Among the numerous crystal ball scenarios, the Forum for the Future has issued its edict of possibilities for the consuming future over the next decade. By the year 2020, which is actually less than ten years out, we can expect major changes among the consuming public. Precisely what these changes are isn’t exactly clear. The Forum makes the case that “developed nations” are super-consumers of resources across the spectrum. Consumption is practically “engrained as a social norm.” And, “if everyone consumed at European rates we would need three planets, and Americans have a five-planet lifestyle.” So things will have to change. Well, unless we can colonize Mars and a few other planets – and this isn’t necessarily the remotest of possibilities. Before delving in, it should be noted that Forum of the Future is an organization whose mission is to promote sustainability and as such isn’t embraced by all.
According to the Forum there are several possibilities but nothing is definite. One of these is My Way: “A high-tech world with a prosperous and entrepreneurial economy dominated by community-based trade.” Smart products in smart packaging that promote efficient consumption patterns. In this scenario government is more local than national and consumers are optimistic. We prefer home-grown, but our relationship with brands is unpredictable. Scenario Two is called, Sell it to Me. It has a flourishing, consumerist society with big government, big brands and we don’t care about sustainability. The third possibility is From me to You, which seems a lot like the current scenario. Fear and uncertainty about the economy, loss of confidence in the government and general pain all around. The final scenario has the economy recovering but highly regulated. The government intervenes more and big brands thrive, though they are “bound by strict sustainability guidelines.” With so much uncertainty it isn’t clear if we’re better off with this knowledge.