and slowly, communities began to band together to rebuild the coal plants of the past. Nuclear power was no longer an option due to the massive destruction a weapon caused.dome Civil Engineers created “domed cities” that gave the largest cities protection from the now toxic, radioactive air that was circulating across the globe (Berger). Life inside the domes hasn’t been too limiting. There are separate industrial areas, community sectors, water purification centers, and agricultural areas, all accessible via tunnels that connect each section. These domes, connected together, are the makeup of all major cities in the United States. Domes are connected regionally by high speed trains that run through underground tunnels. The only downside is that these domes are powered by coal plants. People are skittish of any other type of energy source, even natural gas, due to the nuclear attack and ensuing domestic environmental terroristic attacks against the natural gas plants. Due to these attacks, security around the coal plants, located outside of each dome, is provided by the military which is now controlled by the Coalition of Elected Leaders with no permanent Capital. This new governmental system is unique in that the people of each dome system elect a leader, akin to a mayor, who then represents their dome system. Compromise is a major characteristic of this new governing body because without cooperation, the nation would crumble into smaller nation states, whose cities are under a dome, and regional warfare would ensue across the blighted wasteland, thousands would die from lack of resources from other domes, and the entire system would collapse. The Domed City plan quickly spread to all nations, and soon all surviving citizens lived inside a dome.

Messages from every major religious leader were sent out and contained a plea for peace. These messages emanated from cities like Vatican City in Italy, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem in Israel, Bodh Gaya and Varanasi in India, Xi’an in the Shaanxi province of China, and Ise City in the Mie Prefecture on the South East coast of Japan. Every message included a call for peace, a call to stop the religious intolerance, and, most importantly, a call for all religious leaders to come together in Australia for the 2035 International Summit of the Leaders of Faith. From this summit came an unprecedented and landmark agreement among the leaders of all religions, atheists and agnostics: each member agreed to make peace the main message for all of their followers because they saw the larger picture. If the world continued on a destructive, disruptive, and unstable path then every single human would be in danger of losing their lives. Humans came together and realized that in order for the race as a whole to survive, we must work with one another and be tolerant of other people’s worldviews, thoughts, and beliefs. In an odd way, the world is a better place than it was in 2015, if you exclude any environmental impacts (sorry environment, you didn’t fare so well).

References: 

Davenport, C. (2015, December 12). Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/world/europe/climate-change-accord-paris.html

‘This Week’ Transcript: Secretary of State John Kerry and Ben Carson. (2015, December 13). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-secretary-state-john-kerry-ben-carson/story?id=35736916

Kerry: Trump’s Comments on Muslims ‘Endanger National Security’ [Television series episode]. (2015, December 13). In This Week. New York City, New York: George Stephanopoulos. http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/kerry-trumps-comments-muslims-endanger-national-security-35743517

Herrmann, Mark. “A promising advance in nuclear fusion: experiments conducted at the US National Ignition Facility have cleared a hurdle on the road to nuclear fusion in the laboratory, encouraging fusion scientists around the world.” Nature 506.7488 (2014): 302+. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 14 Dec. 2015. http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA362348096&v=2.1&u=txshracd2588&it=r&p=HRCA&sw=w&asid=be8f095d533bf54e439660f8a70ba713

Berger, E. (2009, June 18). About that crazy idea to build a dome over Houston. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://blog.chron.com/sciguy/2009/06/about-that-crazy-idea-to-build-a-dome-over-houston

 

 

 

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