Scientists agree globally on the conclusion that humanity is not only affecting the global environment, thus the new age of our planet has recently been called the “anthropocene” – the epoch in which humans shape the planet. And not for the good. Also, wealth, democracy, education or health is globall distributed unevenly, which even worsens the impacts on ecological systems.
Therefor, the United Nations (UN) have formulated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). All UN Member States have adopted them in 2015 [source: sdgs.UN.org]. These ambitious goals call for improving ecological, social and economical indicators worldwide.
Undoubtedly there is not that one solution to “solve” sustainability.
From an analytical perspective, the 17 UN SDGs need to be further divided into different groups, to make them tangible from an editor’s point of view. We decided to divide our idea to promote challenges, solutions and concepts of innovative approaches towards sustainability into three groups. Scholars refer to these groups as the “triple bottom line”; that is, the separation into three aspects:
- Economy: Goals 8-10 and 12
- Society: Goals 1-5, 11 and 16
- Biosphere: Goals 6, 13, 14 and 15
… plus goal 17: Partnerships for the goals.
Our three editorial volumes are likewise divided into three books: PLANET, PEOPLE and PROFIT. Naturally this division is only an analytic and theoretical one and many challenges, initiatives or concepts touch more than one aspect.
Target Group and Structure of the Volumes
Our target group are decision-makers from the economy and public sector. The books are supposed to support all those who already started the sustainable transformation and are now looking for inspiration to get better. Accordingly, each of the three books contain an extensive collection of authors from academia, economy, public institutions and creatives.
We’re strongly mission-driven. We work unsalaried and asked our publisher to calculate the selling price as low as possible, which she thankfully did. Also, we are aiming for a wide distribution of the books, which is why we chose the second largest publisher in the world, Springer VS (part of the Springer Nature Group).
The structure of each of the three volumes is congruent. There are four parts / chapters with the different focal points:
- PART 1: Environment / Society / Economy as Subject and Object of Sustainability (Problem Description)
- PART 2: Innovative solutions to the ecological / social / economic dimension of sustainability
- PART 3: Concepts for achieving ecological / social / economic development goals
- PART 4: Concrete utopias of regenerative futures in 2050
Why “Regenerative Futures” instead of “Sustainability”?
The concept of sustainability is, on the one hand, very well-known and “popular”. Products nowadays need to be sustainable, since lifestyles and thus consumers of the 2010s had become more and more sustainable in their values and purchase decisions.
On the other hand, the term “sustainability” goes back to the year 1713 on the book “Sylvicultura Oeconomica” by the Saxonian forester Hans Carl von Carlowitz and therefore is anything but modern. Obviously the pure presence of a smart concept did not prevent humanity from polluting the environment, enslaving fellow humans and jeopardize equal opportunities for economies and people in different parts of the planet – not to mention animal rights.
Therefore, we decided to dare and use the more timely term “regenerative futures”, based on “regenerative systems” from natural sciences. We are convinced that not only do we need to better understand and teach concepts of sustainability, but rather implement the aspect of regenerative futures into every design process, every purchase decision and top-level political decisions.
The plural of futures goes back to modern futures research, acknowledging that there is not just the one future that’s waiting for us to reach it. Instead, there are endless options of possible futures – it is our generation’s obligation and duty to strive for the optimal futures that promise improvements for all ecological entities on this planet.
Why “Artificial Intelligence”?
The term “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) is only slightly younger than the term “sustainability”. It originates in the year 1956, when IT specialists, mathematicians and cybernecists anticipated the likely future developments of computer systems. Needless to say, their ideas sparked the advent of science fiction in literature and film.
Today, in the 2020s, we see unprecedented progress in the fields of machine and deep learning, computer vision and large language models like ChatGPT. Many of these technological advances have their source in science, while the commercial exploitation mainly is harvested by big corporates – not always aiming at the common good.
Simultaneously, three out of four people believe that companies would make better progress with sustainability and social goals through the use of artificial intelligence, and 59 per cent even believe that AI will succeed where humans have failed [source: Oracle].
For regenerative futures, however, organisational and social changes are needed in addition to technical innovations. After all, while 134 of the 169 SDG sub goals (79%) can benefit from AI, 59 of the 169 of the SDG sub goals (35%) will be worsened by AI (cf. Vinuesa , R. et al. 2020).
Anyway, this project gathers together innovative and often AI-related solutions towards all dimensions of sustainability, or: regenerative futures.