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Futurists walking the talk

I’m writing a Publisher’s Letter for our 2008 catalog and plan to mention events coming up that are relevant to our publications, to show that we’re not just creating encyclopedias on the same tired subjects as everyone else but instead looking at fresh topics that really count in the world. The Berkshire Encyclopedia of China was easy: the PRC leadership conference has just finished, Taiwan holds elections in January, and the Olympics take place in August (an event that means a lot at Berkshire as we’re known for publishing on world sports as well as on China and leadership). The U.S. presidential elections will provide great context for classroom use of Global Perspectives on the United States. Our other big publications for 2008 are the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability and the Berkshire Encyclopedia of the 21st Century, so I went looking for predictions about environmental events. It was easy to find something, a list of “thought-provoking ideas and forecasts” from The Futurist magazine. You can read it at Outlook 2008, and here are three of the predictions:

5. The earth is on the verge of a significant extinction event. The twenty-first century could witness a biodiversity collapse 100 to 1,000 times greater than any previous extinction since the dawn of humanity, according to the World Resources Institute. Protecting biodiversity in a time of increased resource consumption, overpopulation, and environmental degradation will require continued sacrifice on the part of local, often impoverished communities. Experts contend that incorporating local communities’ economic interests into conservation plans will be essential to species protection in the next century. –World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2006, p. 6

8. The number of Africans imperiled by floods will grow 70-fold by 2080. The rapid urbanization taking place throughout much of Africa makes flooding particularly dangerous, altering the natural flow of water and cutting off escape routes. If global sea levels rise by the predicted 38 cm by 2080, the number of Africans affected by floods will grow from 1 million to 70 million. –World Trends & Forecasts, July-Aug 2007, p. 7

9. Rising prices for natural resources could lead to a full-scale rush to develop the Arctic. Not just oil and natural gas, but also the Arctic’s supplies of nickel, copper, zinc, coal, freshwater, forests, and of course fish are highly coveted by the global economy. Whether the Arctic states tighten control over these commodities or find equitable and sustainable ways to share them will be a major political challenge in the decades ahead. –Lawson W. Brigham, “Thinking about the Arctic’s Future: Scenarios for 2040,” Sep-Oct 2007, p. 27

But it was a sentence in the final paragraph that really caught my attention: “The Outlook 2008 report was released as part of the November-December 2007 issue of THE FUTURIST magazine.” Catch that? The November-December 2007 issue. So much on the Internet is out-of-date, or written in the future tense when it really is now the past. But obviously not at The Futurist (note: it’s only 19 October).

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