Shaping Tomorrow's World After One Month

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
Posted on 30 May 2011

About a month ago, we unveiled Shaping Tomorrows World, a website dedicated to exploring solutions to the multiple crises and challenges that are currently facing our societies.

Since then, we have had more than 10,000 visitors and 20,000 page views. We have posted articles written by well-known Australian intellectuals, such as Clive Hamilton and Carmen Lawrence, and we have had input from overseas scientists such as Dana Nuccitelli, who also frequently appears on Skeptical Science. We have also welcomed aboard Murdoch University, in particular their Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy, who have made a financial contribution that will enable us to add more features to this website.

We are on Facebook and we have a growing number of followers in the Twitterverse (@STWorg).

So what is our "brand", what are we seeking to accomplish and how will we get there?

After only a month, some of those questions remain to be resolved, but there are several things we know already.

First, our "brand" is defined by:

  • Quality. Our posts are either written by academic domain experts or have survived academic scrutiny. All our posts are reviewed by our editorial board before publication.
  • Civility. We do not censor opinions, but we insist on strict civility in the comments.
  • A broad church: Our editorial policy emphasizes diversity in addition to quality. We have no predetermined agenda, other than intelligent exploration of solutions.
  • Eclectic content. Quite unexpectedly, our content has been eclectic and has uncovered some unexpected—and hence intriguing—linkages, such as between obesity and carbon footprint.

We will build our blog incrementally but based on these principal attributes. One of the most exciting aspects of blogging is its dynamic nature, and this dynamism must necessarily translate into a certain amount of entropy and chaotic random walks—nonetheless, there is no harm in a strategic direction, and part of the purpose of this post is to propose and refine our strategy.

We seek to expand on the following broad issues in the future:

  • Navigable archival data base. The ultimate goal of Shaping Tomorrow’s World is to create an up-to-date and at-your-fingertips data base of solutions and facts pertaining to a number of critical issues. This data base is slowly being built, but the left-hand menu on our home page provides an idea of what is to come.
  • Health. Climate change is a health issue. Peak oil will be a health issue, as is peak soil, food insecurity, …. the list goes on. We have several medical practitioners among our team who will explore those issues in depth in the future.
  • Energy. Transitioning away from fossil fuel is an imperative for the future—but what are the alternatives? The answer is intriguing and complex, and we expect several posts in the very near future on some of the alternatives.
  • Cognition. Whatever we do in the future, it requires new thinking. Cognitive science knows plenty about how people think, how we succeed and how we fail, and this knowledge can assist policy planners in moving forward.
  • Ethics. Many of the issues facing us have an ethical dimension: With poor countries striving to become wealthier by emitting CO2, and some wealthy countries refusing to cut emissions, serious moral dilemmas have to be resolved.

Our first specific goal is to examine the reasons why a country such as Australia, which often claims to contribute very little to the global emissions, must nonetheless cut emissions. We will commence a series of posts on this in the very near future.

Suggestions for other strategic projects are always welcome.

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