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Negotiating our future: living scenarios for Australia to 2050


A fundamental challenge for Australia – indeed for any society – is to shape its own future. In this effort, we face three basic realities: the future is uncertain, contested, and ultimately shared. The uncertainty of the future is experienced everywhere, from weather to politics to the fragility of human existence. The contestability of the future is also familiar from struggles between people and groups of different convictions for control of choices about pathways. Yet as the future rolls inevitably into the present, multiple pathways and choices crystallise into actual events that form shared realities for individuals, communities and nations.

Grappling with these realities is only possible through conversation, at national scale and over a prolonged period. The Australian Academy of Science is contributing to such a conversation through its ‘Australia 2050’ project. The first phase of the project led to the book Negotiating our future: living scenarios for Australia to 2050. The book addresses the challenges of negotiating the future in two senses: steering a path through uncertainties and obstacles, and also discussing a shared course in the face of differences in values and perceptions. The concept of ‘living scenarios’ refers to shared, ongoing explorations of how the future might unfold, leading to evolving visions for the future that are simultaneously plausible (consistent with natural laws), acceptable (consistent with aspirations for human well-being) and workable (agreed to the extent necessary for action).

The second phase of the project moves to put this concept into action, through conversations among Australians from a wide variety of backgrounds and orientations. These conversations are both challenging and vitally important. The Academy is proud to be involved.

Suzanne Cory AC PresAA FRS