Which future is The Future?

Qian Zhao
4 min readApr 19, 2021

What would the world be like if we failed to control climate change, sea levels rose, and some humans lived underwater from then on? Perhaps humans would diverge into two kinds of creatures, one living on land and breathing with lungs, and one living underwater and evolving fins to breathe…

Photo by Yuriy Kostin on Unsplash

One of my future visions above — about the bad end of climate change. In our MA Service Design course, we worked with Southwark Council to explore the city of the future, a future divorced from carbon emissions in the areas of energy & buildings, transport, biodiversity and consumption. (My team

Futures Cone. Source: Adapted from Voros (2003, 2017), which was based on Hancock and Bezold (1994).

What is preferable future?

Everyone has a future they want, and the Speculative Everything book mentions that current design education is teaching people to go to a ‘Probable future’, like a world on a set trajectory, where if nothing big happens, the world will be like that, (in fact we, who are experiencing Covid-19, are deviating from the previously imagined Probable future to a plausible future).
What we need to imagine in this course is the preferable future, which, as shown above, lies between the Probable and the plausible future, a difficult position to be acknowledged, one that cleverly avoids the “most probable” but does not completely depart from it, a future that we hope for. The future.
What about the future we want for Southwark’s energy and buildings?

But the first and foremost we want to look at the bigger picture, and we want to understand the risks and opportunities through horizon scanning.

What is horizon scanning? It is a tool to identify the potential threats and opportunities in the future.

Why is climate change becoming the future?
It is an indisputable fact that climate change is happening and that people are not socially, culturally or technologically prepared to deal with it.
The key problem is that people are not all in the same circle on the issue of climate change。

For example, some countries had previously had an environmental policy of not limiting greenhouse gas emissions for the sake of economic development because of the possibility of turning their ice fields into arable land and being the beneficiaries of environmental change. But instead of the benefits of warming, it was found that the thawing of the permafrost, which led to the bursting of oil and gas pipelines and the destruction of railways, changed their attitude to warming.


Could something like this happen in Southwark? The current socio-economic environment revolves around carbon. As the energy mix changes, the groups and people attached to it will have to be changed simultaneously and passively. (Although the UK as a whole has moved away from carbon in terms of energy, the products consumed are produced in other countries and these products still have a carbon footprint, including the parts that produce the energy).

There are numerous stakeholders in the building, each with their own difficulties, so how can their needs be reconciled?

What are all of southwark’s policies now that would conflict with the 2030 Carbon Plan?

How can residents be involved in the decisions that determine their future?

How can we get people a consensus?

Only just over a third (38%) are aware they need to change the way their home is heated. The Committee on Climate Change recommends 90% of homes will need to install low carbon heating systems for the UK to meet its net zero goal. citizensadvice.org.uk

Most people are probably just consumers of energy and buildings. The average everyday person will not be exposed to the production of energy and will not know the difference between solar wind and thermal power. The most people will be exposed to is the number on the meter, the amount of the bill and the knob on the heater, and will not care or be concerned about the sustainability of energy.

Perhaps the preferable future becomes the future only if people have a similar thinking in mind?


Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby Speculative Everything | The MIT Press. The MIT Press.

van Dorsser, C., Walker, W.E., Taneja, P. and Marchau, Vincent A. W. J. (2018) ‘Improving the link between the futures field and policymaking’, Futures, 104, pp. 75–84. doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2018.05.004.

Viacheslav Glinskikh, Oleg Nechaev, Igor Mikhaylov, Kirill Danilovskiy and Vladimir Olenchenko (2021) ‘Pulsed Electromagnetic Cross-Well Exploration for Monitoring Permafrost and Examining the Processes of Its Geocryological Changes’, Geosciences (Basel), 11(60), pp. 60. doi: 10.3390/geosciences11020060.

Corbett, J. 报告显示西伯利亚永久性冻土融化的惊人场面,使数百万人躺在不稳定的地面上. Available at: https://zh-cn.climateimpactnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3682:report-shows-stunning-and-dramatic-scenes-of-thawing-permafrost-in-siberia-that-leaves-millions-on-unstable-ground&catid=11 (Accessed: Apr 27, 2021).

Abrahm Lustgarten How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis — The New York Times.